Yes, It's True - Cannabis Users DO Have More Fun
Recent studies show cannabis use is associated with better quality of life.
People use cannabis for many different reasons, but overarching almost all of these motivators is a desire to improve their quality of life. Once dismissed as insignificant hedonism, researchers are beginning to examine whether or not cannabis users’ subjective sense that their life has improved can be objectively measured, and what insights can be gleaned by such observations. This past February, a Brazilian study polled 7,405 adults in the country about their cannabis use and their general quality of life. And it turned out that occasional and habitual cannabis consumers on a whole reported greater quality of life than abstainers.
That said, the converse is true as well. Those who classified themselves as problematic use were also far less satisfied with their lives. However, these problematic users counted for only 7.7% of those polled — far fewer than the 64% of habitual and 17% of occasional users that surpassed them. These elevated quality of life indicators held even after researchers controlled for other variables, such as use of other drugs and demographics such as age and income.
Like many surveys of this sort, polling subjects were recruited online and ranked on scales measuring quality of life, anxiety, depression and subjective well-being. The study was unique in its focus on recreational, rather than medical cannabis users, which in this poll was made up of largely male, single, employed and childless respondents.
IS ALL USE MEDICAL?
Studies measuring elevated quality of life in medical cannabis patients, however, are quite common in the academic literature. Dr. Staci Gruber of Harvard Medical School formed the Marijuana Investigations for Neuroscientific Discovery (MIND) to examine how cannabis can affect quality of life as well as brain function and cognition. One of MIND’s first studies took 28 patients suffering from several mental and physical disorders, including depression, anxiety and chronic pain. All the patients were either cannabis-naïve or had abstained for at least a decade before starting a cannabis protocol. After three months, Gruber found that not only did the patients show improvement on several cognitive tests, but also improved scores in depression, anxiety, better sleep and social functioning. She continues to study the effects of CBD on anxiety and long-term effects of medical cannabis for physical and mental conditions.
These findings hold up to recent data shared from a paper published in Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research by the UK Medical Cannabis Registry. Three hundred patients, mostly suffering from chronic and neuropathic pain, found a statistically significant reduction in average anxiety scores after starting their medical cannabis treatments, which included whole cannabis flower and oils. Better yet, this improvement was generally sustained at the six-month follow-up. While this study did report adverse effects for 30%, this involved mainly nausea alongside dizziness and somnolescence. These findings echoed a similar study conducted in Canada, which “found significant improvements in recurrent pain, PTSD, and sleep disorders after 6 weeks of medical cannabis treatment.” A survey of 181 pain patients in Pennsylvania’s medical cannabis access program also found significant improvement in not only managing pain but achieving greater quality of life weeks after beginning their treatment.
But just as the World Health Organization expanded their definition of health away from the disease and towards the experience of the patient, the examination of recreational users’ quality of life shows a shift away from measuring the experiences of patients with obvious mental or physical health conditions. So for now, it appears that whether you’re sick or apparently healthy, “Occasional or habitual self-perception of cannabis use remained associated with better outcomes of quality of life and mental health.” Or in other words, it may just be that a joint a day can keep the doctor away.