Motivation and Marijuana
By MK Thomson
October 5 2023
Back in my 20s whenever I would smoke marijuana I would get energized both in mind and in action. I could smoke and go to the gym, do yoga, or go hiking on the beach for hours. However now that I’m a bit older (‘a bit’? Haha!) I don’t get nearly as physically energized as I did before and I’m even less mentally invigorated than before. Is this because of partaking in a lot of cannabis over the years? Or is it just because that’s how folks are the older they get?
This then begs the question: how does marijuana affect motivation? There have definitely been occasions when you might have felt overly stoned and unproductive, despite the fact that some cannabis highs may be thrilling. This plant has a wide range of motivational effects. Although studies are limited, let’s take a look at what scientific research reveals about the connection between cannabis and productivity.
We all know the stereotype: the Jeff Spicoli or Cheech ‘n Chong shaggy-haired person with eyes that are as droopy as the worn-out clothes they are wearing, puffing on a joint who appears unmotivated, lethargic, and usually sunken into a couch with some kind of snack within arm’s reach. They seem content with the bare necessities: an endless supply of cannabis, papers, and/or a bong, chips, and cheddar cheese they can quickly zap in the microwave and some sort of drink – preferably OJ.
Though we’ve seen this stereotype in pop culture over the decades, the ever-growing acceptance of marijuana across the country has pretty much broken down the traditional hippie-esque stoner example. Today many marijuana users have and are having high levels of success and partaking is more open than it has been in the past. Movie directors, musicians, politicians, artists, and even CEOs and top-level executives make up the contemporary cannabis users. Nevertheless, the perception that cannabis diminishes motivation still continues – and there might be a little truth to it as well.
The effects of cannabis are far from black and white. They can be very nuanced and vary significantly between users, strains, and even intake methods. With literally hundreds of individual cannabis strains, each producing varied effects, the components of each strain interact differently with each person’s unique physiology, resulting in a plethora of unique experiences from person to person.
Unfortunately, there hasn’t been any widespread research on the subject since marijuana is still classified as a Schedule 1 drug by the federal government. But what research has been done – and my personal experience – is that for the most part, marijuana does not inhibit motivation. Sure, my motivation has gone down since my 20s, but there were also a lot of other factors that contributed to my super motivation from decades past. For example, I was in sales where motivation is essential for success.
But what does the (very limited) scientific research show? At least one study suggests that there are good things and bad things when considering marijuana’s effect on motivation.
So, some say it does; some say it doesn’t. Clear as mud, huh? Some studies suggest that cannabis users exhibit a stronger drive to seek pleasure and experience lower levels of apathy, while other results show the opposite.
In reality, there is considerable discussion surrounding research on cannabis and motivation. Many variables come into play, particularly because much of the research relies on subjective data coming from people’s experiences, rather than objective data based on quantitative and statistical analysis. Beyond cannabis use, an individual’s personality or situation (like mine was) can significantly affect their motivation for rewards.
Being inherently driven or inherently lazy isn’t reserved just for cannabis users and non-users – – and vice versa.
There is a lot still being learned from marijuana use and its effect on different aspects of our lives. For now, we’ll probably have to rely mainly on subjective findings from these limited studies, but regardless there are some things we do know about the positive effects of marijuana, as it relates to “motivation”.
If you are a frequent cannabis user and wish to maintain motivation, try switching up strains, intake methods, or going on short cannabis breaks to jumpstart your endocannabinoid system.
Also, don’t smoke after a full meal as this combination will surely send you to the couch!