U-M Study Reveals Cannabis Use Among Programmers

A new study has revealed that cannabis use is common among software programmers, even while working.

According to the study, conducted by University of Michigan (U-M) researchers, many software programmers use cannabis to help boost their creativity and get them in the zone.

Researchers say they based their study on anecdotal evidence that indicated programmers were more prone to using cannabis while working.

For the study, U-M researchers distributed a survey to more than 800 developers.

U-M researchers say their primary motivation was the fact that drug testing policies are still common in the programming sector.

According to researchers, drug testing policies may contribute to hiring shortages for some jobs.

In the survey summary, researchers stated that cannabis prohibition in software engineering had contributed to United States government hiring shortages.

Survey Focus

The research team centered its analysis around four questions:

  • RQ1-Usage: Do programmers use cannabis while programming? If so, how often?
  • RQ2-Context: In what contexts do programmers use cannabis?
  • RQ3-Motivation: Why do programmers use cannabis?
  • RQ4-Perception: How do opinions of programming cannabis use vary between managers, employees, and students?

Researchers say that, despite differences in perceptions of cannabis approval level and visibility, rates of use while programming were similar among employees, managers, and students.

According to the study, 35 percent of participants had used cannabis while programming software or completing other related tasks, and more than 70 percent of those admitted they had used it within the past year.

While 53 percent said they had used cannabis when programming more than ten times, 27 percent admitted using it at least two times a week.

Four percent said they used cannabis on the job daily.

Why Use Cannabis and Program

Researchers say approximately 30 percent of respondents indicated they used cannabis for wellness reasons.

Researchers point out that while wellness inspired cannabis use while programming, it was not the primary motivation.

When asked why they chose to use cannabis, programmers responded that it made programming tasks more enjoyable and helped them devise creative solutions.

“We find that cannabis use while programming is more commonly motivated by perceived programming-related skill enhancement than by medical reasons,” states the report. “This aligns with perceptions among a subset of students and younger people that cannabis use may enhance creativity or cognitive performance.”

According to U-M researchers, the most common tasks among cannabis-consuming programmers were coding, testing, prototyping, and brainstorming.

Though cannabis was the focus of the study, researchers say that there may be other understudied mind-altering substances, like psychedelics, that interact with programming.

Researchers state that they hope their work inspires research centered on programming and mind-altering substances from multiple angles like company drug policies, programming productivity, and socio-technical considerations.