Lifestyle

How Cannabis Might Affect Revision for Exams

revision
Written by Joseph Mcqueen
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We’ve all been there before… The night before an exam. Coffee spilt over a mosaic of post-it notes. Sweat pouring from every part of your body. The feeling of hopelessness, the stress, the panic… but maybe there’s a better way to do this. What if all you need to do is relax? Cannabis and the oils associated with it have long been known to produce calming and relaxing effects that are able to slow that racing mind down a little bit, and provide some clarity.

What if you smoked Cannabis alongside your revision plan? In a recent study by Live Science, it was found that the daily Cannabis usage in students had reached a 30 year high, seeing higher reported usage than cigarettes. The students must know something, so what are the pros and the cons of using Cannabis, or Cannabis Oils as study drugs. In this article, we will review some of the ups and downs of what Cannabis can provide whilst revising for your upcoming midterms, finals or mocks, examining the psychology and research behind Cannabis and CBD’s links to anxiety, focus and memory. 

Cannabis has many varied uses, but can it even help you when taking tests? It’s an interesting topic that certainly warrants further discussion. Remember to subscribe to The Medical Cannabis Weekly Newsletter where you can find more articles like this one and exclusive deals on flowers, vapes, edibles and other products. Save big on Delta 8Delta 9 THCDelta-10THCOTHCVTHCP & HHC products by checking out our “Best-of” lists!


CBD and Cannabis 

A quick technical note before we begin. In this article we will be talking about both Cannabis and CBD. CBD, or Cannabidiol is a Cannabis constituent, a cannabinoid compound found in Cannabis plants and now associated with a calming, soothing effect. Cannabis refers to the entire plant, including THC a separate constituent of Cannabis associated with the more psychoactive experience Cannabis provides. When specifically I mention CBD, I mean this separate compound. As we will discover the two chemicals have very different effects when it comes to studying.

How does Cannabis Affect the Brain?

Before we can address the question of how Cannabis may affect revision, we have to understand what’s going on inside your brain when you take Cannabis, or Cannabis oils. Cannabis affects the brain through the endo-cannabinoidal system (eCS) , a complex cell system that operates around the body as well as in the brain. The eCS is linked to numerous functions and processes including many required for revision and studying: memory, sleep, mood and focus. Cannabinoids, the chemicals in Cannabis bind to the eCS and can result in changes to these functions, so it is important to understand in what particular ways these essential functions are affected by Cannabis before using it to help you revise.

Could Cannabis Help with Studying?

Cannabis might not be everyone’s first thought when you think about a study drug, but there may be some potential benefits to using this fantastic plant to help revise. Firstly, there is a lot of anecdotal evidence that using Cannabis can be extremely calming in stressful situations, allowing you a moment to breathe during a particularly heavy study session. But what evidence is there that Cannabis can actually influence the way we study? A fascinating pilot study, carried out by Harvard medical school looked at the cognitive functions of medical marijuana smokers. They found that their functions seemed to have improved since smoking the medical marijuana, being able to perform certain mental tasks faster than before.

This is truly astounding and seems to show that perhaps smoking a small, regulated amount of Cannabis may actually have a positive effect on the brain. This study must of course, be taken with a pinch of salt though. It is a very early pilot study, which means it is still in its early days and there will be more longer term studies to follow, but it is still encouraging. Another note on this study is that it was with medical cannabis, which has much lower levels of THC than street bought or Cannabis, or cannabis bought for the purpose of recreation. THC is associated with different effects to cognitive function, described later.  

Sometimes, creativity is what you need when you’re studying hard and that’s just what cannabis can provide. Perhaps you’re struggling with a certain maths problem, or need a new way to think about a boring topic. In fact we know that Cannabis allows us to think with a more united brain, connecting certain ideas and bringing together different thoughts to allow us a new way of thinking about a problem. This could be exactly what you need to get over a mid-revision hump. 

Cannabis is also useful for getting a good nights sleep, an essential part of any revision plan. Without a good sleep, your brain isn’t able to process the information it’s just learnt. In fact, a short nap may even be technically more useful to memory than a cup of coffee, so if smoking a small amount of Cannabis helps you sleep, that might be super important for remembering those study facts.  

CBD and its Effects on Anxiety and Focus.

Perhaps a much more promising avenue for how cannabis may help you revise, comes through one of its compounds CBD. CBD is truly a wonder chemical, associated with many, many medical benefits. It reduces inflammation, can be used for depression to name a few of its uses. Interestingly, for revision purposes there is a growing amount of research linking CBD to the treatment of Anxiety. Anxiety is a mental illness which is associated with symptoms of panic, increased heart rate, sweating and nausea. It is also a mental illness associated with revision.. Seriously.

A comprehensive review of exam related anxiety by the UK government highlighted it as a serious problem, showing that 5 people in a group of 30 will suffer from severe exam anxiety. They even give it a clinical name: Test anxiety, relating to pervasive thoughts of failure. If it is possible that CBD oil can be used to treat this test anxiety, then perhaps it will help to calm students stuck in a revision crisis down and help them revise. A recent review by researchers at the New York School of medicine  found that there was an array of evidence suggesting that CBD oil not only alleviates anxiety, but may even bind to specific receptors in the brain associated with stopping anxiety as well. This is incredible evidence that truly highlights CBD’s super powers and shows how it might be useful for calming those pre-test nerves. 

With reduced levels of anxiety, the brain is allowed to focus. In fact research has suggested that CBD may actually increase an individual’s alertness and focus, although there is some contradictory research. Some scientists argue that CBD actually reduces feelings of tiredness, in stark contrast with THC, which seems to induce sleep. It appears that CBD is linked to the Hypothalamus, a part of the brain which is responsible for feelings of alertness. Whilst this research may be very new and more is needed to support the claim that CBD promotes alertness, it is still an interesting thought and when paired with the reduced anxiety seems to suggest that CBD oils would be an ideal partner for revising.

Some Potential Bad News

Unfortunately it’s not all good news when it comes to Cannabis and studying. There is a growing amount of evidence that some strains of Cannabis can have negative effects on memory, the last thing anyone wants whilst studying for an exam. A paper by Kings College London seemed to show that high levels of THC in Cannabis can lead to problems with Working and Verbal memory. Working memory relates to holding facts in your head whilst thinking of other things and verbal memory is the memory of words, both are rather important for revising.

An even more recent study showed that high THC cannabis use was associated with an increased risk of false memories, or memories that haven’t even happened, again something you want to avoid! However, both of these studies were looking primarily at THC’s effect on memory and not CBD. In fact, the evidence presented above seems to suggest that THC alone is linked to improvements in memory. This is definitely something one should consider when thinking about using Cannabis to help with revision. Cannabis can also set you back financially and if you’re a student, it’s probably something you’re worried about. This is another reason that CBD oils, being better value for money, may be a more promising solution.

My Personal Experiences

I have tried smoking Cannabis to help me revise a couple of times. One time I was learning a script for an upcoming play at university and I must say that it actually helped me massively. I only smoked a small amount with a friend in a break between line learning sessions and when I returned to my room, I was on fire. The Cannabis had calmed me down and I was a line learning machine. I was playing Coriolanus and smashed through three acts in one night. Another time, a very different story. I ended up just falling asleep at my desk over some particularly tricky maths problems. Swings and Roundabouts I suppose.

Conclusion

So, there seems to be mixed evidence about the pros and cons of Cannabis and CBD for focus, memory and revision. However, it does look like CBD specifically may have a wealth of benefits to help with that pesky mid-term paper. Of course, as with all research on CBD it is still very new and perhaps more research will evolve showcasing other benefits of this wonder compound.

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About the author

Joseph Mcqueen

Joseph is a cannabis journalist in the UK. His search and love for the truth in the cannabis industry is what drives him to write.

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