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From: (I. Aptekar)
Newsgroups: alt.drugs
Subject: Amotivational Syndrome
Date: 4 Oct 1993 08:30:22 GMT
Message-ID: <28omuu$>

Copied from p.229-230 of 'Drugs and Behavior' by William A. McKim.

Amotivational Syndrome

It has sometimes been observed that when a young person starts smoking
marijuana there are systematic changes in that person's lifestyle,
ambitions, motivation, and possibly personality. These changes have
been collectively referred to as the _amotivational syndrome_, whose
symptoms are:

"... apathy, loss of effectiveness, and diminished capacity or
willingness to carry out complex, long-term plans, endure frustration,
concentrate for long periods, follow routines, or successfully master
new material. Verbal facility is often impaired both in speaking and
writing. Some individuals exhibit greater introversion, become totally
involved with the present at the expense of future goals and
demonstrate a strong tendency toward regressive, childlike, magical

There is no doubt that many young individuals have changed from clean,
aggressive, upwardly mobile achievers into the sort of person just
described at about the same time as they started smoking marijuana.
What is not clear, however, is a causal relationship between the loss
of middle class motivations and cannabis. Which comes first, the
marijuana or the loss of motivations? This is not easy to answer. In
fact, there may be no clearcut answer. To begin with, all we know
about the amotivational syndrome is a result of a few case histories.
These data cannot answer questions about: a) how common the syndrome
is; b) whether the marijuana actually caused the change in behavior;
or c) if the change is caused by marijuana, if it is best described as
a change in all motivations, specific motivations, or something other
than motivation, like ability or personality.

It does not appear as though the amotivational syndrome is all that
common among marijuana smokers. In one survey[2] a sample of almost
2000 college students was studied. There was no difference in grade
point average and achievement between marijuana users and nonusers,
but the users had more difficulty deciding on career goals, and a
smaller number were seeking advanced professional degrees. On the
other hand, other studies have shown lower school averages and higher
dropout rates among users than nonusers. In any case these differences
are not great. If there is such a thing as amotivational syndrome, its
affects appear to be restricted to a few individuals, probably the
small percentage who become heavy users.

Laboratory studies provide additional information on the causal
relationship between motivation and marijuana. The Mendelson[3]
experiment, where hospitalised volunteers worked on an operant task to
earn money and marijuana for 26 days, found that the dose of marijuana
smoked did not influence the amount of work done by either the
casual-user group or the heavy-user group; all remained motivated to
earn and take home a significant amount of money in addition to the
work they did for the marijuana. It seems clear that marijuana does
not cause a loss of motivation.

While marijuana does not specifically diminish motivation, it is clear
that cannabis affects attention and memory, and these are intellectual
capacities usually considered necessary for success in educational
institutions. We know that a significant tolerance develops to these
effects and they can be suppressed voluntarily at low doses, but
consistent smoking of high doses of marijuana must impede a successful
academic career. In fact, achievement motivation must be high indeed
in any individual who combines high levels of cannabis use with a
successful academic career.

Since most reports of the amotivational syndrome originated in the
sixties in North America, what they seem to describe is a tendency for
college students to 'drop out' and assume a lifestyle that rejects
traditional achievement motivations of their parents' generation. In
an effort to understand this rejection it was very easy to believe
that it was pharmacological and to dismiss it as 'amotivational

[1] McGlothin, W.H., & West, L.J. (1968). The marihuana problem: An
overview. _American Journal of Psychiatry_, vol. 125, 370-378.

[2] Brill, N.Q., & Christie, R.L. (1974).Marihuana and psychosocial
adjustment. _Archives of General Psychiatry_, 31, 713-719.

[3] Mendelson, H.H., Kuehnle, J.C., Greenberg, I., & Mello, N.K.
(1976). The effects of marihuana use on human operant behavior:
Individual data. In M.C. Broude & S. Szara (eds.), _Pharmacology of
marihuana_, vol. 2(pp. 643-653). New York: Academic Press.


Message-ID: <>
Newsgroups: alt.drugs
From: (H-Man)
Date: Fri, 17 Sep 1993 05:13:33 UTC
Subject:  Weil: Amotivational Syndrome

Hey all!  I just read THE NATURAL MIND by Andrew Weil.  Although it dealt
with ACID and MARIJUANA too much for my tastes, I typed up some EXCERPTS
that I thought you'd like.

  |--########--  H-Man  --########--|

p. 60:

When I was a freshman at Harvard, long before many people thought of smoking
marihuana, there was plenty of amotivation.  It took such forms as sleeping
till dinner time and then playing Monopoly all night instead of working and
was indistinguishable from amotivation now associated with heavy marihuana
use.  Heavy marihuana use is a convenient symptom for an amotivated person
to add to his list: it is fun, can be done with other people, angers
grownups, and so on.  If it is not too late to find a rural college where
marihuana is still unknown, I would predict that the amotivated people there
would become the heavy marihuana smokers once the drug appeared on campus.
If marihuana were the cause of amotivation, one would expect that
amotivation could be cured by taking away the marihuana, but this is not the
case.  Therefore, it markes more sense to see amotivation as a cause of
heavy marihuana smoking rather than the reverse.