Marijuana and Music: Why They Go Together so Well

Cannabis and music not only have similar effects on the brain, but marijuana actually changes how the brain hears and processes music.

Marijuana and MusicFor centuries, music and marijuana have gone hand-in-hand for composers and listeners alike. Whether you prefer to kick back at home with just a joint and your favorite album, or to enjoy the high at a concert with friends, the combination of music and cannabis can be downright otherworldly. What is it about marijuana that transforms enjoying music into experiencing it?

Weed affects how we hear music

Science hasn’t found weed to have any significant effect on the actual function of the ears. But there’s an overwhelming amount of anecdotal evidence that music does sound better under the influence of cannabis. Science has shown that music and marijuana have similar effects on the body and mind, and each can amplify the effects of the other.

Q: Does weed affect the sense of hearing?
A: Cannabis does not appear to significantly affect the sense of hearing, but it does affect the way the brain processes music. Using weed helps you to hear music in a more nuanced way, noticing details that would otherwise not be obvious to your brain.

What weed and music have in common

Much like the perfect strain of weed, the right type of music can be immensely calming. Music is capable of lowering levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) and helping to alleviate anxiety, depression, and insomnia. Weed tends to have similar effects, though strains that are too high in THC can cause the opposite kinds of feelings (anxiety and paranoia). However, for those who get a little more anxious when using marijuana, music can actually soothe these effects, creating the balance needed for an enjoyable high. Together, music and weed can help the stresses of the day melt away, letting you fully relax and be present in the moment.

On the other hand, hearing a song you really enjoy can give you an excitable feeling of “chills” or a full-body “rush.” This is dopamine at work – the same hormone responsible for the body’s pleasure response to food, sex, and addictive substances. Weed affects the release of dopamine as well, though the somewhat complex relationship between marijuana and dopamine has sparked some confusion among scientists. Anyone who has ever experienced listening to their favorite band at the peak of cannabis-based euphoria knows the potential feel-good power of this combination!

Interestingly, cannabis and music actually appear to have a stronger combined effect on the hippocampus, than they do on the “pleasure centers” of the brain. The hippocampus is the area of the brain responsible for short-term memory. When you’re under the influence of cannabis, the processing of short-term memory is inhibited just enough to keep your thoughts in the present moment. This helps you to truly enjoy and experience the music from moment to moment – instead of your brain trying to predict what’s coming next, based on what you just heard.

Just as it’s important to select a strain of weed that fits your personal needs and tastes, it’s important to recognize that not all music may feel equally good while “high.” If there is certain music that makes you feel overly sad or angsty, or that you simply don’t care for, you probably won’t experience elevated enjoyment of it while stoned. Likewise, if a certain strain of weed makes you feel paranoid – or knocks you right off to sleep – you’re unlikely to tap into that enhanced sense of focus. If you are new to cannabis, it may take some trial-and-error to find the best combination of music and weed for you.

How the stoned brain processes music

Some strains of weed can remarkably enhance your ability to focus. Yes, sometimes this could mean fixating on a specific object, or going down a “rabbit hole” of intense thought. But when it comes to enjoying music, weed’s ability to filter out unnecessary stimuli frees you up to give the song your full attention. Marijuana can also relieve pain, stress, and anxiety, giving your mind and body the freedom to relax into the musical experience.

Music is actually quite complex for the brain to process. Music is essentially time, vibration, mathematics, and patterns melded into sound that evokes emotion. Cannabis actually affects how we experience time, making it appear to slow down. “Hidden” layers of sound and nuances in the timing of music are processed by the brain a bit differently when it’s “slowed down” by weed.

Auditory and visual stimulation tend to blend together when you’re high on weed. Many people describe being able to see the vibrations of music as shapes or colors or other visual sensations. This phenomenon is called synaesthesia, in which multiple senses blur together in the brain. Even if you aren’t seeing the music itself, other visuals, such as the light effects that typically accompany concerts, can combine with the sonic experience to create a similar experience.

Why does music sound better when we’re high?

In addition to combined effects of music and cannabis on the brain, there are a few psychologial factors that help music to sound so incredible when you’re high on weed.

Positive expectation

Quite simply, if you expect to deeply enjoy listening to music on weed, you’re more likely to. If you had an amazing experience listening to a particular song, artist, or musical genre (or at a particular type of event or venue) while high, your brain – always gravitating toward the familiar – will expect a similar result next time. A positive association is still likely when you hear that music again, not under the influence. But the more factors are the same as the original experience, the stronger the memory connection will be. This may explain why people often tend to prefer listening to the same artists or styles of music when high, or why some gravitate toward live music festivals or, alternatively, toward passing a joint around a turntable in the living room. Positive memory associations drive us to keep trying to re-create those feelings.

Social connections

Marijuana and music have been used to enhance connection with other humans for thousands of years. The feelings of bonding and connnection that accompany sharing an emotional focal point with hundreds of other people at a concert (or with one or two other people in your living room), can be euphoric even without weed. But marijuana can bring that experience to a level that feels particuarly profound.

Q: Why does music sound better while getting “high?”
A: Weed primes you to enjoy music more by promoting relaxation, enhancing focus, and giving the appearance of time slowed down, which enables you to notice more depth and detail in the song. Other factors, such as positive memory associations, the social experience involved, and one’s own expectations can contribute to greater enjoyment of weed while stoned.

What kinds of music pair well with being high?

Any music that you have a strong emotional connection with will probably sound better when you’re high on weed. But many people consider certain genres virtually synonymous with cannabis. What is it that reggae, rap, jazz, classic rock, and techno music have in common that lends itself so well to a marijuana high?

Lyrical messages

In musical genres that often have strong political, spiritual, or social messages woven through their lyrics (such as reggae, rap, or some types of rock), the clear-headedness of a cannabis high may help these messages come through with a different degree of perspective and clarity.

Musical nuance

In any of these genres, weed can help your brain pick up on subtle layers of musical detail interspersed within the timing of the song. This may be easier to pick out in music with less emphasis on lyrics (such as some types of techno or jazz). In the “moment-to-moment” headspace of a cannabis high, these details can be fascinating and incredibly enjoyable to observe.

Association

If we associate a specific musical genre or artist with marijuana use, we are likely to go into the experience expecting the music to be a good fit. If we have it in our head already that Bob Marley, Bob Dylan, or Snoop Dogg is the “ideal” music to smoke to, (provided we don’t actively dislike their music) then it will probably deliver an experience in line with what we expect.

Artist influence

Composing music tends to go hand-in-hand with marijuana just as much as listening to it does. Music composed under the influence of weed usually resonates strongly with people who use cannabis while they listen. You may be able to fully “get” the lyrical messages or hear the music in the way the artist intended if your consciousness is operating at a similar level – which is often intentional on the part of the composer.

Q: What kind of music is best for smoking weed?
A: The musical nuances, lyrical depth, and cultural signifacnce of reggae, rap, hip-hop, techno, jazz, and classic rock music have made them enduring favorites to smoke to. But the enjoyment of any music you have a positive emotional connection with can be enhanced by using cannabis.

CBD and music

CBD (cannabidiol) is a well-known non-psychoactive cannabinoid that can be used independently of the rest of the marijuana plant. CBD has a wide variety of medicinal benefits but it’s also great for recreational relaxation without the THC “high.” CBD alone probabaly won’t have you feeling like you can see the music in shapes and colors. However, music and CBD have a postivie synergistic effect on stress, anxiety, depression, and mood. Music and CBD may also be a helpful pain-relieving combination. Music has been shown to have an analgesic effect on chronic pain, as has CBD. It’s important to be aware that CBD oil derived directly from cannabis may contain trace amounts of THC, which could enhance your music listening experience even more. But THC is still illegal in many places, so opting for hemp-based CBD products is wise if this is the case where you reside.

Marijuana and music, a winning combination

Music has the power to deeply soothe – or to fill us with bouncing-off-the-walls levels of joy. When cannabis is along for the ride, not only does our favorite music sound even better, but we can feel a remarkable sense of connection in sharing the experience with others. Plus, if you’re otherwise using weed responsibliy, we can’t think of any drawbacks to this combination – so rock on!

guest
1 Comment
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Josh Swart
Josh Swart
9 months ago

great article! any word on cannabis and music production?