This weekend I had the opportunity to visit Amsterdam with some friends! We explored, went out, and soaked up the Dutch culture as much as we could in one day. While we were there, the environment, or “vibe,” was noticeably different in Amsterdam compared to what I have observed during my last three weeks in Paris. Dutch people seemed to be happier and more welcoming compared to the French.
This first indication that Dutch people are nicer was that our taxi driver was loud, happy, and making jokes with us. During the ride, he was asking where we were from, giving us advice, and telling us himself how people are happy here. Even throughout the trip, we came across numerous people who would actually smile at us while walking! I kept thinking to myself, “Wow, I can smile here and not get a sketchy response back!” People would talk to us, joke with us, and welcome us into their city with open arms. One man even came up to us when we looked confused to ask if we needed help to get where we needed. It was almost comforting to be around these people because I got that taste of America during my time in Amsterdam.
Meanwhile in Paris, people seem to be serious and in the zone. The crammed metro rides and the stereotyped city life really becomes apparent here in Paris. Although most people are nice and helpful, the impression that they give off seems cold and rigid. Quite honestly, they seem unamused with all the Americans that are in their city. Constantly, people are crammed and trying to get through by pushing and shoving to get where they need to go. With a “pardon” here and there, the Parisian way of life seems more stressful than the seemingly laid back Dutch culture.
Besides the mood that I am interpreting based on my interactions with both groups of people, the Dutch people also seem to be happier. When comparing overall mood of people in these two cities, I assume that people in Amsterdam seem to be happier than people in Paris. I may be completely on a whim here, but I really wonder what kinds of experiences and events can shape people’s moods. Although it is a precarious topic, I wonder if the legalization of marijuana attributes to the better mood and happiness in Dutch people, and if the long-term use can results in something detrimental to mental health.
Cannabis is used to enhance mood and at times quality of life (Fischer et al., 2015). A study analyzed an Australian cohort over time to study outcomes of the people. Quality of life, happiness, satisfaction and socio-demographic characteristics were taken into consideration when analyzing. The results provided by this study showed that frequent cannabis use did not enhance quality of life, and it was actually associated with low quality of life at 21-years old and up (Fisher et al., 2015).
Another study by Bruijnzeel et al. (2019), they authors were studying rats and how emotional behavior or cognitive function can change from adolescence to adulthood. The rats were exposed to tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) or cannabis smoke with increasing doses. Once the rats reached adulthood, anxiety-like behavior, depressive like behavior, and cognitive function were assessed. The results showed that neither THC nor cannabis smokes during adolescence produced significant amounts of alterations in adult rats after the cannabis was abstained.
One study even compared synthetic cannabinoid use with natural cannabis use and their respective cognitive outcomes. The results showed that synthetic cannabinoid users have a higher likelihood of drug abuse, sleep problems, and other psychological problems compared to natural cannabis users (Mensen et al., 2019). Additionally, adolescents cannabis users seem to be more vulnerable to changes in the brain compared to adult cannabis users (Gorey et al., 2019).
All of these papers can be synthesized to conclude that cannabis use does not directly affect long term happiness, especially of an entire culture. It is important to consider that cannabis use, although legal in some places, can be dangerous long term. For example, grey matter volume differences can arise, especially during the vulnerable adolescent stage of life (Orr et al., 2019). I think that some people may seem happier because of alleged cannabis use (purely based off of assumption), but the research did not conclude that the use of marijuana is the direct cause of a seemingly happier society. Based on my literature search, there seems to be a fine line when it comes to using cannabis because there are still long term cognitive changes that can interfere with life (Akram et al., 2019). Although my question and assumption was not answered how I thought it would, it was interesting to see how variable cannabis consumption can be. From this, I still consider the Dutch to be happier than Parisians. However, maybe I am not giving the Parisians the benefit of the doubt, and maybe they are equally happy! We may never know the answer to that question.
Akram, H., Mokrysz, C., & Curran, H. V. (2019). What are the psychological effects of using synthetic cannabinoids? A systematic review. Journal of Psychopharmacology, 33(3), 271–283. https://doi.org/10.1177/0269881119826592
Bruijnzeel, A. W., Knight, P., Panunzio, S., Xue, S., Bruner, M. M., Wall, S. C., … Setlow, B. (2019). Effects in rats of adolescent exposure to cannabis smoke or THC on emotional behavior and cognitive function in adulthood. Psychopharmacology. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00213-019-05255-7
Fischer, J. A., Clavarino, A. M., Plotnikova, M., & Najman, J. M. (2015). Cannabis Use and Quality of Life of Adolescents and Young Adults: Findings from an Australian Birth Cohort. Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, 47(2), 107–116. https://doi.org/10.1080/02791072.2015.1014121
Gorey, C., Kuhns, L., Smaragdi, E., Kroon, E., & Cousijn, J. (2019). Age-related differences in the impact of cannabis use on the brain and cognition: a systematic review. European Archives of Psychiatry and Clinical Neuroscience,269(1), 37–58. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00406-019-00981-7
Mensen, V. T., Vreeker, A., Nordgren, J., Atkinson, A., de la Torre, R., Farré, M., … Brunt, T. M. (2019). Psychopathological symptoms associated with synthetic cannabinoid use: a comparison with natural cannabis. Psychopharmacology. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00213-019-05238-8
Orr, C., Spechler, P., Cao, Z., Albaugh, M., Chaarani, B., Mackey, S., … Garavan, H. (2019). Grey Matter Volume Differences Associated with Extremely Low Levels of Cannabis Use in Adolescence. The Journal of Neuroscience, 39(10), 1817–1827. https://doi.org/10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3375-17.2018
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