Does Cannabis Make You More Creative?
It often seems that being more creative as a result of psychoactive drug use is an almost guaranteed by-product. Those once mundane character types start seeing things they only ever dreamed of, feeling inspired to branch out creatively. Our much-loved herb is no different, with many an influential individual, attributing some of their best-loved creations being conceived whilst under the influence of smoking cannabis. Is this just another popular culture bandwagon though? It would appear on the face of it that it is very much a case of people versus science, with science summarizing that THC had no creativity-enhancing effects when a study was conducted back in 2014.
Is this is a case of placebo and generalization run wild, backed by a desire from the masses to be part of the creative arts? Seeing cannabis as a way to “improve” creativity would surely unlock this field for many who didn't think it possible. Let us start by seeing what the people say when it comes to the use of cannabis aiding their creative ventures.
What People Say
Quotes from famous creative users are in abundance, with not stone left unturned. Musicians, authors, entrepreneurs and, of course, philosophers all offering their praise to the use of cannabis having a beneficial effect on creativity. It may come as not surprise that artists such as Bob Marley once said "Music and herb go together. Its been a long time now I smoke herb. From the 1960s when I start singing."
More recent artist even include the likes of Jay-Z, "I smoked some weed, and that's how I finished Izzo".
When you consider the success that just these two artists have had, or even would have had in Bob Marley's case it is hard not to want even a portion of that. If cannabis can bring some of that success then it is no wonder that people often turn to cannabis as a means of overcoming writers block or boosting creativity. However in just these two artists it is fair to say that multiple successful ventures have been had without the use of cannabis, so is it more a case of how creative the person is naturally?
What Science Says
A study conducted in 2014 by Institute of Psychology, Leiden University found that receiving high doses of THC had a negative effect on the candidate's ability to solve the tasks they were set.
The study split 54 cannabis users into 3 groups. The first group was given 22mg of THC each, the second group 5.5mg and the third group a placebo. The candidates were not told what dosage they had been given and the cannabis was consumed through a vaporizer. The tests administered involved testing their divergent and convergent thinking. Divergent thinking involves coming up with a multitude of answers, whilst convergent thinking is limited to a few possible answers. In this case, the first test entailed “Think of as many uses as you can for a pen” whilst the second test consisted of “what is the link between the words 'time', 'hair' and 'stretching'.
Although participants in the low-dose or placebo group displayed better creative thinking skills compared to those in the high dose group, there were no signs of increased creativity in their performance. On this occasion, this particular study refutes any claims that smoking cannabis increases our ability to think creatively. However with so many creative people claiming cannabis as an enhancer, both famous and nonfamous, there must be something more to it...
The Middle Ground
With a resounding 'yes' from the people in regards to cannabis improving creative thinking, surely the study conducted was not conclusive enough, missing that final piece of the puzzle. To understand marijuanas creative boosting effects we need to understand what makes the brain creative in the first place. When completing creative tasks those with high creativity have a higher baseline for frontal lobe activity (the frontal part of the brain), whilst performing creative tasks. The frontal lobe increases creativity in two ways; firstly by being the headquarters for divergent thinking, the ability to solve problems with a variety of answers or to coin a popular phrase “thinking outside the box”. Secondly, it hosts the nucleus accumbens, a collection of neurons that play an important role in reward, pleasure, laughter, addiction and rhythmic timing for musicians.
So how does frontal lobe activity relate to cannabis affecting creativity? Marijuana has been shown to increase frontal lobe activity by increasing the cerebral blood flow to this area. When thinking creatively the frontal part of your brain requires more energy, in this case, more blood to bring it the glucose and oxygen it needs. If cannabis is increasing this generation of blood to the brain, it could allow those with a high baseline to maintain or increase creativity when others would decrease, lacking the stimuli of the increased CBF (cerebral blood flow).
Whilst there can be no doubting some of the research that has been performed in this area, there is still an overwhelming response from individual users about how cannabis has improved or aided them in thinking creatively. We have all come to know and love that feeling of euphoria that cannabis brings, blending our senses. It could simply be that this state created by cannabis allows us to be more receptive. With our senses blurred, we think less critically about the world around us and ultimately the painting, music or idea in front of us. One thing is certain, though, the jury is still out on this hotly debated topic. More research is needed before a definitive yes or no answer can be reached but in the meantime, conducting your own research is strongly recommended!
Written by: Lucas
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