Smoke Your Troubles Away: Exploring the Effects of Death Cognitions on Cannabis Craving and Consumption

Maayan Nagar, Sharon Rabinovitz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Abstract: Two studies informed by the terror management health model were conducted to examine the question of how death cognition affects cannabis craving and whether actual cannabis smoking alleviates death cognitions. The first study examined whether priming thoughts of death are associated with subjective cannabis craving among 42 frequent cannabis users randomly assigned to either a mortality salience or control task. When reminded of their death, participants craved cannabis, even though there was no change in their conscious negative mood. The second study examined the effect of cannabis smoking on death cognitions in an exploratory field setting. Fifty frequent cannabis users were randomly assigned to either mortality reminders or control task and completed death-related words accessibility measures before and after smoking cannabis. Results indicate that cannabis served as a buffer and prevented death-related thoughts from entering consciousness, thus acting as a defense mechanism against death anxiety. These findings indicate that death-related concerns may play a hitherto unsuspected role in cannabis craving and consumption. Also discussed are the implications of a terror management perspective in communication of negative health consequences of recreational cannabis smoking and in the use of cannabis for medical purposes among people with terminal illness.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)91-99
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Psychoactive Drugs
Issue number2
StatePublished - 15 Mar 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • cannabis
  • craving
  • death
  • mortality
  • terror management theory


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