This seems a bit counter-intuitive, but a new study has shown that marijuana protects people from the emotional pain of being socially excluded.
Previous studies have shown that over-the-counter medications like Tylenol (acetaminophen) reduce both physical and social pain. Because Tylenol affects cannabinoid 1 (CB1) receptors in the brain, a research team led by Timothy Deckman conducted a four-part study to find out if marijuana does the same.
The four-part study included a total of 7,040 participants and three different methodologies. The researchers examined cross-sectional data from national surveys (including data from the National Comorbidity Survey Replication), they interviewed high school students, and they conducted their very own experiment involving a computer-based game called Cyberball, which, by consistently ignoring players, causes them to feel socially excluded and rejected.
After considering the data, Deckman and his colleagues concluded that "marijuana use consistently buffered people from the negative consequences associated with loneliness and social exclusion," and that "[t]hese findings offer novel evidence supporting common overlap between social and physical pain processes."
That said, the researchers said smoking pot is a "poor way of coping with social pain." But their finding could also explain its popularity. To no one's surprise, marijuana is likely being used as a way to self-medicate.
Read the entire study at Social Psychological & Personality Science: "Can Marijuana Reduce Social Pain?"