Cannabis: it’s capable of improving the sleep of one person and eradicating the pain of another. The plant’s benefits aren’t confined to pure physicality, however. Medical cannabis can act as a mood elevator for patients whose health struggles sometimes get them down.
If nothing else, this upliftment serves some very practical purposes. Daily life can confront us with a steady stream of small, mundane, boring activities, after all. One couldn’t be blamed for wondering how natural substances might help them power through the more monotonous parts of the day.
In the case of cannabis, many patients report feeling more joyful or motivated after several days or weeks of consistent use. Recent scientific findings indicate that cannabis may even rewire the brain, perhaps towards enhanced hopefulness and creativity. If that creativity trickles down into other parts of life, cannabis users might just find both their real life and their perception of it becoming better over time.
But the same power that makes cannabis so effective sometimes necessitates handling it gently. Your day-to-day lifestyle will likely dictate just how much planning is needed. You wouldn’t want to consume the vast majority of your daily medical cannabis dose before an important business meeting or long trip, for example.
Maximizing Benefits and Mitigating Risks
The timing of your cannabis intake can either make or break your experience with the plant. In an ideal world, medical cannabis and your tasks of choice could actually complement each other.
Here’s some info that should help you plan for — and achieve — the best possible result.
Cannabis and driving
Patients who drive frequently may need to get creative with their medical cannabis dosing plan.
Why’s that? Because driving while under the influence (DUI) of cannabis is illegal in many otherwise cannabis-friendly places. In Colorado, for example, drivers can be charged with DUI when more than 5 ng/ml of active THC is found in their bodies.
There’s a reason for that. While somewhat harder to detect than drunk driving (only a third of Colorado’s DUI’s are attributable to cannabis), driving under the influence of cannabis can be dangerous. A study done in 1969 found that drivers with a “social marihuana high” had “significantly more speedometer errors than when under control conditions.”
Translation: uplifted drivers had trouble maintaining a constant speed — and weren’t even aware of it. Those who wish to safely incorporate both cannabis and driving into their day should separate the two activities by at least several hours, depending on the psychotropic qualities of their cannabis.
Also keep in mind that your delivery method will impact how long you should wait before getting on the road; with inhalation, waiting several hours may be enough. If you’re ingesting cannabis, on the other hand, its onset time could be up to two hours, so extreme caution is needed. One study even recommended waiting eight hours before driving — and that was with the transient nature of smoked cannabis in mind.
If you’re taking both CBD and THC each day, you might do best to concentrate your CBD intake earlier in the day (prior to driving) and reserve the THC for the evening. This CBD-first strategy may also work well for sensitive patients whom THC makes drowsy.
Cannabis… at work?
Cannabis and the workplace can present a match made in heaven. Cognitive heaven, at least, seeing as regulatory standards in many areas aren’t exactly friendly to this combo yet.
But it might take a little trial and error to get this combo right. You need to be highly attuned to your body, and how it reacts to cannabis, before bringing the plant’s effects to work with you. Consider testing different cannabis products, dosing strategies, and delivery methods at home first. Once a good precedent has been established, you can take what you’ve learned, metaphorically speaking, to work.
Specific delivery methods may be more conducive to the workplace, too. Unless you happen to work for a cannabis-friendly company (or even a cannabis company, perhaps?), vaping will probably be your best bet. It’s discrete, sterile…professional, even. Vaping also makes it easy to microdose, and this novel dosing strategy is probably the best for cognitive function anyways.
Select the cannabis product that’s right for you, and good things happen to focus and motivation. The same goes for creativity — as far back as 1980, creative types were self-reporting cannabis use. The history of marijuana is full of testaments to this effect, too. Victor Hugo and the 19th-century Club des Hachichins’s use of cannabis to fuel written expression is one such example.
Yet correlation doesn’t always equate to causation — it took a 2012 study to point to that. This study found that cannabis helped users bridge the apparent gaps between different concepts, resulting in enhanced creativity and problem-solving skills.
Anecdotal reports point to cannabis’ workplace potential, too. As the cofounder of MassRoots says, “Our general philosophy is that we need to be as productive and creative as possible, everyday […] If cannabis facilitates that, then we’re allowing it.”
Yet the use of cannabis for workflow optimization is hit or miss. Cannabis doesn’t always facilitate increased work performance — far from it. Acute exposure to cannabinoids has been correlated with reduced working memory via reducing signaling strength within the hippocampus.
Working memory is the type of short-term memory that carries one along from thought to thought as they progress through cognitive work. According to more than a few studies, acute cannabis impairs this type of cognitive processing. Those who’ve ever completely lost their train of thought after an otherwise-pleasant smoking session are probably unsurprised.
The solution to these potential short-term drawbacks? Stick with it, even if it means starting as a low dose and slowly titrating up over time.
On a broader level, cannabis use seems to temporarily slow down and diversify the brain’s synaptic signaling. This type of neuroplasticity actually means good things for long-term medical cannabis users, who may find that consistent THC intake enhances cognition. Once again, it likely goes back to the sensitivity of your endocannabinoid system — and how this system reacts to any given dose.
Cannabis and parenting
The bond between parent and child is a beautiful thing. So you couldn’t be blamed for wondering how cannabis might affect it, especially considering the stigma that cannabis has carried in the past.
According to the science, there’s no need to worry. The endocannabinoid system, which cannabis so gently activates, has recently been implicated in oxytocin’s action— that’s the ‘love hormone’ that helps strengthen the connection between a parent and child. Based on anecdotal reports, cannabis may also help mothers overcome postpartum depression.
The biggest concern in this area is actually an indirect one: accidental cannabis exposure. Children may unwittingly mistake a cannabis-infused edible for their normal treat of choice, or stick cannabis resin in their mouth out of mere curiosity.
In France, where cannabis is illegal, such incidents have been happening more and more over the years. They often result in lethargy, short-lived ataxia…and emergency room visits.
Young children are most at risk, considering their low body weight and still-developing brain. For these younger demographics, accidental consumption may even cause coma. A 2017 review summed things up well: “unintentional cannabis ingestion by children is a serious public health concern.”
All that said, parents who’d like to introduce medical cannabis into their own lives would be advised to keep their cannabis both sealed and concealed. Parents themselves may also prefer CBD-rich cultivars so as to avoid any overpowering high — as an aside, these products have the added benefit of being safer for children.
Parents should also be aware that some common parental activities will be more greatly impacted by cannabis than others. Driving, as mentioned above, can be greatly affected. If your medical cannabis schedule has you doubting whether or not you can drive safely, always err on the side of caution. If you can, have another parent shuttle the kids around.
Helping your children with homework while under the influence of cannabis may also pose a challenge. While not outright dangerous, cannabis’s effects on working memory might make it hard to stay focused on the task at hand. As always, however, the effects will vary from person to person. Parents who are more accustomed to medical cannabis or on lower THC doses may find that their ability to relay concepts to their children actually gets better, not worse. After all, the science shows that cannabis may help its users bridge the conceptual gaps between different ideas.
Activities like cooking or reading together are more uniformly affected by cannabis — and the outcome here is almost always favorable. Parents may find that cannabis allows them to be more present with their children and, somewhat imaginatively, place themselves on their children’s level. And given that cannabis can sometimes slow down one’s perception of time, parents may also find themselves more patient and less rushed. The potential effects of cannabis on oxytocin may also help increase parent-child emotional rapport.
Let’s not forget about one of the biggest factors in childhood development: playing. Cannabis may help parents relate better to their children within the creative process that is spontaneous play.
Cannabis and exercise
Given that (properly dosed) medical cannabis is great for productivity, could its energizing effects also carry over to benefit exercise? The answer might just be yes.
The impacts of cannabis on exercise performance are many. It’s well known that athletes put great effort into getting thin, a trait that has been correlated with cannabis use. Recent studies have identified that CBD, a cannabinoid in many varieties of cannabis, is able to promote the formation of metabolically-active brown fat.
Brown fat (also known as brown adipose tissue) is rich in mitochondria that actually burn other types of fat for fuel. The fact that CBD increases it means good things cannabis-related weight loss, if only in theory.
Cannabinoids are also known anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidative agents, so they could help remove some of the biological rate-limiters athletes often experience during the process of recovery. While these sport-specific ideas are lacking in research, the anecdotal experience of athletes is beginning to support it. UFC president Dana White adds another valuable perspective; according to him, cannabis’s neuroprotective qualities make it a “no brainer” for extreme athletes.
Once again, the potential downside to this cannabis + sports combo comes from overdoing things. At high doses, THC can impair motor skills. So don’t try a new cannabis oil before tackling the ski slope or the downhill bike course — for the same reasons you wouldn’t imbibe just prior to driving.
While large doses of THC might make athletes drowsy or impair their motor skills, microdoses may have a much more favorable effect — as always, the biphasic dose-response curve of cannabis applies. Some athletes have even been known to consume small amounts of cannabis pre-competition as a way to calm their nerves or quiet their stress hormones. Among them is Mike Tyson, who recently admitted that he smoked cannabis before winning a major boxing match… by knockout. Apparently, no motor skill impairment was going on there.
Cannabis and Daily Life
When properly dosed and properly timed, medical cannabis can make a wonderful life companion. You may have begun medical cannabis treatment for purely medical purposes, sure — the cannabis plant works for that. But cannabis is holistic, so don’t be surprised if its subtle biochemical benefits trickle down into the rest of your life.
Over time, patients can expect to find the best balance of symptom relief and mental upliftment. Could cannabis help craft a healthier, happier, more uplifted version of you? There’s only one way to validate what the science hints at and find out for yourself.