We all know that weed affects time perception. Most users experience a distortion in their estimation of time. But how exactly does cannabis affect everyone’s sense of time? Are different doses and frequencies more or less likely to mess up time perception? And is there any science to back this up?
The Slowdown of Time Perception
The phenomenon of a slowed down perception of time is perhaps the most commonly known and enjoyed effects of cannabis. Users seek this during their cannabis high.
On the one hand, this distortion can become very dangerous. For instance, if the user is driving or working with heavy machinery. But in a safe environment, most users appreciate and value the change in time perception they experience while high.
The most logical explanation for this slowing down of time is that you are more “in the present” under the effect of marijuana. You hyper-focus on what’s going on in your head — your thoughts, ideas, and imagination. It’s easy to get wrapped up in your own mental activity, and you lose track of time.
Similarly, you notice more things when you are high. Your senses experience the details much more vividly. This heightened sense perception makes it feel as if time has slowed down. Almost as if you have more time to notice and experience all the details.
When you are high, your brain has fewer filters. It notices everything. Therefore there is much more information in the present moment.
Does it Happen to Everyone?
Of course, as with all mind-altering substances, every individual’s experience is deeply personal. Something like this can never be objective. It changes from person to person.
But a wide majority of cannabis users do agree that they experience a slowdown in their time perception under the effect of marijuana. In a high state, our senses get hyperactive. Visual scenes seem to have more depth. Even sound becomes multi-dimensional. Similarly, there is expansion in the fabric of time.
A study published by National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) on effects of THC on time perception observed that individuals given cannabinoids consistently overestimate duration in time estimation tasks.
Scientific Evidence of Time Overestimation
The study tested both time estimation and production tasks. Recognizing that people react differently to cannabis, the study investigated the subjective slowing of time using performance-based measures.
In particular, subjects were asked to estimate the amount of time between two cues. Researchers collected time perception data over the course of two years. The study also pooled data from five similar THC studies.
Upon analyzing all the data, researchers found that when subjects were given a dose of THC, they overestimated time by about 25 percent and underproduced time by up to 15 percent when high.
Is the Slowing Down of Time Dose-Related?
The study performed by NCBI also revealed that the changes in time perception didn’t show a connection to doses. They concluded that THC’s effects on time perception were not dose-related.
However, the effect of cannabis on people’s sense of time was less pronounced in frequent cannabis users, as opposed to infrequent users.
Taken all together, researchers concluded that all doses of THC resulted in some degree of time overestimation. But in general, those who consume weed regularly had less intense experiences than those who use cannabis infrequently.
Do Frequent Users Develop Tolerance to Time Slowdown?
Researchers found that chronic cannabis exposure does not alter time perception. However, they did notice that chronic exposure blunts the acute effects of THC on time perception.
The study showed that frequent weed smokers experienced less temporal distortion than infrequent and non-smokers.
So in general, frequent smokers don’t develop tolerance to the euphoria or the high of THC. But they do show less intense responses to some other effects, which means that regular cannabis users develop tolerance toward certain effects of cannabis use.
Reasons for Time Inflation
Studies have resulted in various explanations for the change in time perception. Under the effect of marijuana, there’s a lot going on in a person’s body.
The THC from cannabis floods the brains and disturbs the normal functioning of receptors. This can result in distortion in time perception in more ways than one.
One explanation of this speeding up of time is the increased production of certain neurotransmitters, most notably glutamate. This leads to changes in how we perceive and experience time.
Another explanation is the ways that cannabinoids affect certain neuronal pathways. In general, the presence of cannabinoids triggers changes in the ways neurons communicate. These changes tend toward an increase in a cannabis user’s internal clock.
The Good, the Bad, the Ugly
There are good and bad sides to the change in time perception caused by cannabis. Generally, the slowing down of time is seen as an enjoyable experience.
For example, artists use marijuana to find extra time and presence of mind in the moment. Sometimes users enjoy the time distortion simply because they find the slow pace relaxing.
But there are many hazards to this too. Various basic human behaviors rely on temporal judgments in short periods of time. For example, when deciding to cross the street, we calculate approaching traffic within seconds.
In everyday events in life, we need to perceive time accurately. A faulty internal clock can be dangerous while doing the simplest things.
It can impair decision-making, which could have life or death consequences. Even basic day-to-day activities and tasks like driving a car or cooking require accurate time perception.
Do We Know Everything?
We, of course, do not know all there is to know about the effects of cannabis on time perception.
There has been limited research in this area. Based on the research that has been done, we are aware of the time-warping effects of THC. But we’re still far from understanding its full impact.
We need more research with robust methods to reach more thorough conclusions about this phenomenon.
Future studies must examine how this effect differs among different users and under different circumstances. Researchers also hope to investigate how things like memory and attention might impact the way people experience time while high.