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strate a causal relationship between marijuana smoking and these behavioral characteristics.23 It is not enough to observe that a chronic marijuana user lacks motivation. Instead, relevant personality traits and behavior of subjects must be assessed before and after the subject becomes a heavy marijuana user. Because such research can only be done on subjects who become heavy marijuana users on their own, a large population study—such as the Epidemiological Catchment Area study described earlier in this chapter—would be needed to shed light on the relationship between motivation and marijuana use. Even then, although a causal relationship between the two could, in theory, be dismissed by an epidemiological study, causality could not be proven.


Measures of mood, cognition, and psychomotor performance should be incorporated into clinical trials evaluating the efficacy of marijuana or cannabinoid drugs for a given medical condition. Ideally, participants would complete mood assessment questionnaires at various intervals throughout the day for a period before; every week during; and, where appropriate, after marijuana therapy. A full psychological screening of research participants should be conducted to determine whether there is an interaction between the mood-altering effects of chronic marijuana use and the psychological characteristics of the subjects. Similarly, the cognitive and psychomotor functioning should be assessed before and regularly during the course of a chronic regimen of marijuana or cannabinoid treatment to determine the extent to which tolerance to the impairing effects of marijuana develops and to monitor whether new problems develop.

When compared with changes produced by either placebo or an active control medication, the magnitude of desirable therapeutic effects and the frequency and magnitude of adverse psychological side effects of marijuana could be determined. That would allow a more thorough assessment of the risk:benefit ratio associated with the use of marijuana for a given indication.

CONCLUSION: The psychological effects of cannabinoids, such as anxiety reduction, sedation, and euphoria, can influence their potential therapeutic value. Those effects are potentially undesirable in some patients and situations and beneficial in others. In addition, psychological effects can complicate the interpretation of other aspects of the drug's effect.

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