Anyone looking for help with their focus and attention may have trouble reading a long article.
So we’ll do this in short, easily-digestible bites.
If you ask 100 regular weed users what effect smoking has on their attention span, you may find 50 who say that pot helps them focus, and 49 others who say it zones them out and puts them on the couch.
(The 100th person wasn’t available to answer; she’d gone on a 7-11 run for more Mountain Dew and Doritos.)
Who’s right? Probably all of them. Marijuana affects people differently. And even more importantly, different types of marijuana have markedly different effects on users.
You certainly know, at least in very general terms, the difference between Sativa and Indica – and the difference between pot’s two most important cannabinoids, THC and CBD.
Let’s dig a bit deeper into the matter. Don’t worry, we’ll try to make this go down smoothly.
Why Not Just Use ADHD Medications?
Meds like Adderall and Ritalin have become enormously popular, not just for children with ADD and ADHD, but with adults.
Some people obtain prescriptions from their doctors, but a large number of people obtain the medications “another way.” That’s particularly true for those who only occasionally pop the pills when final exams are staring them in the face, or when they’re up against a tough deadline at work – and really need to be able to buckle down and focus.
ADD meds can figuratively be lifesavers for kids who need them. And there’s no doubt that they work well for many adults who have difficulty concentrating.
However, most of these drugs are stimulants and can have side effects. Some are minor issues like headaches, weight loss, stomach aches, and moodiness. But there can also be rare but serious problems such as high blood pressure and heart attacks. Non-stimulant medications are occasionally prescribed for some ADHD patients, but they carry their own sometimes serious risks.
That’s why many have turned to pot.
Advantages of Cannabis to Boost Focus
It’s difficult to define negative “side effects” that can kick in when marijuana is used to sharpen focus. After all, different weed strains act very differently. But it’s clear that there are fewer potential health issues associated with cannabis use than there are with ADD drugs.
Some users certainly do run the risk of freaking out or suffering a bad case of couch-lock when they overindulge, use the wrong strain for their desired purpose, or use a type of bud that’s contraindicated for their medical situation (for example, high-THC weed can make already-existing anxiety much worse).
The good news comes in two forms. First, it’s easy to choose the right strain; our suggestions below will help with that. Second, it’s possible to “microdose.”
A number of medical experts have advocated microdosing as a way to use THC to increase focus and attention span, without risking a head high that would interfere with daily function. The idea is to use just enough pot to experience health benefits; these tiny microdoses are called “sub-psychoactive” because they don’t trigger any of the normal buzz associated with THC use.
Theoretically, microdosing is best done with cannabis tincture, since it allows for precise measurement with a dropper. But you can experiment on your own by taking a hit or two from a joint or vape, seeing how it affects your focus and function, and then adjusting as necessary.
The Best Strains for Focus
You’ll notice that most of our suggestions have two characteristics in common. The majority are sativa or Sativa-dominant rather than Indica strains because Sativa tends to keep you active while indica is more likely to zone you out on the couch. And most have relatively high THC content, because – in moderation – it’s the cannabinoid most likely to enhance creativity and focus.
You can probably guess from the name of this strain what its pungent aroma and taste are like – but don’t let that put you off; it’s great for increasing focus. Sour Diesel is a Sativa with a high THC content that can hit 25%, so you have to go slow. Microdosing is a very good idea if your goal is improving concentration.
And that’s one of the things it’s particularly good for (along with mood improvement, and of course getting high if you don’t hold yourself back). At smaller doses, the effects are more cerebral and stimulating, perfect for focusing attention on detailed tasks. Overdo it, though, and you’ll experience a soaring, euphoric high that will most likely cause you to lose focus instead of boosting it.
This strain exhibits the same key traits as Sour Diesel. It’s Sativa-dominant and its THC content typically runs between 20-25%, so going slow or microdosing is the order of the day. And it’s terrific for maintaining focus when used in moderation, inducing an increased attention span that may last for several hours. One big difference: it’s sweet-smelling and tasty, instead of pungent and (let’s be honest) somewhat nasty.
Green Crack’s head high is creative and energetic; if you’re fond of endorsements, the strain was named by Snoop Dogg after he experienced its stimulating effects that are well-known for sharpening the senses. As with Sour Diesel a little will go a long way, but be careful; a lot could make any existing anxiety you might have morph into something more serious like paranoia.
Harlequin is the way to go if you’re trying to focus despite physical pain or mental stress. It’s also Sativa-dominant but has a much lower concentration of THC (often below 10%) to go along with high levels of CBD (as high as 15%). That leads to an uplifting, relaxing effect that’s more calm than euphoric. Meanwhile, the CBD helps boost mood while working to relieve inflammation and other body pain.
The bottom line: you’ll be able to concentrate on tasks for a fairly long period of time without feeling weighed down or in pain. You’ll often hear Harlequin mentioned as one of medical marijuana patients’ favorite strains because of the relief it provides, but it’s vastly underestimated as a choice for focus throughout the day.
Those who have a low threshold and get stoned on half a J may want to microdose Cinex, or try a different strain – this one is not only energetic and powerful (with THC content well into the 20% range), but it can make you wired quickly, leading to racing thoughts in anxious or sensitive users.
There’s no doubt, however, that this Sativa-dominant weed can bring a fresh sense of energy, excitement and focus when used in moderation. It’s also known for mood elevation and encouraging driven creative thinking. There’s some interest in Cinex as an alternative treatment for ADD and ADHD, and it’s easy to understand why.
Surprisingly, Durban Poison is an indica and not a sativa or Sativa-dominant strain. However, it does not induce the heavy body hit that you’d expect from an Indica, making this a choice that can be useful for improving focus during the day.
Durban Poison hits quickly, with a cerebral, clear-headed blast that sharpens focus and attention to detail. Despite the high that comes from 15-25% THC content, you’ll find that your thinking is more deep and relaxed than racing, although all bets are off if you have anxiety issues that might be exacerbated by the psychoactive effects of the strain.