Cannabis, Depression, and the Auditory Experience by “Anonymous”
The author of this essay is a seventeen-year-old student and practicing musician from Massachusetts. In his essay, he describes the profound positive impact that marijuana has had on his mental health, musical expression, and social life.
For the majority of my life, I have struggled with depression. I consistently try to determine what is amiss in my life that makes me feel this way, but my inability to blame it on any singular cause can be frustrating. However, I had not actually begun to consider the possibility that I was depressed until a few months ago, when I first tried marijuana.
Despite the fact that I was hardly aware I might be depressed at the time, I believe that it was the way I felt that first drew me to marijuana, rather than any desire to be “cool” or otherwise socially accepted. I was aware that I had been lied to about the dangers of pot while growing up, and my opinionated and passionate personality had led me to develop an acute understanding of the injustices imposed upon recreational marijuana users by our own government and society at large. I only tried marijuana because I knew from my own research that the risks were minimal. Since then, I have been possessed by an unstoppable drive to advocate for a radical change in our country’s policies regarding the use of marijuana. My first hit of weed was the catalyst that led me to adopt a cause I plan to fight tooth-and-nail for now and in the future. Weed gave me a cause to rally behind, a cause to believe in.
It seems that many of my peers are drawn to weed because they like to “get messed up” and party. I, on the other hand, see more merit in the introspective and contemplative thought that comes along with the high, as well as the heightened appreciation of music and aesthetics. Smoking pot socially is always fun, and it’s undeniable that pot brings people together in special ways. The stoner subculture is one of peace, acceptance, tolerance, and understanding. But the intellectual and spiritual aspects of the high are what kept me coming back.
I began smoking pot alone every now and again and using the time to think deeply about what I do and do not know about myself, why I feel the way I do, my personal relationships, and how I can better myself as a human being. I’ve spent time contemplating human nature and why we behave the way we do, which has led me towards an interest in psychology. But most importantly, I came to several conclusions about the nature of my own depression. I realized that I shouldn’t feel the way I do, that my lackluster effort in school was the result of the way I felt every day, and that I needed to take the initiative to bring my depression to an end. Simply remedying it with medication was not enough for me, and I dismissed the possibility of going on antidepressants. Being high was an instant fix for several hours in and of itself, but after some time, everyday sober life had taken on a renewed glamour and sense of excitement as well. I was not cured, but I had taken my first step towards beating my depression. I knew something was wrong, and I was going to make it right.
Social interaction while stoned is a unique experience. I can have a conversation with the same level of depth and clarity as I could while sober, but I pick up on things that normally slip past me; I can psychoanalyze people on a rudimentary level while carrying on with an everyday conversation. I believe that the insights I’ve had thus far about human nature have been spot-on, as my experience with people while stoned has reinforced these very ideas rather conclusively.
Marijuana has enhanced my appreciation of aesthetics, as well. After further experimentation, I began to appreciate aspects of everyday life that I had otherwise ignored or been blind to. Even while sober, the world seemed more beautiful. Not quite as stunning as it was through the looking-glass of a cannabis high, but there was still a renewed sense of beauty and wonder in the outside world, even when I was completely sober. I believe that there is an aspect of existence that we are unable to comprehend with our senses, in the same way that bees are aware of colors we cannot see. And I believe that marijuana (as well as other psychedelics) temporarily expands that margin, allowing us to become privy to sights, sounds, emotions, and ideas that we cannot or would not normally experience. And when these experiences come to an end, we are left with a taste of the things we witnessed, and we can project them back onto our everyday lives to experience common things in a new and more vibrant light.
Music is perhaps the most important aspect of the marijuana experience for me. When I am high, music takes on a transcendent beauty, richness, and complexity that is often too immense in scope to put into words. I am a practicing musician myself, playing guitar, bass guitar, and drums, so I listen to music a bit differently than non-musicians. While I can appreciate a piece of music as a single, cohesive work of art, I also take great pleasure in singling out specific instruments and appreciating the ways in which they contribute to the song as a whole. When stoned, certain instruments that are sometimes difficult to hear in the mix (bass guitar, I’m thinking of you) come to the forefront, and this increased clarity allows me to hear and appreciate bass runs and drum fills that had otherwise slipped right by me while sober. It can be difficult to explain the way music sounds when high to someone who has never experienced it themselves; allow me to remedy this with an admittedly stolen analogy from somewhere on the internet. For me, “the difference between listening to music sober and listening to music high is comparable to the difference between listening to music on a cheap radio and listening to music in a grand concert hall.”
The other side of the musical coin – playing, rather than listening – has been polished by marijuana as well. While I was always confident in my compositions, and I’m very aware that I don’t need marijuana to write interesting music, I feel that my playing takes on a new dimension when I am high. Instead of concerning myself with the intricacies of classical theory and proper technique, I simply play what I feel, and the end product is always satisfactory. When I worry too much about whether what I just wrote or played is classically acceptable, my music takes on a sterile and overly-polished quality. But when I play and write music stoned, more raw emotion and random experimentation seeps into my work, and I believe that is what truly matters. My technical skills are also executed more cleanly when I am high. I have tested myself on complex guitar pieces and such while sober and then while stoned, and I can say without any amount of doubt that my playing is tighter and more refined while I am high. It does not have any negative impact on my coordination whatsoever. All in all, I am more creative, confident, and technically skilled at my instruments when high.
I believe that cannabis has extraordinary potential as a tool for recreation, as a tool for social interaction, as a tool for psychological insight, and as a tool for artistic expression. I have come to life-altering conclusions as a result of my marijuana use, and I feel they have changed my life only for the better. I feel as if victory over depression is just around the bend, and I wouldn’t be remotely as close to that as I am today without having experimented with marijuana. It may not be a cure-all, but neither is Prozac; my goal is not to need either, but to finally develop a philosophy about life that will help me manage my depression. And marijuana has exhibited extraordinary potential in helping me achieve this end.