Music and cannabis go hand in hand. From speakeasy-era jazz to the stoney '60s to the modern cannabis movement, kicking back with some tunes has always been a preferred choice for consumers. That’s right, even the earliest folks were getting down to whatever the jam of the day was back then—trust us on that one. While we all know that cannabis and music make us feel good when combined, little to no research has explored why that’s the case—and if it’s even true.
A study published in the January 2018 edition of the International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology delved into the interactive effects music and cannabis have on humans. The study sought to understand what, if any, effect cannabis and cannabidiol (CBD) had on listening to music. Sixteen consumers participated in a randomized, double-blind study that compared the effects of inhaled cannabis with cannabidiol, cannabis without cannabidiol and a placebo. Sessions were separated by a week at a time.
The findings proved contrary to the research team's prediction that cannabis increases the brain’s rewarding effects brought on by music. Instead, cannabis actually dampened the effect music has in certain areas of the brain, including bilateral auditory cortex, right hippocampus/parahippocampal gyrus, right amygdala and right ventral striatum. However, cannabis with cannabidiol did not impact the reward and emotional effects when listening to music.
Moreso, the study did find that both types of cannabis increased the participants' desires to listen to music. Both also enhanced sound perception, with CBD producing more significant differences than cannabis alone. So, while cannabis doesn’t appear to enhance the pleasure of listening to music, it certainly increases our desire to want to hear music.
The study noted that these findings fell in line with most previous results that found that THC could have adverse effects on anticipatory and consummatory facets of reward in our brains. When CBD was introduced, however, the effects of THC were offset to some degree. These results further confirm what we’ve known about the relationship between the two cannabinoids.
While the study was arguably the first in studying reward and music, that does not mean music and sound have not been analyzed with cannabis. Studies exploring pot and our musical perception to just the mention of cannabis in music have been researched for some time now.
Beyond cannabis, music itself has been studied in relation to hallucinogens like LSD and mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety and PTSD. Like cannabis, LSD appears to have a positive impact on music listening experiences. Meanwhile, the studies into music over the decades uncovered some of the potential therapeutic relief it can offer several mental stresses and conditions.
Despite cannabis not increasing the feelings of rewards in our brains when listening to music, getting high could remind our minds just why we seek music out so much on its own. With the potential to ease common mental health woes, the power of music only continues to grow as research expands.