The “cannabis stoner” may increasingly be recognized as a tired trope, but there is still a lingering perception that those who use marijuana, especially recreationally, are more likely to become disengaged with life.
There’s even a psychiatric disorder known as “marijuana amotivational syndrome,” but the idea that using cannabis can deplete a person of motivation while dialling up their levels of apathy is not well studied, much less solidly proven.
Now, a new study from Florida International University adds to the existing research in this area, in this case looking at young people. The findings were broadly not in support of cannabis being linked with demotivation.
For the study, the researchers enrolled 401 teenagers aged 14 to 17, requiring them to complete five assessments over two years. At each assessment the youths were asked about their usage of cannabis, alcohol, and nicotine and filled out the Apathy Evaluation Scale and Motivation and Engagement Scale — two validated tools that assess people’s engagement and motivation to work or learn, as well as their motivation to take part in social events and to plan for the future.
The results showed that greater cannabis use was associated with more disengagement, lower planning, and less valuing of school. Across the group, teens cannabis use also increased significantly during the two-year study, as did the lack of engagement and planning facets of motivation.
However, after controlling for the effect of sex, age, depression, and use of alcohol and nicotine, only the baseline association between cannabis use and valuing school remained significant. This led to the researchers concluding that their results do not support the idea that cannabis use will lead to reduced motivation among young people.
Nevertheless, given that cannabis use was associated across the piece with lower perceived value of school, the authors of the study express concern that this may contribute to less educational success, impacting later life.