Washington State University professors Carrie Cuttler and Ryan McLaughlin, from the departments of psychology, physiology and neuroscience have just released the results of their newest research…

They examined the impact of cannabis on individuals with acute stress levels. To do this, they measured levels of cortisol found in participants’ saliva. Cuttler told reporters, with the release of her test results, “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,” she said, “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.”

Study Findings

Using a nationally recognized testing procedure, the researchers found no difference in the saliva cortisol levels of heavy cannabis users confronted with either psychological or physiological stress. However the stress response in non-cannabis users was dramatically different. In other words the cortisol levels in non-users was much higher than cannabis users in response to the same test stimuli.

What does this appear to mean? Cannabis users are more relaxed, even in the face of new and incoming stressful situations. Both physically and mentally.


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These findings are also consistent with a growing body of literature that suggests cannabis can in fact dull adrenal and emotional activity in the brain.

In turn, this will likely provoke more discussion about the “dangers” of cannabis. The stress response in fact, is a biological warning system designed to help humans survive. However in many people, including those who rely on cannabis, the stress has been severe and or has gone on for a long period of time. When the body or brain believes it is under attack, constantly, there is also evidence to suggest that excessive cortisol production has its own negative health impacts cumulatively.

What this new Washington State research study does is show that regular if not heavy cannabis users clearly have a different stress response than non-users. Why they do, and why they would medicate to relieve the same is still of course, an unanswered question.

But it would also suggest that where stress stimuli receptors have been overwhelmed or even damaged (as in the case of PTSD sufferers) that cannabis is so effective as medicinal help because it prevents cortisol from being released into the body in response to an imaginary rather than real “threat.”

[Image credit- Flickr 4]

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