A few telltale signs that you may have been consuming cannabis: Red eyes, cottonmouth, a seemingly perpetual grin … and you walk funny. Wait. What?
A group of Australian scientists have discovered evidence that marijuana consumption could alter the way people walk. The findings of the study, to be published in the September issue of the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, suggest that cannabis consumption is “associated with long-lasting changes in open-chain elements of walking gait.”
According to the study:
- Cannabis users exhibit increased angular velocity of the knee during walking gait.
- Cannabis users exhibit reduced shoulder flexion during walking gait.
- Gait changes in cannabis users are not of a magnitude that is clinically detectable.
The study examined 22 cannabis users to 22 non-drug using Australians. The researchers found slight differences in how each group moved. Cannabis users moved their knees faster when swinging their leg forward to walk, but tended to move their shoulders less. The researchers found no difference in walking speed or balance.
“Most of the research on illicit drug use focuses on long-term changes in cognition and psychological well-being,” the study’s author Verity Pearson-Dennett of the University of South Australia told PsyPost. “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,” Pearson-Dennett continued. “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.”
The authors of the study, citing the small sample size of their research, called for further research. According to Pearson-Dennett, the next step would be to study if the “gait disturbances” diminish with increased time between cannabis consumption.