Does weed help you (learn) code?

This is a fairly simple question with a complex answer, most likely.

I’ve never done drugs (including meds). I smoked it once for the first time not too long ago (pipe, bong, then one hit from a blunt), and it calmed me down really nicely. It made me more aware of my senses.

I’m wondering if this is the effect that I would always get. It was medical-grade. I’ve heard there is a grade to just calm you and it doesn’t get you super stoned.

What is your experience with this while coding or doing projects/jobs that are possibly complex but at home?


I can’t speak to cannabis directly – I’ve never partaken, honestly – but I wonder if it’s similar to the way I felt when I would drink to excess as a way of motivating myself to write code.

Have you ever heard of the “Balmer Curve” or “Balmer peak”? It’s a joke that, like all joke, starts from a grain of truth.

I’ve always had a hard time starting things; once I get going it’s not, but getting started was hard even if I took just a 15 minute break. I couldn’t focus my thoughts enough to get started, the other chatter in my head made it impossible to get moving.

Being on the near-side of drunk (not flat-out pissed, but more than just tipsy) silenced the chatter in my head and I could just sit down an work. I could tune everything out for a few hours each evening and just get stuff done. For about seven years, it was the only reliable way I could make myself write code at home.

The problems with this technique are obvious and I am in no way advocating it. The obvious concerns about alcoholism aside, being intoxicated made me think I was doing better work than I was; I would write code, sure, but it wasn’t my best… even though while I was writing the time I though I was the next James Gosling, the morning after I’d realize the truth.

For a while I decided that was the price: having bad code written was better than no code at all. But eventually I decided that there wasn’t an end to the cycle of booze-code-regret, and so I tried to stop. I tried to stop many times before I succeeded. Just because you’re not neurologically addicted to the substance doesn’t mean you’re not psychologically addicted to the concept that you can’t perform without it.

I got off that roller-coaster about a year ago, got real psychiatric help and I feel like I’m better for it. I know that pot and alcohol are not directly comparable, but I believe in the case of techies they are close cousins.

Here is what I say, and feel free to take it with a large grain of salt since I’m being really preachy right now:

Understand the “slippery slope” potential. Some people never get addicted to their chemical of choice, and others get hit almost immediately. You can’t control your biology, but you can control your actions.

Figure out what you want to achieve before you go looking for it. You can’t find something if you don’t know what you’re looking for. Try to articulate it, quantify it, break it down. You may well find that what you’re looking for can be found somewhere else.

Since pot is legal in many places in North America (where I live) I don’t feel comfortable saying “don’t smoke weed” because alcohol is legal and I still drink occasionally so it’d be hypocritical of me. What I will say is be careful.

(This turned in to a soap-box rant where I didn’t even answer your actual question. I apologize.)

I had a friend who say that smoking weed for study trick him into thinking he was learning deeply, however next day he didn’t recall most of the things he read. Maybe for coding it’s similar

Fair enough, guys.

It’d be nice to hear from others’ personal experience, but for now, I will not use it as a way to get me started coding.

I already do well without it (like I said, I’ve only smoked it once), but I recently did it recreationally, so I was wondering how this comes into play when having to code.

Thanks everyone

The effects of weed are going to vary based on the strain and method of consumption. For that reason, making comments about weed can be difficult, since it’s a deceivingly broad category. Additionally, I would argue that the effects vary by person.

For me, weed practically never aids in my productivity. It’s great for creativity – thinking through problems most abstractly without the technical implementation details clouding the thought process. But as far as actually coding, or learning, it generally makes things worse for me. This is not absolutely true – I have on ocassion attained the aforementioned “Balmer peak”, whereby my mind reached the right place to kick some ass. But I found that I couldn’t depend on this effect, and that I was nine times as likely to become more scatterbrained.

Part of it is that I have ADHD, so the depressive effects of some cannabis strains just slow me down, mentally. Strains that have more of a stimulating effect don’t do this as much, but they are also more likely to cause me anxiety.

But that’s just me. I’ve heard of people claiming that cannabis helps them focus, but, for me, that’s a job I strictly leave to stimulants.

But if you find that cannabis works for you, then, great. We’re all different, and I believe that we need to find the chemicals that work for us individually.

As far as “grade to just calm you and it doesn’t get you super stoned”, you’re probably referring to high-CBD strains, which produce the therapeutic effects without the high, or a less intense high. If you are after the medicinal effects solely, then you might find it useful to look into attaining such strains.

@sireleo, you bring up something very interesting about ADHD and depression.

The psychologists/psychiatrists I have talked to all mention that there is a statistically high comorbidity between ADHD and generalized depression. In english, that means that if you have ADHD you are more likely to also suffer from some kind of depression.

I certainly felt depression, though I didn’t recognize it until I was out of it. Now that I’m on proper medication I see that I was really depressed; the funny thing is that when I drink too much now, the depressive effects of alcohol feel like the hit me even harder than they did when I wasn’t medicated. I could be just bias onmy part, or maybe me brain chemistry changed… regardless, that’s one of the things that makes me really reluctant to go to Colorado and have a “pot vacation”.

I’ve personally found that stimulants help a great deal with my depression, while the antidepressants I had tried in the past did not seem to do much of anything.

Piece of trivia: Sigmund Freud actually recommended cocaine as a treatment for depression.

Adderall and cocaine are not so chemically distinct. I have to imagine that the chemists that created Adderall were thinking along the lines of “if only there were a cocaine that we could patent!” There’s no getting around it: it really is a “high” when you take it.

But it makes me feel significantly less depressed and grants me mental energy that I don’t normally have. That mental energy turns into physical energy that allows me to do the most basic tasks like cut my grass or actually go to work in the morning… It also helps with my anxiety in that I feel confident enough to approach things that generally I might avoid. Makes me more OCD though…Which can actually be pretty great for my code quality and test coverage!

It’s a crutch for sure, but unfortunately I don’t know how to not need it.

I’d describe my ADHD as a sort of “mental lethargy”, like my entire brain is underpowered without additional help. Makes me wonder how the same treatment can help hyperactive types who can’t sit still – sitting still is my favorite pastime.

SO MUCH THIS, @sirleo! Agree completely.

So many non-heads talkin’ in detail about what they’ve never even experienced. I just had to come put a stop to this, no matter how old this thread is :wink:

The reality of it is that it’s totally subjective and unique for different people. You may be able to harness benefits, but there are no guarantees: the plant is known to have widely varying effects on different people. It makes some people feel sick. Others feel relaxed and zoned-out. Others enjoy pain relief. Others think at a mile-a-minute and come up with creative ideas that are genius, and also many ideas that are silly or dumb. As it has been mentioned, different strains/breeds of the plants have tendencies towards different effects.

So I can only tell you about my personal experiences with cannabis and various mental tasks.

It has mental pros and cons, for sure.

Being high is a weird and seemingly contradictory mixture of being highly focused, and easily having your focus totally derailed. It’s almost like I become too focused on one mental concept, which causes me to suddenly lose context for how that concept fits into the greater situation, which causes me to focus too hard on trying to regain that context, and causes me to lose track of the concept again. That can certainly hamper my ability to code, which often involves a lot of broad oversight of many moving parts.

On the other hand, there are times where I was working on some tough mathematical algorithms, which I couldn’t quite grasp the solution for when I was sober, but getting high allowed me to separate myself from my mental block, see the problem from a new perspective, and come up with an efficient solution that I could barely grasp when I was sober again. So long as it passed unit tests, I moved on :wink:

There have been times like that where I really believe my use of cannabis improved my ability to get past a particular mental block and solve an abstract problem I was having difficulty with.

When playing video games, where having a one-track focused mind can be dominating, and not much broad oversight is required, I find that it gives me a very calm and controlled form of extreme focus, where my reaction times can be better than ever. Sometimes it really feels like I’m playing the game in slow motion compared to everyone else, and have a huge edge in shooting them first. The results are quantitative, too: kill to death ratios don’t lie :wink:

So, all of this being said:

I do enjoy getting high to have fun and play video games, but I generally don’t enjoy getting high when I’ve gotta grind out quality code. In occasional circumstances while programming, I partake to both take a mentally relaxing break, and sometimes to have a crack at solving a problem I’ve developed a mental block for.

Because of pot’s affect on memory, I think it would be mostly cons for trying to learn and absorb new information. I try to avoid getting high when I’m actually trying to remember new information.


I have to second @chase point right here. He is bang on.

For me when I wake up and have a cup of tea code makes the most sense to me, when I smoke I get this brain fuzz thing that @chase talks about.

I defiantly think it helps you think about things from a different angle when not actually practising your skill (i.e. coding)

Like Terrence McKenna said “Cannabis is best used once a week to fully benefit from its effects” I believe in my experience he was spot on regarding the application of cannabis in this way.

I am not on medication and don’t intend to be; however a natural supplement called ‘St Johns Wart’ is very effective in a similar way to what @sireleo described, I’m sure a more milder way.

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I’m trying to read between the lines here.

Is @sirleo suggesting cocaine? Sorry for being a little daft.

I’ve definitely never tried anything but recreational cannabis, which was acquired through a medicinal dispensary.

In the last two months, I’ve done it maybe three times, in two-week intervals kind of. And it just calms me and my physical anxieties. My thoughts are still with me, but they somehow seem to not affect me physically, thus reducing my anxieties.

But I have been observing myself, and I find that when I do consume it, I tend to forget very little things or minute details that I once was able to remember/recall pretty naturally/great.

Stuff like little things that people tell me they’re doing this weekend or had done a particular day. Or the order in which my SO prefers to put away the dishes or the very little things she does in the kitchen (wipe the knife with a kitchen towel after washing or somethings). Just really small things, I recall that I sometimes gloss over the week that I consumed cannabis.

And I have to admit I don’t like it. I have a great memory and I caught myself forgetting these things the second I forgot them.

It’s a double-edged sword, I suppose. On the one hand, it relaxes me and helps me see the big picture, while making my senses more sensitive and making me see details while I’m on it. But the following week, I forget very, very small everyday things.

So, I’ve not been consuming it at all much. I think I will plough through drug-free for now and try to work on myself in other ways.

What @sirleo says is interesting, though, as is what @chase and @TheMassEffect say.

I’ll take those comments into account.

Thanks again, everyone.

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I can’t speak to whether it helps you learn code, but it certainly helps me focus and relax, which I suppose could carry over into greater ability to learn new skills.

It all depends on what strain you consume, and there are sooooo many out there. As someone previously mentioned, high CBD strains are your best bet to tame anxiety, improve focus, etc. without any psychoactive effects. I live in Washington state where medical and recreational usage is legal, and I personally LOVE a strain called ACDC. It has something like a 20:1 CBD to THC ratio which means zero psychoactive effects. No feeling “stoned”, no munchies, etc. I could smoke (actually I vaporize) and go drive my car if I wanted. I use it for stressful times at work. Better than alcohol or anything because you don’t get tired or “out of it”.

Leafly is a great resource for learning about different strains, here’s one article to get you started:

Hope this helps!

No, but also, yes.

No in that I am not suggesting one actually obtain cocaine as a stimulant or use it as medication.

Yes in that amphetamine salts (Adderall) is not very chemically distinct from cocaine and has very similar effects (including the potential for dependence). Other stimulants like Vyvanse are designed such that they can’t be rapidly ingested via insufflation (snorting) – a common means of abusing amphetamine salts.

My reference to Freud was simply me pointing out the similarities thereof; Freud’s descriptions of cocaine use as a treatment for depression mirror my own experiences with Adderall. Many regard Freud as a kook anyway, so take what he or I say with a grain of salt :wink:

Marijuana is great if you WANT to stay on your couch and help you relax/not have panic attacks. If you are wanting to actually learn code, I wouldn’t recommend it. It dulls you down and keeps you from wanting to do anything, other than smoking. I am a current smoker and wish I wasn’t. I do have a few mental disorders (bipolar, anxiety and agoraphobia) that it does help which is why I haven’t quit. I wish I could though and I plan on it once I see my psych next week. So my response is no, it will not help.

Weed also makes you forget things you “learned” while high. For example, I read a lot of star wars books and play video games. The next day, I can’t remember what I read or what part of the story I am in. The same goes for web dev. I am able to find blog posts and what not when Im stoned that I then save to a “read later” folder. If I read these while not stoned, I actually learn a lot more.

I would not reccomend it if you are only wanting to learn from it. You wont if you are planning on using it for a long period of time. People say you will not get addicted, but if you have mental disorders, it is quite easy to become hooked.

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