Pot smokers less stressed, even when sober - study

Marijuana users are less stressed-out than non-pot smokers, even when they're sober, new research has found.

Researchers in the US subjected tokers and non-smokers to a range of tests to induce stress. They found while cortisol levels in non-smokers shot up afterwards, levels for tokers barely moved.

"We're not sure if it's a good thing, a bad thing or potentially both," Carrie Cuttler of Washington University told local news site The Spokesman.

In the long-term, stress can cause a range of ill effects, including drug and alcohol abuse, sleep problems and pains. But cortisol helps the body release energy and quickly respond to threats, which could put stoners at a disadvantage in a real-life stressful situation.

"An inability to mount a proper hormonal response to stress could also have detrimental effects that could potentially be harmful to the individual," said Dr Cuttler.

"While we are not at a point where we are comfortable saying whether this muted stress response is a good thing or a bad thing, our work is an important first step in investigating potential therapeutic benefits of cannabis at a time when its use is spreading faster than ever before."

Dr Cuttler had assumed prior to the study pot smokers would have been more stressed out without their "coping tool". Her husband and fellow researcher Ryan McLaughlin correctly hypothesised the therapeutic effects of marijuana would hold, even when users weren't experiencing its psychoactive effects.

"We kind of had a bet. I had to admit that he was right, this time."

The findings, published in journal Pharmapsychology, could pave the way for cannabis-based treatments for cortisol imbalances, which can lead to hypertension and weight gain.