Which cannabinoids are best for improving mental performance?
If you want to use cannabis to improve mental performance, it's best to use CBD. Save THC for moments where you need a special spark of creativity or divergent thinking but let CBD be the primary cannabinoid.
What does the science say?
According to research, CBD may improve memory, learning and attentional control. In other studies, researchers showed reductions in mental performance after THC - the greater the dose, the greater the reduction.
What are some tips for using cannabis for mental performance?
Use CBD and minimise THC (save it just for moments when you need a creative kick). Keep doses CBD doses low during the day to minimise drowsiness. And of course, be sure to eat well and stay fit — they're paramount to your mental performance!
There’s a quickly growing undercurrent of cannabis users that are using cannabis, neither for medicinal or recreational reasons, but for something in between; better cognitive performance. Everyday, more and more people are questioning the potential for cannabis to improve mental performance on aspects of concentration, problem solving, creativity, attention, clarity, and productivity.
The more we grow into whatever defines the “new age”, the more we seem to connect physical and mental health and stamina with success. Essentially, we’re discovering that the healthier we are, the better virtually every other aspect of our lives are — including whatever it is we define as “success”.
Using cannabis to improve mental performance seems to be driven by exactly this concept. After all, cannabis is not the limitless pill. But some of the cognitive benefits of using CBD, for example, appear to put users in a better state of health to achieve better levels of mental performance.
To what degree is this reason to use cannabis just another overinflated suggestion that took off into the wind — and if not, how exactly would cannabis help people achieve better mental performance? In this article we’re exploring how to use cannabis for mental performance, the ways it might actually hinder concentration, and some of the science that might explain these phenomena.
What defines “better mental performance”?
Mental performance is something that sports people talk about a lot. It’s this overall understanding that when it comes to competition, your mind needs to be just as fit as your body. But what does that mean exactly?
Mental performance defines how we perform internally, in the world that nobody can see. How do we talk to ourselves? Are we distracted by meanderings, worries, or anxiety? Do our minds feel foggy or can we see clearly, make connections, and quickly problem solve? Mental performance isn’t the same as intellect. Everybody’s intellect is different. But in whatever profession it is that you have, or whatever activity it is that you do, there is an understanding that what happens internally, also kind of happens externally.
Imagine a boxer. If he or she can’t keep their mind totally focused on the moment — if their mind is imagining beach holidays instead — they’re going to get knocked out. This is the same for all of us. When our minds are focused, centred, and undistracted, we are far more productive at whatever we do.
In practical terms, having better mental performance can enhance your productivity. It might make you a little bit sharper on the job — a faster reader, better typer, more accurate coder, etc. It might simply mean that every day is full of new ideas that give you creative inspiration for your problem solving, whether at work or in life.
Improving mental performance isn’t necessarily something you do when you are depressed or experiencing mental health issues, although it might. For those using cannabis to improve mental performance, it’s not a “therapy”. It’s a “technique for success”.
What does the science say?
Given that using psychedelic substances to improve cognitive performance is a relatively new thing (it was all considered recreational before), there isn’t much research on this specific topic. However, CBD has been researched for its cognitive benefits on regular cannabis users.
The study was conducted in 2018 and was a pragmatic, open labelled trial — meaning there was no control group. Participants were regular cannabis users and were given 200mg CBD daily for a period of 10 weeks. They were measured for psychological symptoms and cognition at baseline and post-treatment.
Researchers found that post treatment, CBD users improved in on parameters in learning, memory, and attentional control. These are all very good measures of mental performance. But it’s important to remember that all this study really tells us is that if you already consume THC cannabis regularly, supplementing with CBD might improve your mental performance.
In a 2009 study that investigated the effects of a spliff (THC + tobacco) on cognitive performance, researchers found the opposite. Participants were given four cannabis cigarettes containing different THC doses to consume on four separate occasions. Researchers found that the higher the dose of THC, the greater impact was seen on cognitive performance parameters such as response time and sustained attention.
There is obviously a connection between THC intoxication and the performance of fine motor activities. Most studies that investigate THC and mental performance measure response time, for example, but don’t measure divergent thinking, creativity or problem solving. Part of the reason is that these parameters are really difficult to measure. All in all, this research might provide a clue as to how to use cannabis to improve mental performance.
How can you use cannabis to improve mental performance?
How does all of this translate in to real-world advice for somebody who’s excited to do some self-experimentation on this topic, then? Well, firstly, beware that it is experimentation. There are many users who report better clarity and reduced brain fog after using CBD, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it will happen for everybody. First and foremost, this will be an experiment.
Depending on what aspects of your mental performance you want to improve, it might be best ot minimise THC. At the end of the day, THC is intoxicating, which might be great if you’re looking to improve creativity. However, we recommend using CBD as a primary cannabinoid for improving mental performance and saving THC for particular moments that require increased creativity or divergent thinking.
The key is not to develop an abuse relationship with THC. It’s a great tool to improve your mental performance but if you use it every day, it will likely start to have the opposite effect. Plus, if you’re not using it medicinally, then the only reason you might feel compelled to use it everyday is because you’re addicted. In which case, your mental performance is already hampered anyway.
Minimising THC and saving it only for occasions that require its particular mental effects is important if you want to use cannabis to improve mental performance.
Dose light in the morning, heavier at night.
CBD has biphasic effects. This means that at lower doses, it’s stimulating, while at higher doses, it’s sedative. With this in mind, you want to take no more than 50mg CBD in the morning. It may take some time to figure out your best dose. If you’re just starting to take CBD, it would be prudent to start on 10mg or 20mg to observe the effects.
At night, take no more than 150mg CBD. Good sleep is important for good mental performance. However, if you take too much, you risk feeling drowsy in the morning.
Take regular breaks.
It’s also really important not to overdo it. Cannabis users can quickly develop a tolerance, meaning they need more to get the results they need. Part of improving mental performance is taking breaks from the supplements you use to improve it. You can also consider alternating between cannabinoids and other nootropic substances like certain medicinal mushrooms (chaga, lion’s mane, cordyceps, etc).
Eat well and stay fit. Your mental performance relies on it.
Naturally, if you’re wandering how to use cannabis for mental performance, you’re probably also looking at other ways you can do that. It doesn’t matter how many cannabinoids or nootropic substances you use, if you don’t stay fit and eat healthy brain foods, you’ll likely never improve your mental performance.
The brain is the most energy-consuming organ. So to power it, you need to eat lots of foods that support the function of the brain and improve blood flow. Eat lots of berries, fruits, whole grains and don’t forget those essential fatty acids like omega-3s and omega-6s. They’re extremely important for the brain!
Exercise is also good for the brain. For starters, it actually takes you out of your mind for a little bit, giving it a chance to rest and for your physical body to take some of the load. Secondly, it improves virtually every aspect of your physical health — and your brain is an important part of that.
Everyone’s on a journey to becoming the best version of themselves. Everybody wants to be better. And Rome wasn’t built in a day. So be patient with yourself. Improving mental performance is a process — not an AirBnB trip. Most of all, it’s about removing all the obstacles that stand between the current you and the best version of you that exists. There are tools to help us — and by now you should have a good launching pad on how to use cannabis for mental performance.
Do you use cannabis to improve your mental performance? Let us know how you did it and what your experience was like in the comments!