MITCHELL’S MUSINGS: Study adds to debate

“New research from UBC suggests there may be some truth to the belief that marijuana use causes laziness – at least in rats.”

The press release from the University of British Columbia, dated Aug. 23, 2016 begins: “New research from the University of British Columbia suggests there may be some truth to the belief that marijuana use causes laziness – at least in rats.”

Ahem. See editorial cartoon above.

The study goes on to say that THC (tetrahydrocannabinol, the main psychoactive ingredient) caused rats to be less willing to try more demanding tasks.

“Perhaps unsurprisingly, we found that when we gave THC to these rats, they basically became cognitively lazy,” said Mason Silveria of UBC. “What’s interesting, however, is that their ability to do the difficult challenge was unaffected by THC. The rats could still do the task – they just didn’t want to.”

Ha. It’s hard not to laugh at that statement. Unsurprisingly, indeed. Again, see above. It doesn’t say whether the rats refused to do the more difficult task for philosophical reasons or not.

The cynical side of me says what did taxpayers put out for these stunning findings anyway?

Maybe they should study alcohol use and see if it doesn’t come up with a statement like: “New research from UBC suggests there may be some truth to the belief that alcohol use can lead to embarrassing behaviour at social gatherings – at least in rats.”

However that would be a bit of a knee-jerk reaction and unfair to boot.

You see, the release does get more interesting later on, which may or may not have been captured in our soundbite media coverage world of today. Likely not, though.

It goes on to say that researchers also looked into the effect of CBD (cannabidiol), an ingredient in marijuana that is touted as being beneficial in treating pain and even cancer, and it didn’t have any effect on the rats’ decision making or attention span.

However, it also didn’t seem to have any influence on the negative effects of THC.

The study goes on to say this was unfortunate because it was hoped that higher contents of the medicinal aspect could counteract or reduce the effects of THC.

So, the study says: “Given how essential willingness to exert cognitive effort is for people to achieve success, Winstanley (Catharine, senior author of study) said the findings underscore the importance of realizing the possible effect of cannabis use on impairing willingness to engage in harder tasks.”

And the fact that we’re on the verge of legalizing marijuana, this study actually raises fodder for debate after all.

The study concludes: “While some people view marijuana as a panacea that can cure all ailments, the findings also highlight a need for more research to determine what THC does to the human brain to alter decision-making. That could eventually allow scientists to block these effects of THC, allowing  those who use medicinal marijuana to enjoy the possible benefits of cannabis without the less desirable cognitive effects.”

Interesting stuff. And, of course, fodder for more debate.

Maybe it was money well spent after all in light of this country standing on the precipice of new legislation on pot.

But what I do know for sure is that more rats are likely going to be studied on the further effects of THC, CBD and hopefully a little TLC, at UBC.