The first place I ever smoked pot was in the general admission section of a concert at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Denver, Colorado. I still remember the show vividly, as well as the smiling, shirtless, blond guy who handed me the joint with one arm while the other was wrapped like a tentacle around his girlfriend’s waist. What was this? Something I’d never experienced before? I partook, and immediately noted that the clarity of my sensory experience had improved, as well as the fact that all my asthma symptoms from climbing up to the amphitheater were completely gone. I’ve always had a special connection with music, and the expression of ideas, concepts, and emotions through it – many, if not all, cannabis users share this connection.
Music today is often associated with different mind-altering experiences; cannabis has traditionally been associated with jazz, blues, hip-hop, EDM, and of course rock n’ roll. But what is it about music that encourages us to take that first hit or load up an extra-big dab before we put on our wireless headphones and tend to our plants? Various cannabis users have tried to put the feeling into words: one user said it made him feel “As though I stepped into a different world…a state of euphoria…amazing closed eye visuals”; another forum member said “It’s like the first time you heard the song. It just sounds so much better. You hear the background sounds more clearly.” Yet another member described listening to music and using cannabis as “eargasmic” and “becoming one with whatever I happen to be listening to.”
I like the feeling of hearing or noticing new parts of a musical piece that I’ve never heard before; being able to focus and tune in on one particular aspect; and making past and future mind connections with the music to inspire my creativity and expand my musical taste. Johnny Green reported on a Mythbusters episode which tried to find out whether or not playing music for plants encouraged growth; the answer was a resounding yes, depending on how close the vibrational frequencies are; some can increase the photosynthesis process in leaves. A recently published Science World Report article reported on the same concept with similar results.
There is no doubt that listening to music while partaking in cannabis is a mind-enhancing experience, but the topic lacks significant research. Studies in New Scientist and other medical journals show that music is beneficial in many types of medical situations, whether it is used to calm, energize, focus the mind, or decrease pain awareness. Interestingly, cannabis is often used to perform the same functions; could the two in tandem produce even more remarkable results? The medical and scientific community now has the chance to find out as legalization marches steadily onward.
Cannabis is known to affect auditory stimulation, as well as our ability to recall lyrics and differentiate between tracks and levels of a particular piece of music – synaesthesia is the common phenomenon which the cannabis forum user was referring to; it causes a merging of the auditory and visual senses while listening to music. In a 2011 study on the modulation of auditory and visual processing in which patients were given doses of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), it was found that THC activated and deactivated certain areas of the brain which controlled the hearing and seeing senses, whereas CBD did not. Now that we’ve established that THC affects the auditory and visual components and systems of our brains, how does music affect them?
Music has many properties which affect the mood, mental capacity, concentration, and even emotional states of people who listen to it. Even our plants may benefit from music we play or songs we sing them while tending to their growing needs! Music has been shown to increase ability for speech in children, specifically in the area of language processing. Harmony Project is an organization which helps low-income community children in a nonprofit after-school program which teaches them how to play musical instruments. Nina Kraus of the Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory at Northwestern University noted that the brain uses neurons which talk to each other about sensory information (in this case, music or sound) through electrical pulses. In the endocannabinoid system (the system in brain affected by THC and CBD), the increased sensory perception is caused by direct binding to the receptors of the brain. More dopamine (pleasurable feelings) is released, while less anxiety-producing transmissions are caused, which allows the listener to slow down and listen carefully to music and avoid distraction. The connection between cannabis and music is very real; so until science catches up with this particular mind-blowing phenomenon, just sit back, put on your headphones, and enjoy the ride.
This post was originally published on February 9, 2016, it was updated on October 3, 2017.