Does Marijuana Mess With Your Emotions?

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If you've seen stoner-centric films like “Half Baked,” “Pineapple Express” or “Up in Smoke,” then you're probably familiar with the stereotypical cannabis user: an addled, good-natured yet goofy rascal with a love of strange foods and a fondness for giggling.

The most important part here is that bit at the end — the idea that consuming marijuana could alter one's emotions (in the above case, heightening happiness). As it turns out, marijuana does have a significant effect on the emotions of its users. Unfortunately, these effects are not what decades of drug-based comedies may have led you to expect.


A study by Lucy Troup, an assistant professor at Colorado State University, found that cannabis use affects a person's ability to implicitly recognize and empathize with the emotions of others. Over the course of two years, Troup and her team tested 70 volunteers categorized as either chronic, moderate or noncannabis users. Before this begins to sound like some sort of mad science project, all the marijuana users were legal consumers under Colorado's Amendment 64, so no one was breaking any law.

The team hooked volunteers to an EEG, a test that measures brain activity, and showed them a series of faces exhibiting four emotions. We won't spoil the results here — check out the video for the whole story — but we can confirm this: Marijuana has an impact on human emotion, and it doesn't affect all emotions the same way.

Given marijuana's dodgy legal past, there's a surprising dearth of studies regarding the substance. To Troup this presents an opportunity and an obligation: Her team will continue researching the effects of cannabis on cognition. They're already planning a study on mood disorders like depression and anxiety.

No word on any upcoming studies regarding munchies or really “getting” music, but don't be surprised if you begin to hear about them soon.