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One of the most well-known effects of marijuana is an energetic, euphoric kind of high. Some users who are more susceptible to some cannabinoids even get a serious case of the giggles for hours, while there are those who claim that they experience a boost of creativity and experience clarity. However, another well-known, even notorious, effect of consuming cannabis is the heavy, couch-lock kind high that give both marijuana and its users a rather unfavorable reputation.
These polarizing effects are mainly due to the strains of marijuana that a person consumes. Indica strains are high in the psychoactive tetrahydrocannabinol or THC, making them relaxing, even hypnotic. This is the primary reason why indicas are mainly used as sleep aids. Sativa strains, on the other hand, are high in cannabidiol or CBD -- this is the compound that triggers alertness and increases energy, making sativas popular for treating medical conditions like anxiety and depression.
This is why, generally speaking, if you are looking for a burst of energy and motivation, you want to pick a strain with a higher CBD content. However, CBD and THC aren’t the only cannabinoids; in fact, there are more than 100 in different concentrations, and each of these cannabinoids affects different parts of the brain and body. And because CBD is a relatively new discovery (it was only in 2012 that high CBD strains started gaining mainstream attention), there is still very little research as to how this cannabinoid affects our brain.
If you are motivated, you might feel empowered, determined, and driven. Simply put, motivation is how easy it is for yourself to push you to want to do things. Similar to other emotions and bodily functions, a person’s level of motivation is also tied to his brain function. In this case, the striatum controls and coordinates several aspects of decision-making, reward perception, cognition, and motivation. When we do things that evoke positive feelings -- eating your favorite food, watching a feel-good movie, having sex -- the striatum is what helps us remember how it feels and then translates it into a habit. These responses are connected to the production of dopamine (also called the happy hormone), a neurotransmitter that helps regulate emotional responses and helps control the brain’s reward and pleasure centers.
To put it simply, when we do something that feels good -- say, smoking marijuana or eating infused edibles -- our brains produce dopamine, allowing a connection toward a positive memory and understanding to be built, with the help of the striatum. This connection thus associates the activity of smoking or eating marijuana to a positive outcome, such as feeling happy, energetic, and creative. By connecting the brain’s reward system to the memory and understanding of a certain actions or activities, we are motivated toward doing more and, in the long term, develop a habit for these actions or activities.
Almost all recreational drugs, including marijuana, act to temporarily increase dopamine levels, though it works a little differently compared to other drugs like caffeine, nicotine, and cocaine. Instead of directly affecting the brain’s dopamine production (or blocking its removal), the cannabinoids in marijuana blocks the action of another neurotransmitter called gamma-aminobutyric acid or GABA. GABA reduces the amount of dopamine released by the brain; therefore, when cannabinoids like CBD and THC block GABA, the amount of dopamine released in the nucleus accumbens and the prefrontal cortex increases.
GABA is also inhibited by the body’s naturally occurring cannabinoids in the body, called endocannabinoids. These endocannabinoids are believed to play a role in the daily release of dopamine in the body. In fact, a 2013 study involving mice concluded that sufficient activity in the endocannabinoid system helps the brain release more dopamine without too much difficulty. In particular, the researchers found that the endocannabinoid system can help promote the release of dopamine during exercise, as the mice born without cannabinoid type-1 (CB1) receptors ran less on their exercise wheels compared to the mice with healthy levels of CB1.
While some studies suggest that frequent cannabis users may experience a period in which their dopamine levels fall below normal during withdrawal, it has also been proven that long-term cannabis users do not suffer from long-lasting changes in their dopamine levels compared to other common drugs.
Apart from other external factors like the environment, work, and interpersonal relationships, mood can also affect a person’s motivation “level”, so to speak. In this regard, marijuana, specifically CBD-high strains, can also help a person to become more motivated. CBD has been found to enhance the transmission of 5-HT1A, a subtype of the serotonin receptor. If you have low levels of serotonin, you are more likely to feel anxious or dejected; on the contrary, a higher level of serotonin is believed to improve one’s mood. Because CBD boosts 5-HT1A transmission, more serotonin becomes available in the synaptic space, allowing you to remain in a more positive state of mind for longer.
Some studies have also shown more concrete links between marijuana and a boost in motivation. One such research conducted in Jamaica observed that farmers who regularly smoked cannabis work harder and have better focus, based on their physical movement and caloric use. For a long time, artists have also repeatedly stated that using cannabis stimulates the flow of their so-called “creative juice”, thus motivating them to create. This is backed by a 2009 study that found an association between marijuana and creativity. However, it may also be argued that it’s the creative bunch that’s drawn to marijuana rather than marijuana causing or improving creativity.
Overall, though, there is still no final answer on how marijuana affects motivation because different studies have produced conflicting findings. A study conducted in 1995 found that marijuana users with depression had lower motivation, though it also argued that it was depression -- not marijuana use -- that caused this issue. On the other hand, a 2006 study revealed that the levels of motivation remained the same in both users and non-users of marijuana.
Consume Cannabis As Part Of A Healthy Lifestyle
If you’re looking for an uplifting buzz that pushes you to work hard, steer clear of indica strains because these species are high in THC. What you want instead are sativas and sativa-dominant hybrids that are high in CBD for a boost of creativity, focus, and energy, as opposed to the body-centered sedative effect of THC.
Durban Poison is among the most well-known pure sativa strains, hailing from the port city of Durban in South Africa. Its world-famous sweet-spicy smell is known for its energetic, uplifting effects, making it a suitable strain for work productivity. It’s also high in THCV or tetrahydrocannabivarin which, unlike its THC cousin, is less psychoactive and more of a brain-stimulating buzz.
Harlequin is another high-CBD strain that relaxes the muscles and relieves pain without the sedating and intoxicating after-effects. If you want to stay clear-headed and alert during the day, then this 75:25 sativa-dominant strain is one of your best choices. Its earthy, mango-like flavor also adds to its appeal.
The legendary Sour Diesel or Sour D gets its name after its diesel-like aroma. Much like its namesake, Sour Diesel is a fast-acting strain that fuels its users with a punch of energizing, cerebral effects. It also has the added benefit of being an effective stress and pain reliever.
Kali Mist is popular for shaking imagination and creativity awake due to its energetic yet clear-headed effect. It’s also known to be a lightweight strain, making it an ideal choice for daytime use and maintaining focus and productivity.
The spicy, pine-scented Jack Herer, so-named after the marijuana activist, provides a cerebral elevation that’s both blissful and clear. While it’s only a 55% sativa hybrid, most of Jack Herer’s effects are well within the sativa family: a mellow, even high that leaves the mind focused, flexible, and alert. It’s also an award-winning strain for its potency, and has been recognized as a high-quality medical strain since the mid 1990s.
Chemdawg provides a turbo-boost to creativity, but could be a bit dizzying due to its potency. However, it also brings about an uplifting and cerebral experience. Chemdawg, like Sour Diesel, is also famous for its distinct and sharp, diesel-like aroma.
Purple Haze is known to lend energy and positivity, as it knocks down lethargy with is euphoric, uplifting effects. Veteran users may feel a little nostalgic in using this strain, popularized by Jimi Hendrix’s 1967 hit, as they feel the high-energy effect that influences creativity. This strain gets its name from its vibrant purple flowers, with a trademark mix of sweet, earthy, berry, and spicy aromas.
Need to overcome a creative block? Then the hybrid LSD may be for you. The high it causes is a little trippy and psychedelic, though it is also known for triggering imagination and creativity. It also has a cerebral high that some users may find useful in sifting through different ideas and concepts.
Strawberry Cough is known for its fresh strawberry aroma and cerebral, uplifting effects that lead to euphoria. It’s also an ideal strain for managing social anxieties and stress. Despite its sweet berry smell, however, it has an expanding sensation once inhaled, which can make even long-time marijuana users cough.
Chocolope, on the other hand, is a hybrid that combines Chocolate Thai and Cannalope Haze, resulting into a hefty sativa that provides a strong, euphoric mental effect. Not only is it perfect for coping with depression and stress, its uplifting effect is also boosted by its sweet coffee flavor.
Maui Wowie is another classic sativa that delivers stress-relief and high-energy euphoria. Its sweet pineapple flavor also has an overall lightweight effect, allowing your mind and body to feel motivated and creative.
For those looking for a positive mindset and stimulating creative energy, then Cinex is among the best choices. Apart from its clear-headed and uplifting high, this hybrid of Cinderella 99 and Vortex is also an effective pain reliever and antidepressant.
Green Crack may had crack in its name, but don’t be misled. This strain is pure cannabis that delivers a sharp focus, uplifting energy, and an invigorating mental buzz that makes it an ideal daytime smoke for productivity. It’s also great for treating fatigue and stress, with its tangy, fruity flavor contributing to its energetic effects.
It has long been thought that marijuana reduces motivation, but there are enough studies and well-documented anecdotes that say otherwise. Most studies also tend to look only at how marijuana impairs or reduces motivation, rather than its positive effects, perhaps due to the negative societal perception of the herb.
However, there is no denying the fact that marijuana and motivation are closely tied together, especially with the links between marijuana and dopamine levels in the brain. There are also results that have been unreported scientifically, simply because they are personal claims. Carl Sagan, known to the world as an advocate of science, is also a well-known advocate of cannabis. Could he have been as astute as he was if he were couch-locked and unmotivated due to the drug? No one can really be sure until the complicated relationship between marijuana and motivation becomes unraveled.
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