Can Cannabis Improve Your Focus?
Appetite stimulating, pain relieving, mind calming; Cannabis can have a remarkable array of effects on your body and mind. But can it improve your focus, too? Here’s what we know so far.
What does it mean to focus?
Focus is one aspect of executive functioning, which is your ability to attend to certain tasks and make decisions. Executive functions also include aspects like memory, response to emotions, motivation, planning, and problem-solving. It’s documented, both anecdotally and scientifically, that the intoxicating effect of cannabis can have an adverse effect on executive functioning. However, like many things in cannabis, its impact on focus, in particular, can change from person to person.
To better explain how cannabis might affect focus and attention, it’s important to first define precisely what “focus” means as part of a person’s executive functioning. Focus refers to maintaining attention on one or more aspects while ignoring other things around you. This also includes the ability to divide your attention and maintain it, focusing on a given task or tasks for an extended period. Does cannabis help or hurt one’s ability to pay attention and focus? Anecdotally, it might depend on who you ask.
How people use cannabis to focus
Many people report consuming cannabis improves their focus and concentration. For example, some consumers say they are more motivated to clean their kitchen after a session, while others consume before a workout and find that it boosts their workout intensity and helps them focus. Subjectively, at least, cannabis helps some consumers feel “in the zone.”
According to pharmacist Andrew Atterbury with Ethos Philadelphia, anecdotal evidence from patients offers insights into how cannabis might offer a boost to their focus and which compounds might be best for sharpening mental acuity. He recalled one patient who found that products containing little THC and high amounts of pinene seemed to do the trick.
“He sang the praises of low THC, high pinene options,” Atterbury said. “I want to specifically highlight terpene syringes or applicators which are made as a sort of ‘booster’ oil that is low in THC but rich in terpene; it can be used to bolster something like dry flower or cannabis concentrates.”
Other people find a benefit from a balanced THC to CBD ratio. For example, Austin Martin, a product associate at Ethos Dorchester, consumes cannabis as part of his fitness training regimen, citing its ability to help him focus as one of the benefits. He uses a range of products, but for improving his focus he said a balanced THC to CBD ratio is key.
“With cannabis, I always felt much better after I recovered, and also a bit more focused,” Martin said.
Other patients find that cannabis improves their focus by downplaying the severity of other distracting symptoms that they may be experiencing. After all, when you’re in pain or discomfort it can be hard to pay attention to anything else for very long. Josh Litten, cultivation supervisor at Ethos Pennsylvania, said he suffered from Crohn’s disease for most of his life. After his diagnosis, Litten began taking prescription medications, finding that they left him in a “mental fog” and didn’t really address his condition. When he began consuming cannabis, his focus sharpened and his symptoms abated, he said.
What the science says about cannabis and focus
The existing research into cannabis and focus covers both the immediate and long-term impacts of cannabis consumption on focus and concentration. More studies are required to better understand the relationship between cannabis and focus, but many studies describe cannabis as impairing focus in the short term.
Some studies suggest that cannabis impairs cognitive function while others suggest it might be neutral or even improve focus. It can be difficult to reliably compare these studies as well, as each features its own methodology; some may ask participants to do tasks to demonstrate focus or take a short quiz. Varying methods mean results can be challenging to interpret.
However, it is clear that cannabis has the potential to negatively impact one’s ability to focus attention on a given task or tasks1. This is especially true of people with a low tolerance for THC, and the effects seem to be more pronounced the younger a person is when they begin consuming cannabis. Based on the anecdotal evidence above, though, this might be mitigated by choosing a low-THC or balanced THC to CBD cannabis product.
It also doesn’t mean there aren’t certain circumstances in which cannabis might help someone focus, whether by offering subjective relief from distracting symptoms or simply because their unique experience with cannabis deviates from the norm. This could explain why some people claim that cannabis improves their ability to focus.
For example, some healthcare providers recommend medical cannabis to patients who struggle to focus because of attention disorders. Currently, ADD and ADHD are not qualifying medical conditions in any state, but preliminary research suggests that “adult[s] with ADHD may represent a subgroup of individuals who experience a reduction of symptoms and no cognitive impairment following cannabinoid use3.”
The researchers note their conclusions are “not definitive” but support the idea that people living with attention disorders might benefit from cannabinoid therapies. The researchers added that more studies are needed to understand how cannabinoids and the endocannabinoid system (ECS) influence focus and attention in people living with attention disorders.
How to choose a cannabis product for focus
If you are the type of person who finds cannabis improves your ability to focus, it helps to bear a few things in mind when choosing a product.
Consider the following factors when navigating your options:
- Know your tolerance: Research suggests tolerance to THC plays a large role in whether cannabis products impair or improve focus. If you have a low tolerance to THC, it is best to consider a cultivar or product with lower levels of THC or a more balanced THC to CBD ratio to help balance out the intoxicating effects of THC.
- Consider product type: Consider the impact of rapid-onset effects from inhaled dosage forms versus gradual-onset effects from edible dosage forms. For bodily symptom relief without impacts to executive functioning, also consider topical forms
- Think about terpene profiles: Cannabinoids are a major driver of the effects of cannabis, but terpenes also play a role. When considering a product for focus, it is best to look for uplifting or energizing terpenes such as pinene or limonene, rather than more relaxing terpenes like myrcene or linalool.
Interested in a product that can help your focus? Visit your local Ethos dispensary menu to learn more about your options. As always, an Ethos associate will be happy to answer any questions you have that could improve your experience or provide more relief.
Pay attention to cannabinoids and their effects on focus
What we know so far about cannabis and focus is nascent, but promising. The research conducted to this point yields some interesting, if mixed, results: There is certainly some connection between cannabis consumption and focus, even if we don’t precisely understand that connection yet. However, anecdotally, some people do report experiencing improved focus through cannabis.
When looking for the best cannabis product to help you focus, it’s helpful to have a knowledgeable guide at your side. If you want to know more about what’s in the product you’re choosing and how it might affect your experience, talk to an Ethos associate about your goals.
- Neuropsychological performance in long-term cannabis users – PubMed (nih.gov)
- Cognitive measures in long-term cannabis users – PubMed (nih.gov)
We want to hear from you. Whatever you think. At Ethos, you’re at home and your voice is heard.