According to a recent study carried out by the research group at University of South Australia, weed smokers and non-smokers walk differently. The difference is observed in the movement of knees, elbows and shoulders.
This difference is due to the effect weed has on the neurotransmitters of “pleasure centres” of the brain. Since these neurotransmitters are also concerned with movement, weed also affects the gait of a smoker.
According to Verity Pearson-Dennett, “Illicit drugs exert their effects by changing the levels of neurotransmitters in the ‘pleasure centres’ 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”.
According to this study which was published in the journal, Drug and Alcohol Dependence, smokers tens to use their elbows more when they walk. Their shoulders are comparatively stiffer and their elbows are more flexible. Another difference which was observed is that smokers walk faster than non-smokers as they swing their knees more often and quickly.
Pearson-Dennett added: ‘The main takeaway message is that use of cannabis can result in subtle changes in the way you move.’
Although there were differences noticed in gait, there was no difference found in their balance or co-ordination. The neurological functions and balancing abilities of both types of people were found to be similar. The smoking habits of these people did not seem to have any apparent effect on their nervous co-ordination or brain function. The study was conducted on a group of 44 people with age range between 18 and 50. Half of them were cannabis users while the other half were non-cannabis users.
Several tests including screening tests were conducted on the group members. A motion capture system analysed the walking style of each person which was followed by clinical neurological examination for each individual.
It is practically impossible for a normal person to detect any difference between the gait of a non-smoker and a smoker. Even the researchers could not notice any changes in some case as the effects for so subtle. Magnitude of the difference is not easily detectable or measurable.
Study author Verity 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.’
Even though the changes are minimal , it has been proved from previous researches that weed effects a person’s hearts, lungs and brain. It is possible that through increase in use or in older age, the effects on movement or neurological functions maybe more pronounced. Further studies need to be carried out on the subject to get better and more promising results.
The study author said that, “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.”