Updated: Aug 7
By: Tom Gaffey
The altered state of perception you experience when high on marijuana can change the way you perceive your senses, including the way you hear your favorite songs.
Quality weed and a great record could be considered the perfect pairing by many cannabis and music enthusiasts. After all, marijuana has had a long history and close relationship with music.
From clouds of intoxicating smoke rising from crowds at music festivals this summer, to the lyrics in many classic songs, marijuana is present. And while there is no denying this close relationship, you are apt to wonder exactly why music sounds so much better when you’re high.
As we previously reported, scientists have long been interested in how marijuana affects the way we perceive sound. Unfortunately, studies on marijuana and music, and how it affects sound perception in general, remain scarce due to marijuana’s illegal status. Still, there is some information and insight to draw from in order to help understand why marijuana can make a song sound so much better with it than without it.
One study from 1970 showed the ability of marijuana to perceivably span time, “The smoked marijuana altered pulse rate, time estimation, and EEG.” In fact, the perception of 15 seconds of time, according to the study, was “expanded” to 16.7 seconds. This could possibly explain why those under the influence of marijuana have an ability to notice minute details, and pay particular attention to a piece of music. After all, they have more time to do so — theoretically speaking anyway.
In fact, marijuana taps into our minds in all sorts of ways, many of which seem to positively influence how we perceive things, including music. “Marijuana also accesses a special neurotransmitter system, the endocannabinoid system, which regulates appetite, pain, mood and memory. The way the plant activates this system explains a lot of the unique effects it has on music listening,” according to MIC. Some of these influences, like changes in the endocannaboid system, may be imperceptible at the time, but can change the way we feel when we experience sounds.
Some of marijuana’s mind altering properties, however, can be consciously apparent while listening to music. The altered state of perception you experience when high on marijuana can change the way you perceive your senses, including the way you hear your favorite songs. In particular, individuals often report “heightened senses” while high. The reason for this, is that THC is interacting with receptors in your brain responsible for many of these senses. As Marijuana Doctors said, “Areas of the brain that are involved with your senses, such as the olfactory bulb, which manages your sense of smell, bind with THC receptors and create heightened perceptions of your surroundings.”
Cannabis and music also have a strong influence on your dopamine levels, which lead to emotion and gratification in humans. Cannabis with high levels of CBD and THC is reported to have an increased release of dopamine. These strains, paired with the enjoyment from music, may result in a heightened experience.
According to CBC News, “With music and cannabis simultaneously triggering the mesolimbic dopamine system, the brain is chemically reinforcing two extremely gratifying behaviours — and coupling them over time.” This simultaneous heightened experience might explain why some of your favorite songs can feel extra special, almost euphoric, after you smoke weed.
There is still much to learn and understand about marijuana and how it affects the way we hear and perceive music and sounds in general. Still, maybe evidence is secondary to what it feels like hearing a record with some weed after a long day.