Why Music Sounds Better When You’re High
2 min

Why Music Sounds Better When You’re High

2 min

Drugs have long been associated with music. Not only with artists but also their listeners. We take a look to find out why music sounds better when you're high.

Since humans first walked the earth, music has long been a part of life. Early humans would sing, bang rocks together and even make instruments from animal bones to create music. They would also use stimulating fungi and plants to heighten their enjoyment of the music they would create.

Cannabis and other drugs have long been associated with music, serving as an inspirational aid for many artists - from Brian Wilson to Snoop Dogg. They have also been featured as a prominent theme for the music itself, ranging from psychedelic sixties rock all the way through to present day hip-hop. It is not only the creators of such music that use cannabis to present their ideas, it is also the listener that often partakes as a way of enjoying and experiencing the music. But why does music sound better when you’re high?


One of the biggest effects of cannabis is the manipulation of perception. The active ingredient, THC, affects the brain’s sense of timing and pleasure centre. This causes a disruption in short-term memory, allowing the brain to produce feelings of connectedness and a sense of overall enhanced enjoyment. Cannabis and music separately provide an emotional response. With both combined they produce a much stronger one. Daniel J. Levitin, author of "The World in Six Songs" explains that "The disruption of short-term memory thrusts listeners into the moment of the music as it unfolds; unable to explicitly keep in mind what has just been played. They live for each note, completely in the moment."

Although cannabis can create feelings of anxiety and paranoia with some users, Music has the ability to calm and reduce stress and in turn, can counteract some of the negative side effects of cannabis.

Whilst most people believe that we can only hear music and not feel it, those who have taken cannabis and listened to music often describe it as textured and with more depth, making the listener feel like they’ve had a profound experience. We are sure everyone that has been high will be able to relate to the sensation of being fixated on something and feeling much more connected to his or her surroundings. An fMRI (Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging) study undertaken in 2011 showed that there were modulations caused in visual and auditory processing caused by THC. Joe Dolce, author of Brave New Weed explains, "The different areas of the brain have these very vague borders, they're controlled chemically and the theory is that cannabis loosens these borders so we can feel music more deeply."

It’s not only cannabis that has found its way into the music scene. Other drugs, such as MDMA, have become a part of music culture over recent years, predominantly in clubs and at music festivals.

MDMA works by affecting the levels of serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. These are neurotransmitters in the brain that are directly responsible for emotion, motivation and also memory. MDMA, when taken, causes a huge reaction with these brain chemicals and increases more positive emotions like confidence, happiness, and love. Couple this with the already established positive effects of music and you can see why it might be appealing to use these substances whilst going to a club or listening to your favourite music.

This is not a guarantee you will have the best night of your life. A lot of other factors are important such as dosage, your own well-being but also the overall quality of the substance itself. As much as clubs and festivals try to offer other ways of stimulating you by using a bigger sound system as well as lighting, the real stimulation can be happening inside of your brain.

Even though science has only briefly investigated the phenomenon, it is easy to see why drugs and music are so closely linked. Without a doubt, they can enhance and unravel the deeper aspects of what we listen too. Just remember, setting and situation can also play a large part. At the end of the day everyone makes their own decisions, but always be responsible.

Luke Sumpter
Luke Sumpter
With a BSc (Hons) degree in Clinical Health Sciences and a passion for growing plants, Luke Sumpter has worked as a professional journalist and writer at the intersection of cannabis and science for the past 7 years.
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