Amotivational Syndrome Among Chronic Marijuana Users | Research Studies

Amotivational Syndrome Among Chronic Marijuana Users

The chronic marijuana smoker is usually associated with a lazy, bored, apathetic, slow or unmotivated person. Such symptoms are characteristic of the amotivational syndrome.

What is Amotivational Syndrome?

According to the author of a scientific article published in 1968, (David E. Smith).

It is a state in which the general decline in interest prevails (current affairs, favorite activities, passions), loss of motivation to act and reduction of efficiency at work or in science.

Abulia is also characterized by a lack of willingness to perform everyday activities, progressive apathy, a sense of emptiness and boredom, and handicapped in the cognitive, social or emotional range.

First cases of amotivational syndrome in chronic smokers of marijuana


The first descriptions of cases of amotivational syndrome in marijuana users appeared in 1968 when two independent scientific articles appeared.

The author of one of them was David E. Smith and he was the first to use the term “amotivational syndrome” in relation to the behavior of people who are heavy users of cannabis.

Such people were characterized by withdrawal from social contacts, passivity, apathy, and difficulty in taking timely action.

In the second article, amotivational was defined in the form of loss of willingness to act and reduced effectiveness in performing tasks requiring concentration or long-term planning.

Apparently, there are shreds of evidence that “amotivational syndrome” may exist in chronic users of cannabis. This is based on case reports and conclusions from observations. However, the results of studies involving more people are less clear in this respect.

Dr. Melanie Research on amotivational syndrome among the Jamaican population


Dr. Melanie Dreher for many years conducted research on the occurrence of the amotivational syndrome among the Jamaican population, and she wrote her observations in a publication entitledMarihuana and work” (1983). The doctor tried to find out if there is a connection between marijuana use and productivity at work. As a research group, she chose men who did various types of agricultural work. The results of the study turned out to be quite different from what was previously described.


Dr. Dreher noted that cannabis use improves the Jamaican men’s ability to work. What’s more, in the opinion of the Jamaicans, burning out the cannabis gave them energy (the proverbial kick), and at the same time calmed down and let them work more efficiently.


As later explained by Dr. Dreher, she specifically chose this island state because the local population has to deal with marijuana every day, so the researcher was able to check how cannabis works with longer exposure to the human body.

The doctor got acquainted with previous publications on the adverse influence of marijuana on motivation and was aware of the public opinion on cannabis, but did not give up.


After nearly two years of research in Jamaica, she published the results of her research, which showed that the amotovational syndrome did not appear in Jamaicans, on the contrary, cannabis was used to increase productivity at work.

David F. Ducan Research

Another researcher, David F. Ducan, conducted experiments regarding the occurrence of the amotivational syndrome in two groups:

Regular users of cannabis (mainly hashish) and people who did not use stimulants. In his experience, Ducan examined a group of 237 students from the European sports training center.


The results indicate that in this case, the participants did not experience any symptoms associated with the amotivational syndrome.

Although the results of the experiments quoted in the article show that :


Marijuana does not cause amotivational syndrome, however,  there is still a lack of summary (i.e. in the form of a meta-analysis) that would gather the results of all experiments.


On the other hand, this may pose some difficulty, because it was not until 1968 that David E. Smith and the second team of scientists – McGlothin and West, defined the concept of the amotivational syndrome, although the authors noted the phenomenon earlier, but did not use the appropriate term.

In other to lay more emphasis to this, between 1893-1894 a report was prepared on the basis of materials collected by the Commission for Indian Cannabis. In the quest of acquiring knowledge about cannabis, the commission collected all scientific data in the form of research and interviews. The final report contained 3281 pages and contained data obtained from 1200 doctors, practitioners of natural medicine, cannabis dealers and many others.

Some data shows motions and energy decreased as a result of chronic cannabis smoking.

On the other hand, in one of the most recent studies in 2016, there was a transient state of amotivation caused by a single cannabis use, while the longer use of marijuana did not.

What does this tell you?



Duncan DF. Lifetime prevalence of „amotivational syndrome” among users and non-users of hashish. Psychol Addict Behav. 1987;1:114–119. doi: 10.1037/0893-164X.1.2.114.

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