The effects of smoking marijuana are well known, ranging from euphoria to paranoia, extreme relaxation to extreme hunger. One that is often discussed – or perhaps often joked about, would be more accurate – involves pot’s tendency to distort time. So, why does time pass slowly when you’re high?

Studies Are In: Time Actually Does Pass Slowly When You’re High

The idea that smoking marijuana will distort your sense of time is not an old wives’ tale. Many studies have shown that this slowing of time does actually occur, and according to researchers, this happens because cannabis somehow increases our internal clock, which results in the perception that external time is moving more slowly.

And it’s not just in people, either. A 2001 study showed that THC causes rats to experience slowed time, and similar studies have indicated the same response in monkeys.

Why Does Being High Make Time Pass Slowly?

So why exactly does it happen? The fact is that we don’t really know. But there are a few theories:

It’s biological

Our perception of time is largely driven by a part of our brains called the thalamo-cortico-striatal circuit, which also possesses a massive number of cannabinoid receptors. Some researchers are saying that when THC enters the brain, it disrupts this area on its way to these receptors.

It’s focused perception

This isn’t a scientific theory, but rather one that is often asserted anecdotally. Smoking weed has a tendency to make people focus on whatever they’re doing in the present, which makes each moment seem “timeless”, therefore elongating the sensation of time.

It’s unfocused perception

Others will assert that time slows because of the exact opposite reason – one’s lack of focus. Being high tends to make people daydream a lot more, so when they snap out of these woolgathering sessions, they suddenly find that time has gone by unnoticed.

Short-term memory loss

One common side-effect of smoking cannabis is short-term memory loss, so some smokers assert that marijuana doesn’t make a person experience time more slowly, but that we simply forget what’s happening moment to moment, and all of the sudden we’re surprised to see how much time has gone by.

So what is the real answer? All of these things? None of them? Who knows.

One thing is certain – when you’re dealing with someone who is high, it’s best to forget about keeping an eye on the clock.