Scientists researching the effects of alcohol and cannabis on aggression recently proved what many people already know – alcohol makes people more aggressive, and cannabis makes people less aggressive. The researchers recruited a balanced group of drinkers, smokers, and sober participants for their trial, and utilized a series of tests to gauge their aggression.
After the intoxicated participants were pass through the study, they were asked to take the tests again a week later sober to act as a sorts of additional control group. On a side note, those familiar with the research on this topic would know that alcohol is both more addictive and harmful than cannabis.
This team followed the most respected protocol available, choosing a random controlled trial as the study’s format. The trial was comprised of separate tests. The first test was a “single category implicit association test”, in which participants are asked to match positive and negative words with photos showing aggressive actions.
The second test was a computer game in which the participants were told they were able to win money by pressing buttons in a game against another study participant. In this head-to-head competition, the participants were actually playing against a computer controlled opponent. The researchers gauged the aggression level of the participants, by asking each to self score their level of aggression on a 100-point scale before and after each test.
Those who were in the alcohol group were observed to have increased subjective levels of aggression when intoxicated. In other words, the drinkers in the study self-reported that they felt more aggressive when drunk as compared to when they are sober. Conversely, the smokers in the study self-reported that they felt less aggressive when high.
When playing the computer game during the study, the drinkers tried harder to undermine their opponents when drunk, whereas the smokers acted less aggressive in the game while high. Shocking! Anyone with personal experience of both alcohol and cannabis already knows this from first-hand experience.
The researchers summed up the findings of their research by concluding that “the results in the present study support the hypothesis that acute alcohol intoxication increases feelings of aggression and that acute cannabis intoxication reduces feelings of aggression.” Stories of crazy people doing crazy things while high are “tragic outliers”, and do not reflect the reality of the effects.
This post was originally published on July 29, 2016, it was updated on October 5, 2017.