Associating Marijuana and Prayer

by | 07.02.13 | Research, Scientific advances, The Brain and Learning

Marijuana and prayer are associated much like trouser-length and spelling ability in elementary-age schoolboys. It is a characteristic of correlation that any two variables associated with the same third variable are themselves associated. In case of trouser length and spelling ability, the third variable is age. Trouser-length and age have a strong positive correlation (trouser length increases as age increases). Likewise, spelling ability and age have a strong positive correlation. Compute the correlation between trouser length and spelling ability, and you will find a strong positive correlation.

“Age” is a confounding variable in this example. When it is “partialed” out of the correlation, the association between trouser length and spelling ability drops to zero.

The confounding variable between marijuana and prayer is . . .

. . . dopamine. Dopamine is a chemical produced by the brain that causes a feeling of well-being, joy, and a positive outlook.

How is dopamine related to marijuana and prayer?

Two recent articles lay it out for us.

Researchers recently used positron emission tomography (PET) to scan the brains of heavy users of marijuana. They found significantly lower levels of dopamine in users than in non-users of the same sex and age. Researchers suggested this explains why cannabis users appear to lack motivation.


“The people in the study used cannabis quite heavily, they all began using the drug between ages 12 and 18, and they all had experienced symptoms of psychosis while under the influence, the researchers said. Some of these symptoms include experiencing strange sensations while on the drug, or having bizarre thoughts, such as thinking they were being threatened by an unknown force.”

So much for the “harmless” nature of smoking marijuana. Click here to see the full article.

On the other hand, regular prayer and meditation have been found to increase dopamine levels, and therefore increases a feeling of well-being, joy, and a positive outlook.


“Prayer is the most widespread alternative therapy in America today. Over 85 percent of people confronting a major illness pray, according to a University of Rochester study. That is far higher than taking herbs or pursuing other nontraditional healing modalities. And increasingly the evidence is that prayer works.”

Click here to see the full article.

The article on prayer emphasizes the “fact” that Buddhist meditation (with no god to focus on) is as effective as prayer to God. But prayer is more than a technique for manipulating physiological responses — it is conversation with God. As we dialog with the Lord, we find increasing levels of persistence, can-do, and perseverance. This may well be associated with increased dopamine levels. This discovery does not undermine biblical admonitions to “pray without ceasing,” but rather underscores the (measurable) physiological changes that result from doing so. God made us for communication. The scientific evidence is just another example of His blessing that He designed us to produce the very chemical that causes a “sense of well-being” when we do.

“In one National Institutes of Health funded study, individuals who prayed daily were shown to be 40 percent less likely to have high blood pressure than those without a regular prayer practice. Research at Dartmouth Medical School found that patients with strong religious beliefs who underwent elective heart surgery were three times more likely to recover than those who were less religious. A 2011 study of inner city youth with asthma by researchers at the University of Cincinnati indicates that those who practiced prayer and meditation experienced fewer and less severe symptoms than those who had not. Other studies show that prayer boosts the immune system and helps to lessen the severity and frequency of a wide range of illnesses.

A recent survey reported in the Journal of Gerontology of 4,000 senior citizens in Durham, NC, found that people who prayed or meditated coped better with illness and lived longer than those who did not.”

So how are marijuana and praying associated?

Long-term praying causes a sense of well-being, motivation, and calm that persists through life’s difficulties.

Long-term marijuana use causes just the opposite, with the additional side effects of increased psychosis and schizophrenia, and decreased coordination and learning.

Some association, huh?

Richard Schiffman concludes his article on prayer this way:

“Spiritual practice aims to connect the individual with God or a Higher Power, to open one to the Divinity dwelling within the self, and to make one fully present to life in the here and now. These are not goals that lend themselves to being measured in double blind experiments. The sense of deep peace and radiant well being that spiritual practitioners in different religious traditions report are also not testable by scientific means.

What science can tell us is that people who pray and meditate tend to be statistically more healthy and live longer than those who do not. Whether these boons are merely unintended side effects of still deeper spiritual benefits remains a matter of faith.”

For those of us who love the Lord, we enjoy the spiritual walk with Him in prayer, even as we benefit “in this material body” from the increased levels of dopamine that praying produces.

For those who do not know the Lord, they may enjoy the dopamine high that comes from meditation, but they will never come to know the Lord through mantras or religious formulas. “. . . whosoever believes in Him — puts their whole trust in Him — will not perish, but have everlasting life.”




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