For a long time, I associated weed with relaxation and lethargia. Maybe it’s because I subconsciously bought into the ‘Reefer Madness’ stereotype of the lazy stoner.
Because of this, I was surprised when I got to university and found out that many of my peers used marijuana to study, work on assignments and generally be productive.
Productivity seemed to be the very antithesis of the porridge-brain and overwhelming sleepiness I had experienced in the past, and for this reason, I’ve always been fascinated by those who could convert joints into pages of academic research.
Writer and actor Seth Rogan swears by marijuana as a great aide for productivity, saying it improves his creativity and makes him willing to work.
So how do people use weed to be productive? And how can you make cannabis work for you?
What Prevents Productivity?
In order to understand how marijuana can improve productivity, we first have to understand the nature of productivity. Psychology – as well as common sense – tells us that there are a number of things that can hinder or stimulate productivity. An inability to feel creative, a lack of motivation, a bad mood and health problems are factors that can lead to someone being less productive.
Marijuana has been scientifically linked to stimulating creativity. An interesting article on Psychology Today looks at a 2011 study on the link between smoking cannabis and creativity. The article states the following:
Schafer and colleagues (2011) reviewed literature suggesting that the effects of cannabis on creativity have not been extensively studied nor are the mechanisms by which it stimulates creativity well understood. However, they suggested that cannabis produces psychotomimetic symptoms, which in turn might lead to connecting seemingly unrelated concepts, an aspect of divergent thinking considered primary to creative thinking.
In other words, cannabis helps us connect ideas in different ways to how we usually connect ideas. This could enable us to generate more ideas, leading us to be more creative.
As the above-mentioned study stated, there’s a lack of concrete studies on the link between creativity and cannabis. That said, there is plenty of anecdotal evidence. Cole*, an interior designer, occasionally uses weed to help him work better. He says that certain strains can make him feel inspired and creative. “I’m usually able to be creative on my own, but I sometimes get what I call ‘designers’ block’. When this happens, I find that a small amount of weed – say, one or two puffs – helps open my mind.” This, he says, helps him brainstorm better.
Of course, some strains are better at inspiring creativity than others. Sativa strains are associated with stimulating creativity. Clear-Sativa strains are often credited with giving the user energy without inducing any lethargia or drowsiness, allowing for someone to work while experiencing an uplifting head-high.
Marijuana as an anxiety-reducing aide
We know that marijuana is often used to ease anxiety.
Considering how anxiety can hinder one’s work performance, it’s unsurprising that many people might rely on weed’s relaxing properties to help them shed anxiety and focus on their work.
Danielle*, a freelance writer, uses marijuana to ease some anxiety-related symptoms. This helps them focus on work. “Racing thoughts, a symptom of anxiety, distract me. Often, I’m preoccupied with them more often than I am my work. These go down as I use cannabis,” they explain.
Ariana Munsumy, a student, has had similar experiences. She recently began using cannabis to ease anxiety around university work, and finds it to be really effective. She usually only waits until her state of mind is very anxious to use weed, but is trying to use it more regularly to pre-emptively avoid a full-blown panic attack.
“I have a few joints rolled up and kept in my kitchen drawer, so now I try to smoke about a full joint once a week, but I don’t keep to a rigid regime or time it. The whole energy of the medicine generally stays with me for a few days,” she explains. While she can be productive without weed, she’s often anxious without it – and this anxiety can impede her work.
Landela*, an entertainment personality, finds that marijuana increases her confidence before she performs. In varsity, she found that a quick hit would help her engage more confidently in lectures and become more interested in her work. “I would just hit a blunt for some crazy energy and to get that little “oompf”,” she explains, adding that it stimulates creativity, too.
Cannabis as a treatment for pain and discomfort
Pre-existing health issues can also result interfere with one’s ability to work and focus. In this light, the medical benefits of marijuana can indirectly help people be more productive.
Danielle also has IBS, which can interfere with their work. “Sometimes, bathroom time eats up a decent amount of my workday. For instance, I was in the bathroom yesterday for 36 minutes back-and-forth from urgent bowel movements,” they say. They find that cannabis – particularly edibles – eases many of their IBS symptoms, enabling them to work for longer without having to deal with any interfering symptoms.
Similarly, Cole has fibromyalgia, which he medicates with marijuana. “Fibromyalgia means that I experience a lot of aches and pains, which makes it really hard to work,” he says. He uses marijuana to ease the pain. While it doesn’t always relieve all the pain, it usually takes the edge off. “As someone with a relatively new business, I can’t always afford to take time off from work. I find weed to be one of the cheapest and most effective treatments for pain.”
Marijuana as a reward
Of course, motivation can be a key aspect of improving productivity. Sometimes, people use marijuana as a way of motivating and rewarding themselves.
Georgina*, a part-time student who works at a local non-profit organization, uses weed to reward herself on occasion.
“You might have heard about the jellybaby method of motivation. This is where you place a jellybaby every few paragraphs [in a textbook], and you let yourself eat it when you finish studying that section,” Georgina explains. “Well, I do that, but with a joint.”
When she struggles to get through a certain section, she sets a goal for herself. When she reaches that goal, she takes a few drags of a joint. Then, she naps. “The promise of a joint-induced nap is a really great motivator for me. I don’t use it all that often, and I’m able to work without weed, but it’s great if nothing else is motivating me,” she says.
When it comes to motivation, however, marijuana might be a hindrance: there have been studies that suggest long-term marijuana usage can stifle one’s motivation. Those who began using marijuana at a young age – and those who have used marijuana often for a long period of time – apparently have lower levels of naturally-occurring dopamine in the brain.
Dopamine is a hormone that is strongly associated with motivation. This lack of dopamine can cause one to have ‘amotivational syndrome’.
Ultimately, using marijuana for productivity is similar to using marijuana for just about anything else. Different strokes work for different folks, and you need to explore and experiment with cannabis before you can become certain that it’ll work for you.
When Elizabeth* started using marijuana to ease her anxiety and Crohn’s disease, it brought her great relief. However, she found one major side effect: she didn’t enjoy getting high.
“No matter what strain I used, I found it made me really high,” she says. “While it relieved my symptoms, I couldn’t really function after getting high.” As a retail worker who had to work long hours, getting inebriated really wasn’t an option for her. Eventually, a friend recommended that Elizabeth try microdosing.
Nowadays, ‘microdosing’ is a popular technique for ingesting marijuana for medicinal purposes. This is a technique where a tiny amount of marijuana is used; for example, one hit from a joint, a drop of hemp oil, or a bite from a cannabis-infused edible. Microdosing enables the user to ingest small amounts of CBD and THC without getting inebriated. Often, someone would take small hits frequently as opposed to ingesting a large amount more sporadically.
Microdosing works really well for people who want to reap the medical benefits of using marijuana without experiencing the psychedelic high. Microdosing means that the user can experience a lifted mood, anti-inflammatory benefits, and the relief of psychological difficulties like depression and anxiety. For people like Elizabeth, who are naturally more prone to getting high very quickly, microdosing could offer a great solution.
Elizabeth finds that microdosing is just as effective as using a larger amount of cannabis. Medical research has found that marijuana’s anti-inflammatory properties makes it an excellent treatment for Crohn’s disease, which Elizabeth has struggled with for many years. “I just take one hit every so often to ease the discomfort and feeling of sensitivity in my stomach,” she explains. “It helps me function at work without suffering from cramps and an irritable bowel.”
Experts tend to agree that microdosing can be incredibly helpful. Speaking to Herb, Dr. Dustin Sulak, a Medical Director of clinics in New England, said the following:
“When I started my practice, I was surprised to see that some patients were using very low dosages (e.g. 1 puff), while other patients require much higher dosages (e.g. 1 joint or a potent edible) to achieve optimal benefits. Over time, I began to notice that most patients using small amounts of cannabis were getting better and more sustainable results than their high-dosage counterparts with similar conditions.
Eventually I discovered that most people have a certain threshold dosage of cannabis, below which they’ll actually experience a gradual increase in health benefits over time, and above which they’ll start building tolerance, experiencing diminishing benefits, and more side effects.”
Microdosing isn’t for anyone, so the best way to figure out if it’s for you is to experiment. “Start with a small amount of weed in your favourite strain. Give it time and be mindful of how it affects your body,” Elizabeth suggests. Once again, smoking isn’t the only method of ingestion – you can also vape, use edibles or even try a small amount of tinctures or oils.
It’s no secret that marijuana can enhance sexual pleasure, but the advent of the THC-infused suppository means weed’s aphrodisiac qualities are once again a hot topic.
Recently, Complex Magazine recently wrote about the use of marijuana for enhancing pleasure during anal sex, and Leafly published an article about how cannabis can increase sexual pleasure for those over 50. Marijuana’s erotic powers are so well-known that a cannabis-infused lube has been created with the purpose of increasing sexual pleasure.
But does scientific and historical evidence support the notion that cannabis is an effective aphrodisiac? Let’s take a look.
The evidence for cannabis’s sex-enhancing powers isn’t just anecdotal. Scientific studies have given us a great deal of insight into the use of marijuana as an aphrodisiac.
One of the active ingredients in marijuana is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). THC stimulates the release of dopamine (the ‘happiness hormone’) in the brain. It also stimulates a neurochemical called anandamide, which is known as the ‘bliss molecule’.
Happiness, bliss, and THC’s ability to increase testosterone straight after consumption – it’s a combination that unsurprisingly improves sex drive and enhances sexual pleasure.
Scientificstudies have shown that low to moderate dosage of cannabis can enhance sexual experiences by increasing the length and intensity of orgasms and aiding in partner bonding. This said, high dosages of cannabis can lead to erectile dysfunction and a decreased sexual appetite. Overall, it can delay ejaculation and orgasm.
When speaking to The High Times, psychiatrist Dr Lester Grinspoon mentions that cannabis can prevent premature ejaculation. Grinspoon’s seminal work, Marijuana Reconsidered, was one of the first academic studies that strongly suggested that marijuana could, indeed, enhance sex.
As we know, marijuana has a different effect on everyone. It’s no surprise, then, that marijuana will affect each person’s sexual experiences differently. In an informal survey reported in Psychology Today, 67% of respondents said that marijuana enhances sex, 12% said that it destroys sex, and 20% said that it depends on the strain, dosage and their mood. According to a survey by HelloMD, 14% of the medical marijuana users that participated said they specifically used marijuana to increase their sexual experiences.
Because one’s sexual experience is so dependent on the strain, a new business has worked on developing a specific strain of cannabis that maximizes its aphrodisiac qualities. Sexxpot is fairly low in THC and focuses on increasing the ‘body high’ without making the brain too high for the user to function.
We know marijuana’s healing and medicinal effects have been celebrated for centuries. But for how long have our ancestors used it to heighten their sexual experiences?
Evidence suggests that cannabis was used as an aphrodisiac in India as early as the 7th century. It was used in Tantra to enhance sexual pleasure. According to a 1998 Cannabis Culture article, “the Indian Ayurvedic and Unani Tibbi medicine systems used cannabis to increase libido, conquer impotence, cure various diseases… produce long-lasting erections, delay ejaculation, facilitate lubrication and loosen inhibitions.”
At this time, the participants didn’t smoke pot. Rather, they ingested it through bhang, a chai-like, milk-based drink that’s usually made with nuts, spices and sugar. When heated, the fat-soluble THC attached itself to the fat molecules in the milk. Bhang wasn’t just ingested for sexual purposes, but also for the health-enhancing benefits that we’re all familiar with today.
After the ingestion of bhang, the participants would engage in sexual intercourse. As Tantric sex seeks to enhance and prolong sexual activity without ejaculation, it’s no surprise that orgasm-delaying cannabis was used for this purpose. Bhang is still used in modern India outside of the Tantric context.
India is not the only society with a history of using cannabis as an aphrodisiac. Apparently, hemp is also associated with the Norse fertility goddess, Freya, who also symbolizes eroticism.
Many African societies also used – and still use – cannabis for sexual health. In western Uganda, cannabis is one of many traditional herbal remedies that is prescribed for erectile dysfunction. In societies in Egypt, Morocco and Lebanon, people consumed cannabis in a beverage named kif. Kifmight have combined cannabis with opium for medicinal purposes, or with lavender, nutmeg, ginger, cloves and snakeroot for aphrodisiac purposes.
In the 1930s, Russian brides were advised to use cannabis to enhance pleasure (and reduce pain, I guess) when they consummated their marriage on their wedding nights. Cannabis was mixed with lamb’s fat and consumed by women on their wedding day.
More than just an aphrodisiac
When it came to sexual health, it’s important to note that cannabis wasn’t just used as an aphrodisiac.
Cannabis has a history of being used in obstetrics; its properties can be incredibly helpful during pregnancy and childbirth. It was – and still is – used during pregnancy to ease severe morning sickness and vomiting. The leaves can also be rubbed on engorged and painful breasts. As many people can attest, marijuana can also be used to ease menstrual cramps.
After two days of excessive vomiting and nausea, Jodene* was admitted to hospital.
She was dangerously dehydrated and unable to stand for longer than a few seconds at a time. What she didn’t know was that she was also 9 weeks pregnant.
“I guess I should have figured it out at that point, but the nausea was so overwhelming I couldn’t think straight,” she says. She was 29 and it was her first pregnancy.
After two days in hospital, she was released – but the nausea continued. No amount of prescription medication or traditional remedies seemed to help. “Ginger tea usually helped to ease my nausea, but when I was pregnant it made no difference,” she says. “I could hardly even stomach water. It was the closest thing to death I’ve ever felt.”
She was in and out of hospital for the next few weeks. “I knew that the lack of food wouldn’t only starve me but also my baby,” Jodene says. “I was desperate for a solution – any solution.”
Nausea is commonly associated with the early stages of pregnancy. The intensity and length of the nausea varies for every person: while some view ‘morning sickness’ as a mild irritation, it can be dangerous for people like Jodene. Jodene was diagnosed with hyperemesis gravidarum (HG), which is a potentially fatal condition characterized by intense vomiting and nausea during pregnancy. It affects about 1-2% of pregnant people.
Eventually, Jodene’s mother made a suggestion that surprised her. “My conservative mother has always fervently opposed drug use of all sorts, but surprisingly, she said marijuana was a nausea cure her aunts swore by during their pregnancies,” she explained. After discussing it with her partner, she tried it.
And it worked. A light hit a day kept her nausea under control and helped her regain her appetite. When she was at the 20 week mark, her nausea eased. She was finally able to focus on preparing for the arrival of her baby. Jodene’s child is now four years old.
Cannabis and Pregnancy
There is increasing discussion around whether marijuana can treat nausea during pregnancy. Marijuana has been used in obstetrics for centuries: “Cannabis Treatments in Obstetrics and Gynecology: A Historical Review” by Dr. Ethan Russo highlights how marijuana has been used to ease difficult childbirth from as early as the 7th century BC. In Chinese and Persian societies, cannabis flowers and seeds were used to induce contractions, prevent miscarriages, and ease nausea. Cannabis has also been used for pregnancy in African, Indian, and Southeast Asian cultures, first becoming a common cure for morning sickness in Western cultures in the mid-19th century.
Research shows that our ancestors were onto something. A Canadian study has recently shown how 84 pregnant women used medical marijuana to ease nausea and vomiting. 92 percent of the participants rated cannabis as an ‘effective’ or ‘extremely effective’ form of treatment for nausea, vomiting, and HG. Recently, Dr. Wei-Ni Lin Curry documented and published the symptoms of her own HG and how she used cannabis to ease the symptoms.
But is marijuana usage during pregnancy safe for both the pregnant person and the embryo or fetus? There’s a lack of conclusive research on this.
A commonly-cited 1994 study based in Jamaica suggests that there aren’t any negative effects of marijuana on the fetus. In the study, doctors examined the weight and early childhood development of babies at three days old, comparing the babies of mothers who consumed cannabis during pregnancy to those who did not. At 30 days old, babies who were exposed to marijuana in utero performed better on certain physiological tests than non-exposed babies of the same age. This, however, could be the result of the socio-economic status of the mothers as opposed to an effect of marijuana.
It’s not only Jamaica. A controlled survey of 12 060 British women showed no significant differences in growth between exposed newborns and newborns who were not exposed to cannabis in utero. A similar conclusion was reached after a Copenhagen-based survey of 12,885 mothers. In 1997, an Australian study surveying 32,482 mothers concluded that “[t]here is inadequate evidence that cannabis, at the amount typically consumed by pregnant women, causes low birth weight.”
Two studies – the Maternal Health Practices and Child Development Study and the Ottawa Prenatal Prospective Study – suggest that children exposed to heavy amounts of marijuana in utero might develop slower on an intellectual and emotional level. However, the methodology of these studies is flawed as they don’t control for most socio-economic factors. In other words, the slow development of some children could be due to a range of other factors.
These studies are often inconclusive because it’s difficult to control for the intake of other substances, like alcohol or tobacco, which can affect the development of the fetus. They also can’t control for the socio-economic conditions of the parents and child.
Everything in Moderation
Caroline*, a 49-year-old midwife who used a small amount of marijuana during her pregnancies, advises pregnant patients to use marijuana with caution during pregnancy. “There are definitely benefits, especially for women with HG, but we don’t know what risks there are yet. Until such a time, smoke in moderation – and only if you need to,” she suggests.
It’s important to be aware of the non-medical risks to using marijuana during pregnancy. If you test positive for marijuana during or shortly after birth, you might be charged with child endangerment, depending on the laws in your country or state.
Writing for AlterNet, Amie Newman points to the case of Alma Baker. In 2004, Baker gave birth to twins and tested positive for marijuana. She used marijuana during her pregnancy to treat her nausea. As a result of her positive test, she was charged for violating two acts: “Delivery of Controlled Substances to a Minor” and the “Prenatal Protection Act,” both laws that existed in Texas. She was fined and placed on probation.
Parents like Jodene and her husband believe these laws are unjustified. “If I didn’t use marijuana, my child would definitely have died. I might have died,” Jodene says. “I don’t regret using weed and I refuse to feel guilty about doing what I had to do to survive.”
Caroline and Jodene both call for more research into the effects of maternal marijuana on fetuses. “Hopefully, more research will help lawmakers and doctors make informed decisions about legalizing medical marijuana for pregnancy,” Caroline says. Until such a time, though, expectant mothers in Jodene’s situation will continue to rely on the herb to help them survive.
Relaxation, clarity of mind, stress relief: these benefits are closely associated with both marijuana use and meditation.
It’s no surprise, then, that many people believe meditation and marijuana is a brilliant combination when it comes to managing mental health, aiding relaxation and enhancing general well-being.
Marissa, a yoga teacher and trauma counselor, says that a lot of her clients swear by the combination. “Many of my clients use weed to meditate, as do I. They find that weed can help them reach a deeper meditative state,” she says, adding that many of her clients use meditation and weed to help them manage anxiety and stress.
As someone with PTSD and depression, she first tried meditation about twelve years ago. She was initially skeptical about its benefits, but eventually realized it was helping her control her emotions and improve her mental health. She tried a combination of marijuana and meditation 9 years ago, and hasn’t looked back since. “The combination has helped me to control my thoughts, to quiet my mind and to find a sense of self-love and inner peace. It’s not a cure-all, but it’s a helpful tool in managing mental health,” she explains.
What does science say?
When we look at the science behind both meditation and marijuana, it’s easy to see that Marissa is onto something.
Of course, marijuana and meditation aren’t only good for improving mental health, but physical health, too. Various studies have shown that meditation can reduce pain and inflammation, and marijuana has been similarly linked to treating pain. This is mostly due to the presence of CBD, a cannabinoid which has been scientifically proven to have various physical health benefits. A study by the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology has shown that CBD can be used to fight depression, cancer and inflammation, while various studies have linked medical marijuana to the treatment of chronic pain and physical illnesses like arthritis, cancer, nausea and Chron’s disease.
Alexa, a legalization activist who suffers from fibromyalgia, says that she uses both marijuana and meditation to relieve physical pain. Fibromyalgia is an incurable and often debilitating illness which results in extreme pain in the muscles and joints. “I tried meditating for many years, and although I enjoyed it, it really had no effect on managing the pain. When I had a flare-up, the aches would make it impossible to meditate,” she says. One day, she tried meditating with a friend after smoking a joint – and she found it made a world of difference. “I used weed to reduce the pain before, but I never thought to combine it with meditation. It helped me feel more relaxed, more in tune with my body,” she explains.
Marissa reiterates that marijuana doesn’t work for everyone who wants to meditate. “Of course, some people prefer to meditate when completely sober. Others find themselves falling asleep if they meditate when they’re high,” she notes. “But if you don’t often have bad reactions to weed, and if you’re not a lightweight, the combination could really work for you.”
Tips for Using Weed for a Better Meditative Experience
So how can we combine marijuana and meditation in a way that maximizes the benefits of both? Marissa shares a few tips.
First, you’ll want to find the right strain. Since different strains affect different people differently, experimentation is key.
Ideally, you’ll want a strain that maximizes feelings of relaxation and happiness without making you too hungry or thirsty. The last thing you need during meditation is to be distracted by a rumbling tummy or a dry mouth.
You can consume the cannabis in a number of different ways. You could smoke a joint the traditional way, vape, use tinctures, or even use edibles – bearing in mind that it might take a while for the effect to truly kick in. “I prefer smoking a joint, or using a tincture if I don’t want that herbaceous scent around me,” Marissa says. “I often meditate just before work, a meeting or an important interview, so smelling like weed is less-than-ideal.”
If your chosen method is smoking, take only a few hits and wait for it to take effect. Marissa recommends having a light snack and a glass of water just after smoking to ease any munchies or thirst. To meditate, you’ll want to ensure that your environment is conducive to peace and relaxation. Make sure it’s the ideal temperature and that there’s a comfortable place to sit. Choose a time and place where you won’t be distracted by loud, sudden noises or nosy housemates.
If you’re meditating to treat pain, Alexa recommends doing some gentle stretches just before meditation. “It can be difficult to focus with tight or tender muscles, so it’s a good idea to have a warm soak in a bathtub before meditating,” she suggests. “Remember that you don’t have to sit in lotus position on a cold floor: you can make yourself comfortable and sit in any position you want.”
Marissa says that a big mistake beginners often make during meditation is trying not to think at all – something which is nearly impossible for beginners. “The point of meditation isn’t to shut out all thoughts, but to observe the thoughts,” she says. We should acknowledge the thoughts and let them pass by without interacting with them. Focus on your breath: be conscious of how it enters and exits your body. If you’re spiritual, you might use meditation to pray or count your blessings.
If you don’t get it right at first, that’s okay – just try again. Meditation is like exercising a muscle: the more you use it, the stronger it becomes. Although meditation can be hard at first, it will become a lot easier through practice.