The Science of Listening to Music With Cannabis

Why Music Sounds So Good When You're High

By Troy Antonucci March 31, 2017

There are some things in the universe that were just meant to be together: peanut butter and jelly, Canada and maple syrup, Donald Trump and Putin. Out of all the universe's yin and yangs, nothing goes together quite like marijuana and music.

Let's be honest: who doesn't like to listen to music while high? Unless you're living under a rock, you know that smoking weed makes listening to music better. Snoop knows it. Bob knows it. Fuck, everyone knows it. It seems like records like Dark Side of Moon were made to be soundtrack to weed induced, intergalactic journeys through space and time. The only real question is why? 

It's All in the Brain

If you're looking for a reason why you were convinced last night  that "Revolution 9" is the world's most revolutionary song. there's no need to look any further than the brain. Though scientists don't exactly know the reason why marijuana and weed are such a match made in heaven, there has been a great deal of research that has shed some light on the neural-chemical process involved when the two forces collide.

According to McGill professor and psychologist Daniel J Levitin, weed makes music sound so good because of the drug's effects on the pleasure centers of the brain. The feelings of euphoria and connectedness induced by marijuana is caused by THC, the primary cannabinoid in marijuana. THC is known to have psychoactive properties that affects parts of the brain associated with pleasure and short-term memory. Levitin hypothesizes that marijuana's effect on short-term memory, in particular, may be the reason why music listening experiences are enhanced. Disrupting short-term memory thrusts music listeners into the moment of the music and forces them to focus on each note at a time. That's why it can seem like time slows down when listening to music.

Psychologist Charles T. Tart found similar findings though his subjective psychological research. In his landmark book, On Being Stoned, Tart found that weed, at any level of dose, not only enhanced users' listening experience, but it also allowed them to hear the music more clearly and accurately. One subject in Tart's research noted, "I can hear more subtle changes in sounds; e.g., the notes of music are purer and more distinct, the rhythm stands out more." 

Marijuana and music are both mood enhancers so when they are combined together, their effects are even more pronounced and intense. According to Anna Ermakova PhD, the Science Officer at the Berkeley Foundation, marijuana and music have a "synergistic effect" when used together. Not only that, but music can also help relieve some of the negative symptoms associated with smoking marijuana such as anxiety or paranoia. Music can help counteract these symptoms by relaxing users and putting them in a more meditative and occupied state. It's almost like marijuana and music were made to be together.

What's even more interesting is that the synergistic effects that Ermakova described can be related to symptoms of synesthesia sometimes associated with marrying music and pot. Synesthesia is the neurological phenomenon where the brain mixes and matches stimuli from the five senses. This explains why many users often experience "feeling" music or seeing colors when listening. The synesthesia-like effects experienced is again linked to THC's modulating impact on the visual and auditory parts of the brain.

Getting high and listening to your favorite record is truly one of life's timeless pleasures. It doesn't matter if your listening to Beethoven's 9th or the soundtrack to Bob the Builder, weed makes and music better. Get out there and grab your best pair of headphones, roll a fat blunt, and go on your own intergalactic journey.