Regular cannabis use is associated with blunted affective, but not cardiovascular, stress responses

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AIMS: To examine the potential impact of regular cannabis use on cardiovascular and subjective responses to acute stress.

DESIGN: We used a quasi-experimental design in which subjective states and cardiovascular measures were obtained during rest and in response to acute stress challenges in a sample of regular cannabis users and non-users.

PARTICIPANTS: Seventy-nine adults (forty-five cannabis users and thirty-four non-users).

MEASUREMENTS: We measured subjective states (positive affect, state stress, state anxiety, cannabis craving) and cardiovascular indicators (blood pressure, heart rate, mean arterial pressure) during baseline rest and in response to public speaking, mental arithmetic, and cold-pressor challenges. Regular cannabis use was established via self-report and was confirmed with a positive urine drug test.

FINDINGS: Regular cannabis use was associated with blunted positive affect (F = 5.67, p = .002), state stress (F = 6.05, p = .002), and state anxiety (F = 6.48, p < .001) in response to acute stress challenges. There was no evidence of an association between cannabis use and cardiovascular responses (Fs ≤ 1.54; Ps ≥ 0.21). Contrary to expectations, cannabis craving decreased in response to stress challenges (F = 8.44, p < .001).

CONCLUSION: Chronic cannabis use is associated with blunted positive and negative (stress, anxiety) affective responses to acute stress, indicating emotional dysregulation in this population.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number106411
JournalAddictive Behaviors
StatePublished - Aug 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported, in part, by grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH; 5R01DA027232 ; UL1TR002494 ). NIH was not involved in data collection, analysis, writing, nor submission of this manuscript.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020


  • Cannabis
  • Cardiovascular response
  • Craving
  • Psychosocial stress
  • Stress reactivity

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural


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