Autonomous sensory meridian response, better known as ASMR, is one of the stranger phenomena to sweep the internet in recent memory. Sometimes described as a “brain orgasm,” it typically involves a tingling sensation on the back of the head or spine, which is triggered by various sounds. An enormous, multifaceted universe of ASMR videos are now available online, and a surprising number of them involve cannabis.
Some are the product of artists who focus specifically on cannabis, such as Kush Evelia, whose videos touch on many aspects of cannabis culture. But cannabis-themed ASMR videos are also being embraced by “mainstream” artists such as GwenGwiz ASMR, a primarily beauty-focused YouTuber whose “Canna Clinic Roleplay” video has amassed over 433,000 views.
As many viewers have commented, there seems to be a natural connection between cannabis and ASMR. Euphoria and relaxation are two of the plant’s most well known side effects, while ASMR has been found to have similar effects on the brain. According to Dr. Craig Richard, professor of biopharmaceutical science at Shenandoah University and the coordinator of the world’s largest ASMR database, the videos can trigger a sensation “similar to the deep relaxation someone might feel if they’re getting a massage.”
In an increasingly agitated and anxious world, the combination of cannabis and ASMR seems to be an attractive one for a growing number of people.
The brain-tingling ASMR corner of the internet is comprised of a vast range of videos. Some involve YouTubers reading from a book or a screenplay in gentle, whispered tones. Others focus on mundane things like crinkling wrapping paper, stirring a bowl of soup, or spraying a water bottle. And then there are the roleplay videos, in which creators act out the persona of a certain person such as a doctor.
Many new cannabis-focused ASMR videos don’t diverge from more traditional types, except that they often include cannabis products. For example, GwenGwiz’s “Canna Clinic” video is mainly a showcase of cannabis beauty products. The artist shares her knowledge of these in hushed tones, tapping and scraping her fingernails slowly against product packaging, opening and closing them in what could be seen as a seductive style. In short, the video offers ASMR enthusiasts everything they’ve come to expect from a video, with the addition of some legal cannabis product reviews.
However, other videos draw directly from obscure parts of cannabis culture to provide a more unusual ASMR experience. A prime example are “dab melt videos,” in which a piece of cannabis resin is heated with a blowtorch or other device until it bubbles and dissolves into a puddle. According to Mashable, these videos are “oddly satisfying” for cannabis enthusiasts, a sentiment that is corroborated in thousands of viewer comments.
Cannabis ASMR videos have also attracted a number of high-profile celebrity devotees, such as Kathy Bates, the Academy Award-winning actress who starred in productions like “Titanic” and “The Office”, along with the recently cancelled Netflix series “Disjointed,” in which she played a cannabis dispensary owner. An outspoken advocate for cannabis, Bates recently tweeted out her own cannabis-themed ASMR video, along with the caption, “ASMR + weed = extreme tingles.”
Cannabis’ mood-enhancing effects have been relatively well established in scientific circles for some time, and there does seem to be some evidence that ASMR could have similar effects. A 2015 study published in PeerJ explored the effects of ASMR and found that it can improve mood and even reduce pain symptoms through varying common triggers. But because ASMR is such a new phenomenon, researchers haven’t quite been able to explain ASMR and the science behind these videos’ effects just yet.
“ASMR could just be a way of activating the pleasure response,” Steven Novella, a clinical neurologist at Yale University School of Medicine, told Vox. “We have a range of likes and dislikes, and there are individuals and even subcultures that seem to have a different pattern of pleasure stimulation than what is typical.”
With the rise of cannabis ASMR videos, it appears that yet another of these subcultures is ready to flourish.