By Luke Sholl

If you’ve ever smoked cannabis or heard someone talk about their weed experiences, you should be well-acquainted with its time-altering effects. Some people are freaked out by this, while others say it’s the main reason they smoke. Everyone’s high is different, so it’s up to you to decide whether you enjoy this effect or not. Independently of your decision, knowing why this happens can be very enlightening. Let’s begin by going through the science behind this phenomenon.


D. Cyril D’Souza and his team from Yale University went on a search for more information regarding this common experience. And in 2012, they came up with a study[1] for just that. The foundation for their article was: “To characterize the acute effects of THC and frequent cannabis use on seconds-range time perception”.

Researchers administered anywhere between 0.015–0.05mg of intravenous THC to 44 people. Participants were then placed in several placebo-controlled studies where they were asked to estimate time and production tasks in seconds. The results appeared mainly as expected. Subjects under the effect of THC were concluded to consistently display time overestimation and underproduction.

One interesting result of this study concerned chronic cannabis users. Although researchers concluded that time perception is not significantly dose-dependent, they did find that subjects who consumed cannabis twice or more times per week didn’t show as much overestimation and underproduction on tests as infrequent users. The study noted this as a sort of “tolerance” chronic users had built-up to the effects of cannabinoids on various bodily systems.


Even though Dr Souza and his team documented that time distortion does happen to stoned people, they didn’t exactly answer “why?” This is a very important aspect of the issue.

Understanding the why is the next step in trying to find a way to counteract it. While it can be a very appealing experience for some, others may consider it an adverse side effect. There is no conclusive study on the subject. All is still mere conjecture at this point. With that said, let’s go through the current theories on why this phenomenon may occur.

One possible answer might come down to brain chemistry. The rapid flood of THC into the brain causes a significant increase in the production of neurotransmitters, most notably glutamate. This is partially responsible for how we perceive time, causing the sensation of it moving faster.

Another theory states that the mere presence of cannabinoids alters neural pathways. This change in the way neurons communicate is said to lead to an increase in the stoner’s internal clock.

Neurotransmissers and Cannnabis


Depending on what you’re looking for in your cannabis high, this change in time perception can be good or bad. It might help you enjoy more of the time you have. An artist, for example, might find this useful, giving them the sensation of having achieved more. It can also help counteract the “time flies when you’re having fun” effect. In a recreational and social environment, cannabis can help conversations appear to last hours, which can add a lot to the experience. And many people love this effect—but with it also comes a few problems.

With certain everyday tasks, this disturbance in time perception might be dangerous. There are a lot of activities we do that rely on correct temporal judgment. The simple act of crossing the street requires you to evaluate the distance and speed at which a car is approaching. Even less dangerous activities like cooking can become hazardous if time isn’t correctly measured. So just be careful.

Even though science can’t still quite explain why this happens, we know it does. Because of that, as cannabis consumers, we must be careful when making decisions under the influence. It’s a proven fact that your ability to make time-related decisions will be altered, at least partially, when high on THC. Enjoy your sesh, and be safe with your consumption.

External Resources:
  1. Acute Effects of THC on Time Perception in Frequent and Infrequent Cannabis Users
This content is for educational purposes only. The information provided is derived from research gathered from external sources.

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