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Cannabis and Focus


The conventional wisdom is that cannabis adversely affects short and long-term cognitive function. However, accumulating evidence suggest several cannabinoids — including tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) — are actually neuroprotective. Meaning, they protect cognitive function. The catch is that THC is actually biphasic: low to moderate doses exert neuroprotective effects, while the opposite holds true for chronic consumption at high doses.

But, what about acute effects? With rare exception, studies suggest that (in most users) cannabis affects coordination, reaction time, verbal recall, executive functioning, and short-term memory. Notably, immediately after consumption, regular cannabis users seem to experience fewer short-term cognitive impairments than occasional users (suggesting regular users gradually acclimate to effects). Moreover, evidence suggests CBD — the most prominent non-psychoactive ingredient in cannabis — reduces the memory-impairing effects of THC.

But, given what the evidence says, how in the world could cannabis help focus?

Your Chemistry Counts

It’s been well-established that some people with ADHD self-medicate with cannabis, believing it helps them focus. While there aren’t a lot of physicians who recommend cannabis for ADHD, the few that do claim cannabis can help (some) people reduce hyperactivity and impulsivity, thereby increasing focus. Predictably, many people who haven’t been formally diagnosed with ADHD also claim cannabis helps them focus.

A few case studies and at least one small study provide evidence that in some people cannabis may improve concentration. A 2015 study from Germany evaluated the effects of cannabis on 30 patients who did not derive significant benefit from Adderall or Ritalin (two of the most commonly prescribed stimulant medications for ADHD). Remarkably, according to the lead investigators, all participants in the study reported a decrease in impulsivity along with an improvement in concentration and sleep. But, this may come down to personal chemistry. After all, these were patients who did not respond to stimulants.

Researchers concluded: “For adult patients with ADHD, who experience side effects or do not profit from standard medication, cannabis may be an effective and well-tolerated alternative.” Dr. Eva Milz, a psychiatrist who co-authored the study, reported cannabis provided them “control that helped them in life, love and work, without feeling intoxicated.”

Dr. David Bearman, a doctor from Santa Barbara, California who treats many of his ADHD patients with cannabis claims some people may have difficulty focusing because of a (recently characterized) condition called clinical endocannabinoid deficiency (CECD), whereby they are deficient in endocannabinoids (the body’s naturally occurring cannabinoids).

According to Bearman, if you have are endocannabinoid deficient and supplement with cannabinoids, “you’re likely to slow down the speed of neurotransmitters and you’re going to give the brain a little bit more time to concentrate and focus.” But, beware! If you overdo it, you’re likely to produce the opposite effects.

For Best Results, Try Microdosing

For years, cannabis was viewed as an inebriant. People consumed cannabis to get “high.” However, as cannabis has gained respect for its therapeutic versatility it has become less taboo. As it’s come out of the shadows for recreational and medicinal purposes, increasingly people are looking at cannabis for a third use: wellness and life enhancement. Intoxication is out. Enhancement is in. Say “hello” to microdosing!

Instead of a few hits, microdosing usually involves ingesting a small amount from a vape or one-hitter. Fans of microdosing claims it helps spark their creative juices and focus better without feeling “stoned.”

Dr. Milz, who co-authored the ADHD study agrees, noting that a relatively low dose of cannabis with low THC content seems to help patients best. Likewise, evidence suggests CBD — non psychoactive — can calm your nerves, help you relax, and increase concentration without feeling inebriated.

Cannapreneur, Max Simon of Green Flower Media, has long been a fan of microdosing. He reports having used cannabis for many years to treat his ADHD, but continually watches his intake in order to maintain a productive lifestyle.

“What I’ve realized about myself is that I am strongly affected by cannabis if I take too much,” says Simon. “Sure that can be an enjoyable psychoactive experience, but in terms of using it medicinally I realized that taking much smaller doses than anybody else talks about is more ideal for me.”

Max is a fan of taking a micro-hit or two from his vape pen a couple times over the day which he credits for helping him settle down and focus more effectively.

Pick the Right Strain

You’re likely aware cannabis strains are generally characterized as either indica or sativa-dominant. Sativa-dominant strains are generally more popular for those who want to be productive. Indica-dominant strains are more likely to produce a heavy body-high. Interestingly, contrary to what you may have heard, the reason Indica-dominant strains produce their signature effects is not because they have higher concentrations of THC. After all, there are plenty of sativas with off-the-charts THC — ever heard of Lemon OG Haze with more than 25% THC? Likewise, there are plenty of Indica-dominant strains with low THC. Pennywise, for example, is a 70-30 Indica-dominant strain that has single digit THC, and double digit CBD content.

The more plausible reason Indica-dominant strains produce a heavier, more sedative high is because of a terpenoid called myrcene. Myrcene helps THC cross the blood-brain barrier more effectively, thus its proclivity in promoting couch-lock.

So broadly speaking, if you’re looking to be productive, while maintaining focus, sativas are generally going to be your best bet. But, some some Indicas can produce calming effects that users report “quiet the noise in their head.”

Keep in mind, every strain is unique in chemical composition and various cannabinoids and terpenoids come into play. So beyond just looking for a Sativa (or Indica), there are certain strains that are popular for promoting concentration. Cinex is a popular Sativa known for increasing productivity, while aiding focus on specific tasks. However, some people have reported Cinex actually gives them racing thoughts. Sour Diesel is another strain that is popular among those who look to cannabis to treat ADHD. But, again, dosing is key. Low doses are likely to produce the effects you want, while high doses will do just the opposite.

Many people report high CBD strains work best for focus. Important research continues to emerge suggesting CBD is powerful anti-anxiety agent that can acutely relieve stress and even help people overcome social anxiety. Unsurprisingly, high CBD strains (and tinctures) are becoming increasingly popular for people who are looking for a little help focusing. Strains like Ozma, with its sky high CBD, and low THC is popular strain because of its potent stress and anxiety relieving effects that promote focus, while producing minimal psychotropic effects.

Final Thoughts

Improving focus and concentration isn’t usually the first thing people associate with cannabis consumption. The very notion runs contrary to most studies that find cannabis produces acute effects that would cause a person to be less focused. However, that’s not always the case. Not only does everyone react differently, but every strain produces slightly different effects. Therefore, if you’re looking for a boost in focus and concentration, keep the following in mind:

  1. Chemistry is key: Be conscious of you react to different strains. Everyone’s chemistry is different. What may work for someone else, may not work for you.

  2. Less is more! Focus and inebriation are diametrically opposed. If you want to feel focused, try microdosing.

  3. Pick the right strain: Different strains will affect you differently. Try a few different types of strains with varying cannabinoid and terpenoid profiles. You may find an Indica-dominant strain works best, or maybe it’s a Sativa-dominant. Maybe 1:1 THC:CBD; or you might find you prefer high CBD or high THC? It may take a little trial and error.

Have you found a particular strategy or a favorite strain to help you focus? Share your insights in the comments below.


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Wikileaf fan
7:23, February 15, 2017
It helps me focus and not to stress and to fight depression .
Wikileaf fan
3:47, February 14, 2017
There\'s a couple reasons I smoke, I smoke because it helps me eat and sleep and when I get an anxiety attack the cannabis kicks it rite away!!! I can truly say for me it is cannabis and my dog that keeps me positive and focused... I no people that drink and I\'d rather be happy and chill then sloppy drunk
Wikileaf fan
3:51, February 02, 2017
I use it to keep me relax and focus in school and it works amazing in the gym
Wikileaf fan
3:17, January 27, 2017
I choose to consume because I refuse to let Bipolar Disorder run my life. It helps to keep me calm and focused so I can be a better mother to my kids. Something numerous prescription drugs couldn\'t do.
Wikileaf fan
3:44, December 09, 2016
When I was young I was always advised not to smoke due to my asthma, then I was diagnosed with touretts syndrome and a.d.d. growing up I felt I couldn\'t be a normal person and for that I withdrew and avoided talking to other kids. One day I was offered a little bit of marijuana at a party and I refused but they asked me why not and I told them apparently I was talking to an expert and he explained the benefits. So I decided to try it out and I was nervous triggering my touretts making me tick bad but after the second hit I was no longer ticking it was incredible and I was able to focus on things for the first time I felt normal and hungry lol. Ever since that night I have had fewer asthma attacks last one was years ago and I have been able to stay focused longer.
Wikileaf fan
7:13, December 06, 2016
I choose to enjoy so I can focus on the things that matter the peace I make and the friends I love instead of going to work, eating, and sleeping and then just repeating daily
Wikileaf fan
2:15, December 02, 2016
I consume cuz its a way of life i also support the med uses as well as the hemp uses always have but the reason i consume is because not only the high but the focus i gain . i could say i use for alot of reasons like almost every reason a good reason mainly like i said a way of life . ive been a tweeker a drunk n not so great person cuz of them things mentaly physically n. Since i moved to a legal state simply cuz its legal i can b a normal functioning human no bad trigger the fact its illegal makes u sneak n hella other things that r bad triggers them bad triggers lead to other bad choices . the triggers of it being illegal is the gate way with ne thing not so much what the ne thing is so now i live in a legal state n smoke 24 7 gained all my weight work a hard ass job n can function as a happy very happy person now its a way of life for me ive gained all my confidence back reaching every goal i put infront of me n motivation driven n faith in mankind again all cuz of weed n how its being legal now in more n more places when even elections n shit rigged nice to c we still have a voice it should b heard n dont know what else to say that i can express its a way of life for me
Wikileaf fan
7:37, November 24, 2016
I choose to consume to help me relax and not be anxious, and to focus my creativity.
Wikileaf fan
7:37, November 18, 2016
#Ichoosetoconsume because it helps me focus and process my thoughts while in college (psychology major). #Ichoosetosmoke because it connects me to nature, my creative abilities, mars , brings laughter into my day, calms my ptsd symptoms, helps me sleep and eat...pretty much does everything an antidepressant does..without the side effect 
Wikileaf fan
3:34, November 14, 2016
I consume to help myself focus on one thing at a time rather than a million things at once.
Wikileaf fan
7:08, November 13, 2016
I believe that this plant is a gift from God to us. I choose to consume because it helps me to stay focused and positive!
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