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.
“I’ve 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.
8 of the best strains for focus
It’s 12:47 p.m. and you’ve got a whole heap of work that you’ve been avoiding. You know none of the tasks are too hard, but for some reason, you just can’t sit still and concentrate for long enough to do them. Still, sunlight is ticking, stress is mounting, and you know you’ll feel like hot garbage if you end the day with nothing to show for your time. You think to yourself, “All I need to do is smoke a little weed and I can zone in.”
Which strains are you picking?
There are plenty of cannabis strains that can help you focus. And with so many constant distractions in the world, I wouldn’t blame you for wanting to try them all. While I could never name every single one, here are eight that might help you block out the noise for long enough to get shit done.
White Fire OG
White Fire OG, also called WiFi OG, is a cross of Fire OG and The White. The nugs are light green and frosty with trichomes, and the smoke tastes like gassy pine needles — which is perfect for anyone that loves chemmy diesel flavors. On the high side, WiFi OG is great for people whose thoughts are always moving at 744 mph. It’s potent yet manageable high can help clear your mind of anything that’s not immediately in front of you.
Most strains with Thai genetics are good for a clear-headed high that can help you defeat procrastination. Lemon Thai is no different. A cross of a Thai landrace and a Hawaiian sativa, this citrusy strain is great for anyone who’s been caught with that middle-of-the-day lag that makes even simple tasks feel the most daunting. If you’re the type of consumer that likes to puff on a vape pen throughout the day, Lemon Thai is a great cart to have handy.
When you’re talking strains that help you focus, it’s only right that we bring Jack to the table. A cross of the famed Jack Herer, Northern Lights #5, and White Widow, Jack Frost is for those who need to get dumb stoned to focus. It hits you with a potent high that’ll have you knocking out the day’s to-do list without issue. Like most strains with Jack genetics, it usually has a citrusy and earthy aroma, however some people report that it may also have a somewhat fruity smell to it.
Believed to be a cross of Northern Lights and Haze genetics, Dutch Treat pushes out strong piney terpenes that alert your senses in the same way walking through the forest on a hike does.
The delicious flavor is followed by a potent, clear-headed cerebral stimulation that many describe as the “hybrid high.” Old school and tasty, , Dutch Treat is a perfect suggestion for the dabbers.
As your cannabis knowledge bag gets deeper, you’ll learn that not every desired effect comes from THC. There are plenty of CBD strains out there that can help you focus too.
Canna-Tsu is a CBD-dominant cross of Cannatonic and Sour Tsunami. It has sweet, earthy flavors, and the effect is relaxing in the body. I get a little anxious sometimes, and anything with Cannatonic genetics usually chills me out in a way that smoking too much THC doesn’t. If you’re looking for something light and manageable, this (or either of its parents), are solid options.
A lot of times, being able to focus isn’t about energizing yourself or clearing out your mind, it’s about relaxing your body. Jah Goo is a great strain for doing just that.
This cross of Goo and Purple Jasmine produces colorful flowers with purple hues and pink hairs, and a somewhat sweet and woody flavor. Its stoney high may be a little much for inexperienced consumers, but the vets may find it just right for that 10 am smoke before flipping the Go switch.
If you love Granddaddy Purple then you might love Bay Dream too — it comes from the same breeders. Bay Dream, or GDP Bay Dream, is a cross of the beloved Blue Dream and a Bay 11 hybrid. Like Blue Dream, it has a sweet flavor profile, but also features woody and piney attributes. The cerebral high provides a nice, long-lasting euphoria that helps people get active for everything that needs to get done before 5 p.m.
Harle-Tsu is another CBD strain for consumers that don’t want to get high, but still want the benefits that come with smoking weed. As its name suggests, it is a cross of Harlequin and Sour Tsunami, two of the most well-known CBD flowers. If you’re here for taste, look elsewhere, as Harle-Tsu is pretty earthy and bland; but if you’re here for effects, this strain usually makes people feel relaxed in the body and focused in the mind.
Featured image by Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
It's 12:47 p.m. and you've got a whole heap of work that you've been avoiding. Which strains are you picking?