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Buzzkill: Mary Jane’s Not as Relaxing as You Think

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Mellow. This is the word many people associate with marijuana. Take a few tokes and you’ll feel relaxed. As it takes effect, your stress just melts away. Mary Jane is smooth and easygoing. Right?

Not so fast…

It’s a common claim, but a recent study indicates this perception might not be true. Researchers found quite the opposite: smoking marijuana can actually cause an increase in stress.

Let’s Look at the Study

The idea that cannabis reduces stress is popular, but little research has been done to prove this belief. So, researchers from the University of Illinois Chicago and the University of Chicago decided to tackle this issue. Their study was designed to investigate the effects of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) – the active ingredient in marijuana – on stress.

Participants were divided into three groups and each one received a different dosage of THC.

  • The low-dose group received 7.5 milligrams.
  • The moderate-dose group received 12.5 milligrams.
  • The placebo group received none.

Researchers asked participants to complete tasks and rate their stress levels. They also monitored the groups’ heart rate, blood pressure, and cortisol (stress hormone) levels.

The Surprising Results

Researchers found one expected result and one surprising outcome.

The participants who received the low dose of THC reported less stress than those who received the placebo. This result fits with the widespread belief that marijuana helps reduce stress.

But here’s the kicker – those who received the higher dose of THC experienced more stress. They reported more negative moods before and during their tasks and viewed them as more challenging or threatening. They struggled more with their tasks and had an overall more stressful experience.

Researcher Emma Childs explains, “Our findings provide some support for the common claim that cannabis is used to reduce stress and relieve tension and anxiety. At the same time, our finding that participants in the higher THC group reported small but significant increases in anxiety and negative mood throughout the test supports the idea that THC can also produce the opposite effect.”

Applying the Data to Modern Marijuana Use

Marijuana laws are changing rapidly across the nation and marijuana use continues to rise. According to a 2016 Gallup poll, 13 percent of Americans stated they’re marijuana users. This is nearly double the percentage of users from 2013. In the same poll, 43 percent of U.S. adults reported they’ve tried the drug.

With marijuana use so prevalent, (including the growing use of medicinal cannabis) this type of research is critical. It’s important for marijuana users to have all the facts and fully understand the risks involved. These researchers recommend further study on the subject, but we now know that Mary Jane isn’t as mellow as we once believed.

What does all this mean for marijuana users? The bottom line is you should be cautious. Turning to this drug as a source of stress-relief could backfire. If you consume higher amounts of marijuana, you might end up being more stressed out than you were before you fired up.

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