Have you ever thought about how cannabis use affects how we think about the future? Many users believe that cannabis helps them to be more present and more in the now, therefore to live a more fulfilled life.
A new research published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology shows evidence that regular use of cannabis can be associated with episodic foresight impairments. Episodic foresight is the ability of a person to project themselves into the future.
This study also suggests that cannabis can hinder the cannabis user’s ability to mentally move into a future state. When I was reading this I saw this more of a blessing than a hindrance though.
Society seems to be suffering from constantly thinking about the future (or the past) and missing out on the present moment.
Life is happening now, not in the future or the past.
“I have always been interested in the psychology behind problem behaviours. When I began my post-graduate studies I did not have a specific lean to any particular type of behaviour but knew I wanted to explore possible underpinnings for maladaptive functioning presented in clinical groups that I would eventually work with,” said author, Kimberly Mercuri.
Ms. Mercuri, a clinician and a researcher from the Australian Catholic University, and her team studied 57 cannabis users from the age of 18 to 35 years old.
They created 57 matched control subjects, then quantified the subject’s episodic foresight with the use of an Autobiographical Interview task.
This test required the participants to answer to a cue word by either thinking up a novel future situation or by describing a personal incident they experienced from their past.
Participants who regularly consume cannabis, those who disclosed that they smoke at least three times every week have some difficulties in imagining a novel future event compared to those who are not cannabis users and those who use cannabis not more than once every week.
In an interview with PsyPost, Mercuri said that their findings show that with frequent use of cannabis, a person’s ability to mentally remember their past or perceptually think about a future event is negatively affected conversely relative to those who have never used the substance or those who are not using it regularly.
“I guess the take-home message is that there is growing evidence for possible cognitive deterioration with regular use which in turn can hinder the simplest of day-to-day tasks as the capacity to recall and imagine the self-plays important roles other cognitive process like decision making, goal setting,” Mercuri noted.
As I was reading the report I was wondering if this is the increased ability to forget that Professor Raphael Mechoulam has been talking about. This could be the reason why Cannabis can be so helpful for patients with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
She also mentioned that the deficit is not only isolated to those who use cannabis. In another paper she co-authored with other with her team, they indicated a huge impairment concern on long-term users of opioids especially in their ability to perceive their future.
Mercuri hopes that the average person, especially the loved ones of cannabis user may be able to have compassion for those who abuse the substance and are showing signs of maladaptive patterns in their day-to-day functions because their behavioral changes might be due to more complicated neurological functions.
Even though the individuals who do not use cannabis regularly show deterioration in their ability of episodic foresight, it does not mean that they do not have to face any consequences.
Mercuri’s team said that their findings should not be taken as is, rather, users of these substances should be careful in their consumption as any level of drug use might pose potential risks.
But they said that the research regarding the correlation between brain health and drug use is still too young and there is still a lot of things future studies could address.
Mercuri explained that a lot more studies are required to better appreciate the neurological basis of the observed impairment as well as the particular functional effects of the observed future thinking discrepancies.
Although they managed to arrive at this breakthrough, they confessed that they still have a hard time delineating the effects of other drugs.
However, they said that future research could explore more if this particular neurological impairment could extend to other substances like opioid-dependent clinical groups.
Their study “Episodic foresight deficits in regular, but not recreational, cannabis users“, was authored by H. Valerie Curran, Morgan Elliott, Peter G Rendell, Gill Terrett, and Kimberly Mercuri,