Stoners—while under the influence—have the reputation of being so relaxed that loud noises, frantic people, or crazy situations don’t affect them much. New research from Washington State University seems to back up that stress-free status—though for long-term users who were sober during testing.
For the study, researchers pitted 40 daily pot smokers against 42 non-smokers in a stress-filled situation in which they placed their hand in ice-cold water for up to 90 seconds; they were then asked to count backwards from 2043 by 17. Mistakes were met with negative remarks, plus, to up the stress, they were on camera the entire time with a live feed being shown back to them. Others were placed in a no-stress situation in which they put their hand in warm water and had to count from 1 to 25—no big whoop.
Before and after, the test subjects gave saliva samples which were then examined for the stress hormone cortisol at the end of the study. The potheads had almost no difference in levels of cortisol when compared to those who took the stressful test vs. the no-stress test, while the pot avoiders who took the stress-filled test had much higher amounts of cortisol compared with the non-smokers who had it easy.
“While we are not at a point where we are comfortable saying whether this muted stress response is a good thing or a bad thing, our work is an important first step in investigating potential therapeutic benefits of cannabis at a time when its use is spreading faster than ever before,” said Carrie Cuttler, Ph.D., clinical assistant professor of psychology in the WSU Department of Psychology. She also notes that the release of cortisol is an important part of life, and helps us use energy quickly and respond to environmental threats, so “an inability to mount a proper hormonal response to stress could also have detrimental effects that could potentially be harmful to the individual.”