Could marijuana help the first Martians with anxiety?
An out-of-this-world high.
- The first human colonists on Mars are expected to endure intense amounts of stress while adapting to the planet.
- Their maintaining mental wellbeing is critical for successful colonization efforts.
- In a 2018 study, participants perceived a 58 percent reduction in anxiety and stress following cannabis use.
Atop a plume of smoke, Yuri Gagarin blasted out of Earth's atmosphere on April 12, 1961. In doing so, the Russian cosmonaut became the first human to venture into that vast, cold realm that we dub "outer space."
Since then, trails of hot exhaust, slowly dissipating in the ether, have become emblematic of space travel. Nowadays, though, a different sort of smoke — or source of it, rather — has caught the attention of modern astronomers.
As Big Think reported in September of 2018, traveling to Mars will, indeed, be a technical feat, but keeping humans sane while dwelling there is poised to be an even greater one. Between the stressors of living beyond the view of Earth — far from family and friends — and prolonged cabin fever, among other things, the first Martians are liable to go "completely bonkers."
Indeed, in simulations here on Earth designed to mimic a Martian existence, crewmembers — people in various missions — grew incensed with one another. If this played out on the Red Planet, it could lead to a breakdown in teamwork, compromising colonization goals. Not to mention the safety of the first Martians.
Nevertheless, with the increased interest in space colonization, we will soon be venturing beyond the known limits of what the human body — and mind — can endure. The longest anyone has lived in space, for instance, is 14 months — a trifle compared to the years a permanent move to Mars would entail.
All of this said, the question currently whirling in the minds of space enthusiasts is whether marijuana use, in either its recreational or medicinal incarnations, could help the first Martians cope with the intense amounts of stress they are likely to experience. According to the science, probably. However, there are still other factors that need to be considered.
The CEO of SpaceX, Elon Musk, smokes a blunt on The Joe Rogan Experience.
Multiple studies published in 2018 reported that marijuana use did, in fact, significantly reduce participants' stress levels. One study, for instance, authored by researchers at Washington State University, and published in the Journal of Affective Disorders, found that:
"Medical cannabis users perceived a 50 percent reduction in depression and a 58 percent reduction in anxiety and stress following cannabis use. Two puffs were sufficient to reduce ratings of depression and anxiety, while 10+ puffs produced the greatest perceived reductions in stress."
Marijuana use is rampant in the United States, and many Americans will never understand the stresses Martians will have to endure in establishing an inter-planetary colony. If anxiety on Mars is adequately managed, then life on the planet may have the chance to blossom. Just as taverns gave way to America — see: "How drunk were the Founding Fathers? Revolutionary-era Americans could drink you under the table" — marijuana could help give way to a permanent human settlement on Mars. In terms of process, it might even be easier to produce than beer on the Red Planet.
As history would suggest, perhaps to the ire of some analysts, sometimes you have to be slightly "impaired" — or at least, not entirely sensible — to do the courageous, the "impossible." Betwixt the drinks, things (still) apparently get done, i.e. Declaration of Independence, Bill of Rights, etc.
James Franco and Seth Rogen in Pineapple Express (2008)
After all the hard work — not to mention the costs — it will take to bring humans to Mars, do we want to compromise our efforts by having a colony of stoners take the helm? ... Probably not. Well, that is if said individuals are — perhaps — munching their ways through the food reserves at an alarming pace and aren't completing tasks.
Indeed, completing colonization and sustainability goals on Mars would be the rub of living on the Red Planet. This said, according to a study published in June of 2018, conducted by researchers in Australia, regular marijuana use often renders stoners unmotivated and lacking in foresight. How so? Rigorous marijuana use affects episodic memory, which, in turn, scientists believe, adversely impacts longterm goal planning.
... So there's that.
However, the adverse results did not apply to those who smoke marijuana occasionally. The title of the completed study, after all, was "Episodic Foresight Deficits in Regular, but not Recreational, Cannabis Users."
Atop a plume of smoke...
Perhaps our visions of a sober, sterilized Martian colony isn't realistic and should yield to the preeminent fact that the first Martians will still be human. As we've written before, "Away from the norms and expectations of society, astronaut behavior may become untethered from what we consider acceptable."
People — humans — are messy and, when placed in extreme conditions, have often relied on extreme coping mechanisms to survive, such as consciously curbing optimism in life-or-death situations to better handle continuous disappointments, as U.S. naval officer James Stockdale did while a prisoner of war.
Before Martians thrive on Mars, they must first survive, and this may be promoted, according to the research, with low-dosages of medical marijuana, or even occasional recreational uses of it — yes, including edibles. As with everything, there may be a golden mean: That is, an amount of pot that is enough to decrease anxiety for pioneers in daily life-or-death situations, but not enough for them to become high as the International Space Station every day, which, in the long run, may counteract the therapeutic effects.
All of this said, maybe one day you'll FaceTime your cousins on the Red Planet and they'll explain their chores, research, and excursions around Valles Marineris with glazed-over eyes and an ever-so-peculiar grin on their faces, from time to time.
To create wiser adults, add empathy to the school curriculum.
- Stories are at the heart of learning, writes Cleary Vaughan-Lee, Executive Director for the Global Oneness Project. They have always challenged us to think beyond ourselves, expanding our experience and revealing deep truths.
- Vaughan-Lee explains 6 ways that storytelling can foster empathy and deliver powerful learning experiences.
- Global Oneness Project is a free library of stories—containing short documentaries, photo essays, and essays—that each contain a companion lesson plan and learning activities for students so they can expand their experience of the world.
BASE particle physicists have discovered a very precise way to examine antimatter.
Thank your lucky stars you’re alive. It’s truly a miracle of nature. This has nothing to do with spirituality or religion and everything to do with science. Life itself may not be the miracle. Although we haven’t found it elsewhere yet, our galaxy alone is so replete with Earth-like planets that, mathematically speaking, one of them must hold life, even if it’s just the microbial variety. Intelligent life may be another matter.
Just before I turned 60, I discovered that sharing my story by drawing could be an effective way to both alleviate my symptoms and combat that stigma.
I've lived much of my life with anxiety and depression, including the negative feelings – shame and self-doubt – that seduced me into believing the stigma around mental illness: that people knew I wasn't good enough; that they would avoid me because I was different or unstable; and that I had to find a way to make them like me.
A joint study by two England universities explores the link between sex and cognitive function with some surprising differences in male and female outcomes in old age.
- A joint study by the universities of Coventry and Oxford in England has linked sexual activity with higher cognitive abilities in older age.
- The results of this study suggest there are significant associations between sexual activity and number sequencing/word recall in men. In women, however, there was a significant association between sexual activity in word recall alone - number sequencing was not impacted.
- The differences in testosterone (the male sex hormone) and oxytocin (a predominantly female hormone) may factor into why the male cognitive level changes much more during sexual activity in older age.
Mathematicians studied 100 billion tweets to help computer algorithms better understand our colloquial digital communication.