There are very few substances that attract as much debate as cannabis does. While it has been legalized in some places around the world, it is still frowned upon in most places. And when you go to the internet to inform yourself as an average observer, there’s high probability that you’d drown in more confusion. Although, there’s some sort of consensus around it, albeit one that leads to more division. Everyone will admit that cannabis consumption does affect mood and behaviour. Now, some people say it’s a negative influence, while others maintain that it is more of positive. Also, how far-reaching is the impact of cannabis on the user? Can it cause personality change?
What exactly is personality change?
There is a never ending research on how personality is formed, and how (if) you can purposely alter your personality. The old debate of nature versus nurture still persists in psychology discourses. But, general opinion is shifting towards a middle ground now; where it is found that both genetics and environment play roles in personality formation. According to Kendra Cherry, “personality involves not only inborn traits but also the development of cognitive and behavioral patterns that influence how people think and act”. Personality change is sometimes viewed in positive light, especially when someone takes conscious steps to improve an aspect of their behaviour or character. For example, a person who is mostly shy can take active measures to be more outgoing.
However, in medical parlance, personality change is usually linked with severe shift in behaviour, akin to mental disorder. Unlike temporary mood swings or behavioural reactions, personality change is a more persistent and often permanent alteration. There are several factors that can cause personality change. Because of the chemical components and functions of cannabis, it is also considered a prime suspect.
What are the components of Cannabis?
Cannabis, (or marijuana, weed, hemp, pot) contains hundreds of natural components. Of these components, cannabinoids are the most active ingredients. These interact with certain receptors that are located on the cells of the nervous and immune system, linked with appetite, memory, movement, pain and immune function. The most popular cannabinoids found in cannabis are Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and Cannabidiol (CBD). THC is the psychoactive compound responsible for the ‘high’ or euphoric feeling that you get after consuming cannabis. It binds itself to parts of the brain responsible for thinking, memory, pleasure, coordination and movement. CBD, on the other hand, doesn’t produce a sense of euphoria, but provides a more relaxed feeling. CBD is also believed to counteract the negative effects of THC, depending on the strain of cannabis. Yea, there are several strains of cannabis, and the ratio of one component to another may vary. Nevertheless, the main point is that these compounds would impact physiological functions in the body.
Cannabis and Personality Change
Personality change comes with noticeable symptoms that are actual markers of the new trajectory. Most of these symptoms will linger, and are catalytic of the transformation. These include aggressiveness, anxiety, depression, hostility, isolation, mood swings, paranoia, etc. Some of these symptoms are common with highness. When we consider what cannabis does to the nervous system, it is easy to assume that it would impact a person’s personality if it is consumed regularly. Cannabis can be addictive, needless to say, and with it’s compulsive usage, you can experience a permanent shift in behaviour. These effects may persist even when the user is off the substance. However, the extent of the impact varies from individual to individual. According to this study, it was found that cannabis use is a risk factor for schizophrenia, though, “individual variation in normal personality may be related to differences in psychosis-proneness among chronic users”.
Most studies and experiments suggest the risk of personality change when cannabis is consumed regularly. Nevertheless, scientists agree that more research is needed. It is also true that medical benefits for cannabis have been discovered and established; but proper usage will involve expert extraction of useful components and prescription. The recreational use of cannabis (whether by smoking, oral ingestion, or vaping) however, remains a topical, and often contentious issue.
Even though we can’t immediately prove the extent of the impact of weed on personality traits, we can observe social issues that come with it’s compulsive usage. The complexities of cannabis usage may not yet be scientifically unwoven, but the call for abstinence and caution should not be disregarded.