For many college students and professionals alike, studying can be boring, tedious, or downright stressful. So what do you do when you have three online exams to cram for and you are feeling super unproductive? Rather than reaching for yet another coffee, consider reaching for a joint.
Not everyone can study well while high. Also, it is certainly not advised to head into a school exam under the influence of cannabis. If you already know that it is not for you, recognizing that fact and saving the joint for relaxing once you are done studying makes life easier.
However, there are plenty of people whose study habits may benefit from the mindful incorporation of cannabis.
How does cannabis affect your brain?
While cannabis is said to improve neural connectivity in the brain, there are also questions over the exact link between cannabis use and rare cases of psychosis. Some of the most up-to-date research from the University of Texas was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Their research concluded that while cannabis appears to physically shrink the brain, it does in fact, increase the number of connections between neurons.
Their methodology was to follow 48 adult cannabis users aged 20 to 36 and compare them with a control group of non-users. MRI scans tracked how cannabis users fared after consuming an average of 3 joints a day over 6 to 8 years.
The images of the brain suggest that THC could be shrinking grey matter. The orbitofrontal cortex of the brain seemed particularly vulnerable to shrinking. This could be problematic since this region of the brain is associated with the processing of reward and adversity.
And while neural connectivity seemed to improve, it could gradually degrade under conditions of prolonged heavy use. That being said, overall connectivity still seemed to be healthier than average.
The study’s authors admit it does not account for occasional users or the impact sudden abstinence could have. If this study shows regular users still have improved connectivity, occasional users may find some benefit from studying while high.
How weed can help you focus
If you are dreading studying but know you have to, improving your mood by getting high may be an easy way to get started. Cannabis is well-known to cause positive mood changes. This may range anywhere from a subtle sense of ease up to full-blown joy and elation. Where you will fall on this spectrum depends a lot on your mood before you smoke, the product you use, and the composition of your endocannabinoid system.
In addition to being a mood booster, cannabis is known for its stress-reducing properties. In one study, cannabis consumers and non-consumers completed the same Maastricht Acute Stress Test and had their cortisol levels measured before and after. The cannabis users demonstrated a blunted reactivity to stress and their cortisol levels did not increase, suggesting that cannabis use may dull our reactions to stress.
Many of the cannabinoids in cannabis (especially CBD and CBG, but THC as well) are neuroprotective. That means they turn on healthy cellular processes like antioxidation, rather than stimulating the cellular processes that lead to cell death. Being neuroprotective is what makes cannabis and its derivatives attractive targets as therapies for degenerative brain disorders like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.
In other cases, individuals with various forms of epilepsy who took CBD-enriched cannabis experienced not only a significant decrease in seizure frequency, but also increased alertness, better mood, and improved sleep as a result.
If one does not have such conditions or an utter lack of motivation to study, is there still any benefit to studying with weed?
Perhaps users can turn to weed as a post-study activity. Indica strains are great for relaxation and helping one get to sleep. Getting sufficient sleep is hugely overlooked as a health issue in general. It is particularly important for students to have a regular sleep schedule. Most adults typically require somewhere between 6-8 hours of sleep, so find a nice relaxing strain to help slow down your brain and get you ready for bed.
Cons of studying while high
Depending on your cannabis strain and circumstances, there could be some benefit to studying while high. We are talking about moderate doses, of course. Heavy doses are likely to affect concentration and motivation.
Cannabis may improve the flow of thought and creativity, but with it comes the ability to get distracted by tangents of thought. With such a fluid mindset, memory does become affected.
Studies have shown that spatial memory can be dulled by heavy cannabis use, and so can working memory. Working memory is the ability to process information in real-time. So if you are studying and therefore trying to retain crucial information, you better be keeping really clear notes on what you need to know. Your brain may be more engaged with new information, but it can also forget it quicker in the rushing flow of new thoughts.
On the other hand, being high right before diving deep into a topic could help one focus on the train of thought. It is a matter of pacing yourself and trial and error. Be mindful of your performance and whether responsible cannabis use is better left to other scenarios.
Which weed strains are best for productivity?
Generally, productivity is associated with having the energy to complete your tasks, so aiming for a strain associated with an uplifted mood may be better than a strain with couch-lock properties.
Plenty of people believe that sativa strains will help them feel more alert and focused. There is also the matter of the entourage effect, which refers to how cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids may combine to result in a different kind of high, ranging from euphoria to relaxation.
Think of how lemon scents will wake you up, while lavender is relaxing; the same theory applies to your bud.
It is also worth considering how you will achieve your high, given that inhaling cannabis through pipes, vapes, and similar setups will result in a more immediate high, while edibles like gummies require more time to take effect.
The following are weed strains that are considered to be the best to study to:
- Blue Dream: A classic for good reason, Blue Dream is a sativa-dominant hybrid that can make nearly any activity more enjoyable — and studying is no exception. Many describe the high as being uplifting and relaxing, but also as cerebral and invigorating.
- Ringo’s Gift: Named after its original breeder, CBD-enthusiast Laurence Ringo, this strain is loaded with a CBD content of nearly 10 percent and typically has less than 7 percent THC. This strain is especially great for individuals with a low tolerance to THC, or those who simply want to chill out without an intense body high.
- Durban Poison: Sometimes compared to espresso, Durban Poison is a sativa that packs a serious punch. Not only is it reported to improve your overall mood and help you focus, but it is also said to help you become more awake and alert.
- Sour Diesel: Sometimes, being able to focus requires serious relaxing and de-stressing first. Having 18 percent THC, it is no surprise that Sour Diesel produces a euphoric and sometimes dreamlike high perfect for defeating procrastination anxiety.
- Jack Herer: If you are the type who gets inspired to learn after getting very high, then look no further. Jack Herer is a go-to hybrid for those who need an extra kick each day to focus, absorb information, and master any subject.
How much cannabis should I consume for productivity?
Because sativa strains especially are linked to alertness, it is easy to feel like you have overdone it. You may suddenly feel as if you are too high and cannot get anything done at all. If that is the case for you, microdosing weed might be the better way to start using cannabis as a productivity aid.
If you are new to microdosing, it may benefit you to stack your doses, which means waiting between hits so you can gauge how each dose makes you feel. Wait at least 30 minutes after you take your first portion before taking more. Aim for no more than 5 milligrams of THC per dose if you are taking an edible or tincture.
Unless you are a seasoned toker, consider skipping concentrates. Concentrates often contain upwards of 70 percent THC and it takes only one hit to get the occasional weed user very high.