People are scared, and for good reason: The coronavirus is an equal opportunity threat. But in this case equal opportunity does not mean equal impact. People who were already disadvantaged before the pandemic disproportionately suffer the most serious consequences of COVID-19.
The Health Equity Research Center at Washington State University surveyed 14 health care organizations from the Olympic Peninsula to Eastern Washington to learn how the pandemic is affecting their ability to provide services.
According to Paul Whitney, professor of psychology and director of WSU’s Health Equity Research Center, and Anna Zamora-Kapoor, assistant professor of sociology and medical education and clinical sciences, “staff are overwhelmed with pandemic-related patient needs, there is little time to deal with other medical issues.”
The reluctance to reach out for help is a common tendency, but it’s an important one to unpack during a pandemic. How can we make that easier?
The first step is to understand why it’s so hard to reach out.
Requesting assistance is also uncomfortable because it’s “an admission that you’ve lost control of your situation,” says Craig Parks, a professor of social psychology and a vice provost at Washington State University. “We really need to feel, at all times, like we control our situations and can determine what happens to us.”
Plus, it creates a feeling of indebtedness — you helped me, so now I owe you — even if the helper doesn’t expect this, Parks says. “Socially, there’s still going to be a lot of pressure on you to reciprocate in kind.”
Rebecca Craft was one of the first researchers to study how marijuana could affect males and females differently, back when use both for medicinal and recreational purposes was still widely considered taboo. Through this continued work, Craft hopes to learn whether medicinal marijuana dosages need to be adjusted based on sex, or if there is a biological gender connection to drug abuse, both in cannabinoids and opioids.
As a professor of psychology at Washington State University, Craft currently teaches several psychology courses, including behavioral pharmacology.
This spring, Craft was scheduled to present a series of lectures on marijuana across the Inland Northwest in May for Humanities Washington’s Speakers Bureau program. Due to COVID-19, however, Craft’s lectures — titled “Marijuana: Evil Weed or Medical Miracle?” — have been canceled, though she hopes to reschedule later this year. We chatted with Craft about her presentation and her marijuana research. Responses have been lightly edited for clarity.
Why, when their own welfare is so clearly at stake, do people share resources or risk exposure to the virus to help others?
It comes down to the term “prosocial.” According to Craig Parks, a professor of social psychology and a vice provost at Washington State University, “ ‘Prosocial’ means that when you have a choice between acting in your personal best interests or acting in the best interest of the collective, that you opt for the latter.”
While looking out only for ourselves is sometimes extremely important, we have evolved to be concerned with the greater good. “Humans are naturally prosocial,” says Parks. “They had to be in order to survive.”
Imagine being a prehistoric man, hunting woolly mammoth. Alone, you might manage to kill the beast, but it would be difficult to protect the carcass from other predators. Form a multi-person hunting party, though, and “you’re not going to get nearly as much meat as if you hunted by yourself, but you’ve got a much greater chance of success and a much greater chance of living to see another day,” Parks says.
Coughing fits, anxiety and paranoia are three of the most common adverse reactions to cannabis, according to a recent study led by Washington State University Assistant Professor of Psychology Carrie Cuttler.
Cuttler and her graduate students surveyed more than 1,500 college students on the type and frequency of adverse reactions they had experienced while using cannabis for their study in the Journal of Cannabis Research. They also collected information on the students’ demographics, personality traits, cannabis use patterns and motives for using the drug.
Cuttler and her graduate students found the most frequently occurring adverse reactions were coughing fits, chest/lung discomfort, and body humming, which a subset of the study group reported occurring approximately 30-40% of the time they were using cannabis.
Moving forward, Cuttler hopes the results of the study will be put to use by doctors, medical cannabis distributors and even bud tenders to give people a better idea of what could go wrong when they get high.