When it comes to pursuing solutions to physical and mental health, it is normal to have concerns about personal relationships. Some of the most common questions that doctors and therapists receive from patients concern how treatments can affect romantic relationships. If a patient is going to be prescribed a new medication, it makes sense to be concerned about how side effects can impact partners and significant others. The use of intoxicating drugs and substances is always going to be a divisive issue in the medical community, but recent evidence indicates that medical cannabis may actually be beneficial to personal relationships. For people who may not be up-to-date on the utility of marijuana as a medical treatment this can sound strange, but what does the science tell us?
In an article published in Psychology Today, Mark Travers, PhD explains that there is scientific evidence that cannabis may actually help foster stronger interpersonal relationships. Travers notes a study undertaken by the University of Buffalo and University of Houston to determine the effect that marijuana use has on intimacy between heterosexual couples. Using mobile applications, participants in this research tracked their personal intimacy on a day-to-day basis along with their cannabis use in order to determine any correlations. What the research illustrated was that there is “robust support for the positive effects of using marijuana at the same time as, or in the presence of, one’s partner on subsequent experiences of intimacy.” Intimacy between partners was significantly higher in periods after the use of cannabis, regardless of whether it was one or both partners who were using marijuana.
At a glance, it may seem somewhat obvious that couples who enjoy relaxing with whatever their substance of choice may be will be more likely to lower their inhibitions and engage in intimacy. But there is a crucial difference between the data gathered in this cannabis study and similar information that has been reported about couples that use alcohol together. Unlike with alcohol, couples in this case were able to reap the benefits of increased intimacy if only one partner used cannabis. Similar studies with alcohol have shown that typically both partners need to engage in alcohol consumption in order to have an increase in intimacy. This distinction obviously exists along with the stark differences between cannabis and alcohol when it comes to negative health consequences, which are far more serious with drinking.
To try and understand why cannabis may be useful in fostering intimacy, we can think in more general terms. Like all mind-altering substances marijuana can produce different effects in different people depending on a variety of physical factors as well as setting and dosage. But there are still plenty of common cognitive changes. What many call the “paranoia” associated with cannabis use is really just a heightened sense of awareness. Unlike alcohol which tends to make problems easier to ignore, a cannabis high tends to make users more open and receptive to the consequences of their actions in the past, present and future. This is an emotional state that can be beneficial to building personal intimacy even if it is just a one-way street where one party is using cannabis and the other is not. More research needs to be conducted into how exactly this process might work neurologically, with marijuana acting on our endocannabinoid system, but the initial findings are encouraging.