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Pot and paranoia: Why weed can make you anxious

Someone’s watching you. Or are they? Is your neighbor taking the trash out or trying to get a glimpse in your open door? And is the mail carrier just dropping off bills and letters, or are they snooping into your private correspondence?

While cannabis is supposed to help you chill out, loosen up, and sleep really well, it can also make some consumers anxious and nervous. Many people use marijuana every day without negative effects, and some even experience some mental and physical health benefits, but in some cases it can make others certain someone is after them.

Carrie Cuttler.

“Yes there is evidence that cannabis, particularly acute cannabis intoxication, can cause paranoia,” said Dr. Carrie Cuttler, an assistant professor in the psychology department at Washington State University.

“In a recent (unpublished) study of college students we found that approximately 50% reported experiencing paranoia at least once when intoxicated on cannabis and that they reported experiencing paranoia on approximately 25% of cannabis use sessions,” she wrote in an email.

While researchers still aren’t exactly clear on how marijuana causes paranoia, it appears to be related to THC’s effect on receptors in the brain and is – literally – all in your head.

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The Spokesman Review

Engaging our statewide community

Over the next four weeks, four WSU researchers in the College of Arts and Sciences will share their work and expertise with communities across the state of Washington.

The WSU faculty are members of the Humanities Washington Speakers Bureau and the initial cohort of WSU Foley Fellows.

Clockwise from top left, Rebecca Craft, Travis Ridout, Matthew Sutton, & Stephen Stehr.
Clockwise from top left, Rebecca Craft, Travis Ridout, Matthew Sutton, & Stephen Stehr.

Speakers Bureau talks are free public presentations on history, politics, music, philosophy, and everything in between. Humanities Washington’s roster of presenters are professors, artists, activists, historians, performers, journalists, and others—all chosen not only for their expertise, but their ability to inspire discussion with people of all ages and backgrounds. All talks are free and open to the public, and each lasts about an hour.

The four WSU faculty presentations begin with:

  • Higher Power: The History of Evangelicals in American PoliticsTuesday, Feb. 18, at 6:30 p.m.
    Indian Trail Library, Spokane WA

    Matthew Sutton, an Edward R. Meyer Distinguished Professor of history, traces the history of the religious right in America, from its early roots to its rise to power under Ronald Reagan and into the current era.

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WSU Insider

LIFT Faculty Fellowship increases student and faculty engagement

WSU psychology professor Blythe Duel.Teaching Psychology 230 – Human Sexuality – at Washington State University Pullman puts Blythe Duell in front of up to 500 undergraduate students each class session.

Duell, who is a clinical associate professor, wanted to be certain she was doing everything in her power to ensure that students were engaged and getting as much as they could out of the class. Her participation in WSU’s LIFT Faculty Fellowship gave her the tools to do it.

One of her first goals was to show her students that they weren’t alone in struggling at times. She had each student in her PSYCH 201 class write down a time they struggled and how they overcame it, and then shared the results.

“There’s some evidence that shows that if students understand other people are struggling, that they’ll feel more comfortable, and it’s easier to learn in an environment where you feel comfortable,” she said. “This can be especially important for first generation students and students who feel out of place in a college setting.”

The LIFT fellowship, which is currently accepting applicants to join its fourth cohort, teaches a variety of evidence-based teaching interventions. Previous research has shown that these interventions improve student engagement and learning, decrease course withdrawal and fail rates, and boost student retention.

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WSU Insider

Dr. Universe: Do babies have ways of communicating? –Jalen, 12, North Carolina

I learned a lot about how babies use emotion to communicate from my friend Masha Gartstein, a professor of psychology at Washington State University.

Masha Maria Gartstein.

She told me that crying is just one way babies communicate. After two or three months, babies will usually start to smile with a purpose.

“It’s an amazing thing,” Gartstein said. “That becomes another way of communicating.”

It’s also a nice relief for caregivers, or a baby’s brothers and sisters, especially after hearing lots of crying for a few months. Babies and caregivers can now both communicate joy or happiness.

At about six months old, babies can usually respond to their own names. But they still can’t talk like kids and grown-ups.

Instead, they might use gestures or point at things to communicate ideas to others. They might use their hands, fingers, or bodies to send out a message like, “I want that toy!” or “Look what I did!”

When a baby is about twelve months old, they will start to put together sounds that make up words like “mama” or “dada.” All the while, the baby’s personality is developing, too.

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Dr. Universe


Study Finds Imposter Syndrome Higher Among First Generation Students

Imposter syndrome describes the unfounded belief that one is unworthy of his or her accomplishments, and according to new research, first-generation college students are more likely to suffer from it.

Elizabeth Canning.

The study by Elizabeth Canning, assistant professor of psychology at WSU, published in Social Psychological and Personality Science, focused on a group of 818 freshmen and sophomore students pursuing science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields. The students completed surveys, which included questions surrounding imposter syndrome, immediately after their STEM classes for a two-week period and at the end of the semester.

In classes that students considered highly competitive, first-generation students were more likely to agree with statements such as, “In class, I felt like people might find out that I am not as capable as they think I am.”

However, in classes that students didn’t perceive as competitive, there was no difference in the levels of self-reported imposter syndrome between first- and continuing-generation students.

“We found that when students think their class is competitive, they feel more like an imposter on a day-to-day basis and this is most problematic for first-generation college students,” Canning said.

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