Could Cannabis Actually Help You Study Better?
It’s time for you to be honest with yourself. If you are a university student who loves cannabis, think about how it’s impacting your studies. Some research suggests it may be helpful in moderation. Here is our guide to the signs you should be watching out for.
If you are a minor and studying for exams, you should NOT be taking cannabis. You should not even be reading this article. We do not condone underage use of cannabis, and there are compelling medical reasons against it. The teenage brain is still developing in a way that could be adversely complicated by cannabis use. If you are in university, however, then by now you probably have been exposed to at least some people who enjoy cannabis. Public perceptions of cannabis have long considered it a drain on motivation and productivity, yet there are students who claim it actually helps them study more effectively. To investigate these claims, let us look at the impact cannabis has on the brain.
HOW DOES CANNABIS AFFECT THE BRAIN?
Perhaps with different jurisdictions legalizing cannabis, scientific research on the plant and its constituents will improve. Universities and research institutions could be free to conduct controlled cultivation for scientific purposes. 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 three joints a day over six to eight 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. Let us examine the arguments for and against.
PROS OF STUDYING UNDER THE INFLUENCE OF CANNABIS
Getting high may be a nice reward mechanism after completing a studying goal. But could being under the influence of cannabis actually help one study better? Scientifically speaking, those with treatment-resistant pediatric epilepsy may benefit from cannabis in several ways; however, CBD is the main cannabinoid utilized in this scenario, not THC. In certain 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. Moreover, the state of Rhode Island recently approved medical cannabis use for treating autism. So depending on one’s circumstances and upon consultation with a medical professional, individuals with specific neurodivergent conditions may benefit from a greater ability to study with the use of cannabis.
If one does not have such conditions, is there still any benefit to studying with weed? 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’s particularly important for students to have a regular sleep schedule. Most adults typically require somewhere between 6–8 hours of sleep, so find what works for you and stick to it. A more relaxed mindset from an indica high may help you focus on a reading task before you head for pillow hugging. A sativa strain may also give you the energetic uplift you need. A cerebral, creative buzz could help you brainstorm ideas and get enthusiastic over learning your material.
CONS OF STUDYING UNDER THE INFLUENCE OF CANNABIS
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. We certainly would not advise heading into an examination under the influence of THC-rich cannabis. That’s when you really need to focus. But is there harm in having a little bit handy for when you’re working on assignments and research? Aside from how much your finances are affected?
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 learning with the aim of retaining 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.
Cannabis has many effects on the brain, particularly memory. So pinning down its impact on studying is a highly individual process.
Can weed help you focus
Unfortunately, the modern day workforce doesn’t often allow much room for creative tasks. Rather, there is a more systematic workflow that aims to maximize efficiency—and minimize fun. Sure, there is an association between efficiency and a nose-to-the-grindstone attitude, but what if we told you that creativity and productivity could go hand in hand too?
If you have creative hobbies outside of work or if your job requires some creative thinking and brainstorming, marijuana can definitely add some pep to your step. New testimony argues that marijuana use makes creative workers more productive, diverging from the usual findings that show cannabis consumers get distracted while doing mundane, unmotivated work. Here are some reasons why the perfect high can get your creative juices flowing.
The Right Kind of Marijuana
First thing’s first, you need to pick the right kind of cannabis. If you’re an avid cannabis user, you know that there are two main classifications: sativa and indica. Sativa is the go-to strain for those who need to be productive. This specific type of cannabis has a higher concentration of THC than indica and produces a more psychoactive high. Sativa is normally used during the daytime as it keeps your mind working, your energy high and your motivation steady. Plus, cannabis sativa keeps you from entering the zoning out state that many indica or indica-dominant strains may encourage.
Marijuana helps with many tasks, but they all share one common characteristic: creativity. Fast Company published a piece discussing drug use and work, but specifically focused on its usefulness during creative tasks. In another interview with MTV, Seth Rogen testified that marijuana does, in fact, make him buckle down and get right to work. The work he does? He writes scripts, acts and participates in other aspects of filmmaking—all creative tasks.
Other successful individuals have argued that marijuana is helpful in creative functions that go beyond the fine arts. Business owners, lawyers, writers and painters alike have found that the herb can help them with constructive thinking as well as application-based work. The consensus is that marijuana helps open you up to creativity and hone in on the engaging task at hand. Of course, until academic studies look into this aspect of creative motivation, user testimony is all we have to formulate any sort of logical proof.
For now, all academic work seems to be fixated on proving otherwise: that marijuana impedes productivity. The potential problem with these studies is that a majority are focused mundane tasks that don’t consider the positive effects of marijuana.
A study that followed seven men found that productivity decreased when marijuana was readily available and continued to decline as more and more was consumed. This is essentially the same finding as most academic sources. Productivity went back up as soon as access was cut off, but we want to focus on what happened when these individuals were high at work.
The study noted that individuals didn’t necessarily work slower; rather they spent their time doing other tasks that entertained them. We’re all guilty of falling into a stream of TV episodes on Netflix or Buzzfeed articles when taking what was supposed to be a short break, but the seven men were noted as displaying signs of what is called amotivational syndrome—something that may occur to some long-term marijuana users. If we compare this to the user experiences discussed above, we can see that the type of work a marijuana user is doing is critical, and it is a variable that is overlooked by the studies that have been conducted thus far. Eventually, there might be research that examines creative productivity in its own right, at which point we will have answers that can compete at a scientific level.
Marijuana appears to improve focus and productivity—if you use it correctly. It can be incredibly motivating and drive you to complete tasks, so long as your head is in the game. In order for it to work, you have to be doing something that gets you excited or at least forces you to be creative while also selecting the right strain. If cleaning the house is something you like to do but you seem to get distracted during the process, maybe enjoy some cannabis beforehand and see if that motivates you to clean more productively. Of course, make sure you are acting responsibly and partaking when appropriate—at least until more studies might convince your employer otherwise.
Far from the stereotype, cannabis is helping people do more.