While there still isn't a lot of scientific research that can back up this claim, anecdotic reports seem to indicate that cannabis could help develop a stronger sense of empathy. This could be just the consequence of other factors and benefits that come with the consumption of cannabis, but if that were the case it would still be an interesting result: we all know how much our current society could gain from having more empathic individuals.
We are disconnected
Our modern society is characterized by an ever growing sense of detachment, loneliness and technology getting in the way of our human interactions. We can see it in our friends' gatherings: where once we had eye contact, conversation and laughter now we have people staring at their phones, laughing at reels and funny tiktoks. This could have a tremendous impact in the generations to come, since it's believed that when most social interactions between humans happen with a screen in between, that takes away much of the possibility to link or empathize with the other person. After all, if you are not seeing their gestures and physical reactions to the conversation, you would be lacking feedback from the other person's emotions.
What is empathy
Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings, thoughts, and experiences of others. It involves being able to put oneself in someone else's shoes, to imagine and understand their perspective, and to respond with compassion and sensitivity. It is triggered when you cry during a movie, or when you see someone sad and it makes you feel sad too. But not everyone develops a good sense of empathy on their own, and most people nowadays try to steer away from it, to numb themselves. This is because empathy makes us feel vulnerable and "weak", and it is not praised among the values of our current society.
The Influence of Cannabis:
The cannabis plant contains various types of compounds, among those, the cannabinoids. These are chemical substances that when consumed, can link with our body's endocannabinoid system -which is a complex structure of enzymes and receptors that plays a role in regulating physiological processes -and help regulate the responses of our brain cells to certain signals and neurotransmitters.
Cannabis and Empathy:
Some anecdotal reports and limited research suggest that cannabis may have the potential to enhance empathy. The effects of cannabis can vary depending on the strain, dosage, and individual factors, but it is thought that THC -the psychoactive component of cannabis -may influence empathy by altering perception and increasing emotional sensitivity.
- It is possible that cannabis could help individuals become more attuned to the emotions of others because the altered state of consciousness induced by cannabis can heighten sensory perception, making users more receptive to non-verbal cues and subtle emotional expressions: we become better at reading body language, facial expressions and voice tone, among others.
- Another possibility is that the enhanced empathy comes as a consequence of other feelings induced by cannabis, such as relaxation, euphoria, and introspection. Being in these higher states of mind can contribute to a more empathic and receptive mindset, enabling individuals to connect with others on a deeper emotional level.
- Other strains of cannabis can make people talkative and disinhibited. This could lead to openness and greater communication between people, giving the users greater confidence and taking away their anxiety and fears that could become obstacles when speaking about their feelings.
Potential Benefits and Limitations:
While cannabis may offer potential benefits in terms of empathy enhancement, it is necessary to understand that it must not become the only way of developing such social attunement. As long as we are making responsible use of the substances, there is nothing wrong with extracting their benefits, but they shouldn't become necessary, and we should never become dependent on them.
That is why it is crucial to approach cannabis use safely, ensuring a controlled environment to promote positive social experiences. Here in Barcelona we are lucky to have the possibility to sign up to a dispensary or weed club, becoming a member of a social club where we can consume cannabis products in privacy but also in society with other members. Not only do we have access to a diverse menu full of first quality cannabis products but we also get to meet people with similar interests, share our thoughts and experiences and hopefully make new friends.
Open and honest communication, active listening, and genuine efforts to understand others' experiences remain fundamental for fostering empathy and nurturing meaningful connections in our social interactions.
It is important to explore options, and definitely useful to have cannabis as a way of connecting with people, but it should never be the only one. Emotional intelligence, active empathy-building practices, and a genuine desire to understand others is where the true power of empathy lies within. That should transcend the influence of any substance.