New Study Out of Australia Claims Cannabis Users “Walk Differently” than Those Who Abstain
If you’ve noticed yourself swinging your knees faster and moving your shoulders less than your anti-weed friends, you may want to pay attention.
Published on September 2, 2017

People claim cannabis causes them to do all sorts of things. No matter which side of the coin you’re on, the stoner who thinks a steady diet of dabs makes you your most creative self, or the teetotaler who thinks one hit can turn anyone into a lazy slob, we all have unproven notions of marijuana’s true psychological effects. On the physical side, though, we’re pretty sure about bloodshot eyes and unnecessary squinting, but what about walking?

According to PsyPost, a new report published by a team of Australian scientists in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, your stroll might be affected by your cheeba smoking just as much as your eyelids. And with cannabis research rapidly advancing across the globe, the study’s authors hope that their preliminary discovery can lead to even more in-depth looks at the effects, good, bad, or neutral, of prolonged cannabis use.

“Most of the research on illicit drug use focuses on long-term changes in cognition and psychological well-being.” Verity Pearson-Dennett, a scientist at the University of South Australia and the study’s corresponding author, said. “Illicit drugs exert their effects by changing the levels of neurotransmitters in the ‘pleasure centers’ of the brain, but these neurotransmitters are also very important in movement. It is therefore possible that these drugs may impact the way we move. It is important to fully understand the long-term effects of cannabis use, particularly given the move to decriminalize use in many countries and the growing tolerance to use of cannabis.”

In their research, Pearson-Dennett and her team closely compared the walking styles of 22 cannabis-only drug users and 22 non-consumers, and found that the stoner group tended to swing their knees faster during forward motion, while keeping their shoulders more still - or, in scientific terms, “Cannabis users exhibit increased angular velocity of the knee during walking gait and reduced shoulder flexion during walking gait.”

Still, the changes in movement were so miniscule that neither Pearson-Dennett or any of her specialist peers are quite ready to make any bold claims. And while the subjects’ balance and walking speed didn’t change at all, across the groups, the scientists are still leaving the door open for further discoveries down the line.

“The main take away message is that use of cannabis can result in subtle changes in the way that you move,” Pearson-Dennett told PsyPost. “The changes in walking were small enough that a neurologist specializing in movement disorders was not able to detect changes in all of the cannabis users. However, many of the participants in the cannabis group were moderate-to-light cannabis users, therefore heavier cannabis users may have greater impairments.”

But whether potheads kick their knees at rapid fire speeds or not, Pearson-Dennett is right about at least one thing, any increased scientific research into cannabis and its effects on the human body are necessary and exciting.

Zach Harris
Zach Harris is a writer based in Philadelphia whose work has appeared on Noisey, First We Feast, and Jenkem Magazine. You can find him on Twitter @10000youtubes complaining about NBA referees.
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