8th January 2021
By Emily Ledger
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Throughout the decades of the global prohibition of cannabis, a few straplines have become extremely popular in support of the controls. When many of us think of cannabis use, we may instinctively connect it with a lack of motivation and even laziness. This view began to be cultivated in the early-mid 20th century when governments first sought to prohibit the use of the drug – and it has stood the test of time. But does cannabis really make us lazy?

The answer to this question may be more complicated than simply ‘yes’ or ‘no’, as the effects of cannabis can vary widely depending on the strain in question. While different strains are largely characterised by cannabinoid content, other compounds, such as terpenes, also play a role.

The Sativa Vs Indica Theory

Strains are often divided into two categories, which are named after species of the cannabis plant: Sativa and Indica. While it is widely believed that Cannabis Indica plants are higher in THC and Sativa higher in CBD, this is often not actually the case. However, a theory has become popularised that Indica strains of cannabis (which supposedly contain more THC) are more sedative, whereas Sativa strains are best if you want to stay more alert and active.

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While categorising strains as Indica or Sativa based on their THC:CBD profile may not be particularly sound, focusing on the effects of these cannabinoids may be relevant to answering our question.

Cannabidiol (CBD) and Motivation

CBD has become immensely popular over the last few years as businesses continue to add the non-psychotropic cannabinoid to a huge array of health-oriented products. The compound has gained popularity thanks to its reported potential to reduce stress and anxiety, improve sleep, and even help with pain. Some consumers, however, claim that it can help in even more areas.

Sportspeople and athletes can be increasingly spotted using CBD products and even endorsing specific brands. Furthermore, a movement has begun to incorporate the cannabis derivative into regular gym and workout regimes. Furthermore, many users believe that a regular dose of CBD helps to improve focus and motivation, making it easier to get through their workload.

While clinical evidence remains underdeveloped in these areas, anecdotal evidence is abundant and is continuing to drive the unprecedented success of the CBD industry.

THC and Motivation

THC is the most common cannabinoid found in the cannabis plant. It is also the compound that causes the ‘high’ and, if the Sativa vs Indica theory can be believed, the ‘laziness’ often associated with cannabis use. CB1 receptors, which are the main target for THC in the human body, are known to impact motivation. However, it remains unknown how and to what extent THC could play a role.

Furthermore, the findings of a recent study have made these assumptions even more unclear. In 2020, French scientists set out to understand the effects of THC on the motivation of mice. In order to determine the effect, researchers observed mice and their motivation to run on a running wheel both before and after THC administration.

Mice were trained to make nose pokes in order to unlock access to a running wheel. Interestingly, THC administration was found to have no effect on the mice’s preference to run. Additionally, the researchers also found no alterations in how hard the mice worked to gain access to the running wheel or their running performance.

On the other hand, it was discovered that the genetic elimination of CB1 receptors did have an impact on the mice’s motivation to run. This is noteworthy as increased THC exposure can often lead to an increase in tolerance. This is also associated with a decrease in CB1 receptors meaning that frequent cannabis use could, in fact, be linked to a decrease in motivation.

Conclusions

While these results are a promising step in understanding the true connection between THC and motivation, the findings may not be completely transferrable to humans. Therefore, as is often the case when attempting to interpret the true nature of cannabis, more research is needed in this area.

Through the interpretation of existing evidence, it is unlikely that occasional cannabis use will make us lazy. Opting for lower strength products (strains that are lower in THC) may also help to alleviate the risk of losing motivation.

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