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can weed help you focus

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.

Get Creative

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.

The Unmotivated

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.

Weed makes some people clean like crazy, but scientists don’t really know why

This post is part of Mashable’s Spring Cleaning Week. Just a little something to distract you from the eternal dread of constantly wiping all those fingerprints off your screen.

“Stock up on Cheetos and Mt. Dew BEFORE you spark,” a local police department in Kansas recently tweeted, warning “potheads” not to drive on 4/20.

While stoners may roll their eyes at the stereotyping, science, it seems, is on the police department’s side. Weed impairs our ability to think, organize, and pay attention, studies have shown. And it’s not usually associated with productivity and motivation.

Yet, some users feel more focused, even productive, after consuming or smoking weed — even though there’s no scientific evidence cannabis acts upon the motivational circuits in our brains.

“Ive heard individuals report that they’ve followed through on tasks or got something accomplished,” Larissa Mooney, an addiction psychiatrist at UCLA’s Integrated Substance Abuse Programs, said in an interview.

Weed companies and popular cannabis review sites even promote the idea that different strains of marijuana can boost productivity and enhance clarity, though there are no clinical studies proving this.

So what’s going on here? Why do some people anecdotally say using cannabis increases productivity for tedious tasks, like scrubbing the floor or organizing the house? Weed could be paving the way for motivation, even if it isn’t known to promote productivity directly.

Medical cannabis butter being put on crackers in Santa Monica, California.

Image: Bob Berg/Getty Images

The notion that cannabis can promote productivity or focus on any task, however mundane, is “unlikely,” Andrei Derbenev, an associate professor of physiology at Tulane University’s School of Medicine, said over email. This has been studied, and consistently shows the opposite effect.

“Actually, most of the research on cannabis and motivation shows no effect, or if anything, reduced motivation,” John Salamone, a psychopharmacologist at the University of Connecticut, said over email. The same goes for attention and focus, he noted.

But, cannabis might have a secondary, or collateral, type of effect. Derbenev said cannabis could potentially increase focus on some tasks indirectly, for instance, by temporarily reducing physical or mental pain.

“Someone’s perception is someone’s perception.”

Feeling better might also cause someone to perceive an increased motivation or focus.

“Someone’s perception is someone’s perception,” said Mooney. “During intoxication, somebody might have more energy or more euphoria. They may be actually feeling better, at least, temporarily.”

But many everyday drugs or stimulants that cause a buzz, euphoria, or high can have a similar effect. “Some people might report the same thing after drinking a cup of coffee,” said Mooney.

Using cannabis to focus on activities may still work for some people, she said, because drugs affect different people in different ways. But this still isn’t a remote link to the drug increasing motivation or attention, especially when we know the opposite is true. “It can impair executive functions, which is to plan and organize,” said Mooney.

Cannabis cultivation in Washington State.

Image: Gilles Mingasson/Getty Images

There is still much, however, that isn’t fully understood about the effects of cannabis use. This is because the federal government is highly suspicious of the drug, classifying it as a substance with the highest abuse rate, or Schedule 1. Formal research means getting the Drug Enforcement Agency to approve a study and ensure the still-illegal drug is properly controlled and secured.

“It’s very difficult to do research on cannabis,” said Mooney. “It’s very hard to even obtain the product [for study].”

The Food and Drug Administration states that it has “not approved marijuana as a safe and effective drug for any indication.” The agency has, however, approved two similar synthetic substances that mimic the effects of marijuana for anorexia treatment and weight loss caused by AIDS.

The national tide, though, is turning. The federal government hasn’t yet budged, but marijuana (as of April 2018) has been legalized either medicinally or recreationally in 30 states. The former conservative Speaker of the House, John Boehner, now supports removing federal restrictions on cannabis “so we can do research, help our veterans, and reverse the opioid epidemic ravaging our communities.”

Even if it became easier to research the effects of cannabis, it still appears that the evidence is heavily weighted against the drug truly promoting attention or motivation. Weed often stifles productivity, said Mooney, but it appears to work for some people. We shouldn’t “negate someone’s perception,” she said.

There's little, if any, scientific evidence that weed has a motivating effect. But people still report it helps them focus on cleaning and organizing.