Have you ever used cannabis with the goal of boosting your focus? While cannabis is known for its ability to help you relax, what many people don't know is that cannabis can also be helpful for focus and concentration. In this article, we will dive into the science of using weed to focus and look at which weed strains are best for focus.
It could be a computer programmer who finds that consuming a 1:1 CBD-THC edible in the morning settles her nerves for the day and clears her mind so she can discover new solutions; a 70-year-old triathlete who takes a few drops of a sativa tincture to stay focused during grueling bike rides; or a PhD student who breaks up long hours in the lab with a few tokes from a high-CBD joint.
In the popular imagination, cannabis has a much closer link to creativity than it does to focus, but there is also a long tradition of cannabis being used to enhance focus, especially during prolonged physical activities.
Wrestlers in Northern India traditionally took bhang, a cannabis infused drink, “to ensure long term concentration during exhausting all day practice.” Similarly, a survey of adult athletes who use cannabis revealed that 46.3% of athletes who used cannabis in the hour prior to exercising did so to improve focus.
Due to federal prohibition on cannabis, there is not enough research into how cannabis affects focus to state any firm conclusions. Additionally, the limited amount of research has focused far more on how cannabis affects creativity than if or how cannabis affects focus and attention. While focusing and creating are distinct mental states, both are complex cognitive processes that involve dopamine and the frontal cortex of the brain.
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that helps regulate motor function, learning and emotional responses, but it also plays an important role in the neuroscience of creativity and focus. Experimental studies have shown that “dopamine helps to enhance attention, especially in the context of making sure that you pay attention and shift your focus in a flexible and appropriate manner.”
THC is known to stimulate dopamine release, however chronic marijuana use may lead to decreased dopamine activity in the brain. Similarly, acute cannabis use has been demonstrated to increase blood flow to the frontal lobes. However, chronic cannabis users show reduced cerebral blood flow in the prefrontal cortex.
Basically, cannabis affects cerebral blood flow and the dopaminergic system, so there are various mechanisms by which cannabis could impact focus.
Perhaps one of the ways that cannabis or CBD helps people focus is by muting distractions like mild anxiety, stress or aches and pains. Additionally, cannabis interacts with the dopaminergic system, and depending on your unique physiology and genetic makeup, it may interact with your brain in a beneficial way.
For example, there is evidence that cannabis affects people with ADHD differently than in neurotypical individuals. As Jointly discussed in Does Weed Help ADHD:
“A 2008 case report from Germany described a 28-year old male who was “very maladjusted and inattentive while sober,” but who appeared completely “inconspicuous” while having very high levels of THC in his blood plasma.
The researchers conducted a battery of performance tests and found that the subject had better results in driving related performance when he was using cannabis. They concluded that “it has to be considered, that in the case of ADHD, THC can have atypical effects and can even lead to an enhanced driving related performance.”
So, weed might help with ADHD - and cannabis may affect people with ADHD differently than neurotypical individuals.”
Additionally, there is evidence that cannabis affects aging brains differently than young brains, so the focus-enhancing effects of cannabis or CBD may vary based on age, as well as various other factors like an individual’s stress levels or their endocannabinoid system.
People who are chronically stressed may find more focus-enhancing benefits from anti-inflammatory cannabinoids like CBD than people with less stress. Chronic stress often results in chronic inflammation.
Research published in November 2019 by Dr. Ali Mazaheri and colleagues at the University of Birmingham showed that “inflammation specifically affected brain activity related to staying alert.”
“These results show quite clearly that there’s a very specific part of the brain network that's affected by inflammation,” says Dr. Mazaheri. “This could explain ‘brain fog’.” People who find that CBD helps them focus may be benefiting from its anti-inflammatory effects.
Terpenes are another mechanism by which cannabis could potentially enhance focus. Linalool seems to have an anti-inflammatory effect similar to CBD, and could possibly provide similar cognitive benefits.
According to a High Times article, dabs high in pinene should be called “study dabs.” Pinene is a terpene that has been shown to strongly inhibit acetylcholinesterase. Acetylcholine is an important neurochemical in the brain that “enhances attentional focus by modulating neural activity,” and acetylcholinesterase is the enzyme that breaks down acetylcholine. If you are curious about focus-enhancing terpenes, check out Terpenes for Energy.
Different cannabis strains have different ratios of terpenes, and these compounds may explain why Sativa strains are considered good for focusing, while Indica strains are believed to be better for relaxing.
Want to find the best strains for productivity? Are Sativa strains better for focusing than Indica strains? For help choosing the best weed strain, check out our article Why Jointly is Better than a Strain Finder. In that article, you will learn what strain names really mean, how to find the best weed strains for productivity, and how to use Jointly to discover the most effective products in your area.
Brands and manufacturers have designed a vast range of legal cannabis and CBD products for this exact purpose: “study dabs” high in pinene; sativa tinctures; cannabis infused coffees; low THC, high CBD cartridges. Use Jointly to get matched with top-rated products for the goal Focus.
Jointly is a cannabis discovery app that makes it easy to find and match with the best cannabis and CBD products for your goals. Your matches are calculated from the real product ratings and experiences of hundreds of thousands of people using the Jointly app.
With Jointly, match with top-rated products, and build lists of your favorites to save, share, and bring to your local dispensary to help guide your shopping experience.
Jointly also helps you track your cannabis experiences through reflections that help you understand what’s working, and what’s not. In fact, the quality of your diet, how much you slept, who you’re with, and the time of day are just some of the factors that can impact your experiences.