MARIJUANA AND CREATIVITY: IS THERE A CONNECTION?

10 hours ago

There seems to be a link between cannabis and enhanced creativity. Many of those who adhere to a 420-friendly lifestyle, as well as many of those who don’t, honestly believe that smoking weed makes you more creative. Are they right? Does cannabis make your creative juices flow or is it just a myth? Let’s try to find out.

The major challenge

A woman is holding a cannabis leaf hiding her eye.
Cannabis can influence creativity despite the way we define this word.

There are a million and one ways to define creativity. We often call people creative, but each time it might mean different things. Some people think it means making the complicated simple, while others believe it’s the ability to connect the unconnected. Creativity covers an immensity of avenues. While art is creative to some, preparing breakfast is where others excel.

Measuring creativity and analyzing it from the scientific perspective is not just challenging, but also highly controversial. Taking this into account, it would require a massive undertaking to study how exactly cannabis changes our thinking and impacts our ability to be creative. Until scientists come to conclusive evidence, let’s see what is known about the link between cannabis and creativity so far.

Why cannabis might make you more creative

Two LED bulbs with cannabis leaves inside.
Cannabis can help overcome stress and anxiety.

Anxiety relief

It’s no secret that Vincent van Gogh, Edward Munch, and some other famous artists used their anxiety as a fuel for their creativity. In fact, many studies suggest that anxiety might be a sign of a creative person or, in other words, it’s the price people have to pay for their ability to imagine things. The world would probably have been robbed of numerous artistic masterpieces if their creators used anti-anxiety medications long-term.

However, anxiety is a double-edge sword. At some point it might prevent you from moving forward, causing creative blocks that are extremely difficult to overcome. This suffocating, hindering kind of anxiety should be eliminated, or else you might be stuck for months.

When used in moderation, cannabis can softly alleviate anxiety no matter where it comes from. If the cannabis strain is rich in CBD, the anti-anxiety effect will be even more pronounced.

Overcoming creative blocks caused by stress and depression

It might take a few puffs to push through depression-induced creative blocks that made you want to bang your head against the wall. If you don’t go overboard with the dosage and frequency of cannabis use, the depression might back off for a while, jumpstarting creative processes you were no longer hoping would return. If an unbearable stress load is what restrains you from creative pursuits, marijuana can help either.

Cannabis enhances cerebral blood flow

Cannabis has been found to increase blood flow to the frontal lobe that is actually in charge of creativity. The tests among people with high creative abilities have demonstrated that there is a strong link between outstanding creative achievements and enhanced cerebral blood flow to that area of the brain. Thus, we can safely say that cannabis can literally make your creative juices flowing.

Divergent thinking and hyperpriming

Divergent thinking, or the process that lets you brainstorm multiple solutions to a broad problem, is essential for creative thinking. You should know that divergent thinking is at work when crazy concepts keep coming to your mind and there seems to be no end to available options.

It has been shown in a number of studies that cannabis typically enhances this kind of thinking. Simply put, it gives rise to psychotomimetic symptoms, which leads to hyperpriming, or the type of divergent thinking that lies in its ability to connect seemingly unrelated concepts.

Cannabis and introspective thinking

Cannabis can put you in a natural state of introspection, letting you turn inward and study your current feelings and life experiences. You can become “comfortably numb” and absent-minded. In such a state you won’t be motivated to create anything, but the emotions you assess while being introspective can be used later as a source for creativity when you go back to your normal mode.

Improving focus

Many ADHD users claim that medical marijuana helps them fight the basic symptoms of their disorder such as inattentiveness, impulsivity, irritability, hyperactivity, etc. Certain cannabis strains in correct doses can bring about jolts of focused energy that might be used to enhance productivity and creativity, sparking inspiration that can be used for brainstorming and detailed tasks. 

Enhanced pattern recognition

Pattern recognition is an essential aspect of being creative. Cannabis can boost one’s ability to recognize patterns in any kind of data, not only visual, but also verbal, mathematical, etc. According to a study by Charles Tart, about a third of cannabis users can see associations and patterns that didn’t have any form and looked meaningless when they were sober. It also means that cannabis users are better able to connect abstract ideas, which might bring valuable insights for those creatively inclined people.

Arguments Against

Symbols of cannabis plants and the ways of consumption.
There’s nothing perfect in the world, so cannabis can have its negative side effects.

Retrospective bias

Hundreds of musicians, artists, brilliant minds, and other celebrities from creative circles claim that cannabis makes brilliant creative ideas appear from thin air. The thing is that they can have brilliant ideas while sober. Their minds are always on the lookout for something new and out-of-the-box. Maybe this is the reason why there are so many creative people among cannabis enthusiasts. They are more open to new experiences, and weed helps them spur imagination by unblocking fears and tensions.

When less creative people smoke weed, they often feel that the thoughts emerging in their head are exceptional and brilliant. But if they record their thoughts and come back to them when they are not under the influence of weed, they are usually disappointed. The great feeling of juggling ultra-creative thoughts simply doesn’t match the actual content of the thoughts.

Reduction in dopamine production (among chronic users)

Cannabis boosts dopamine levels, which is great for creativity. However, the situation is quite the opposite for chronic users. A 2016 study confirmed the link between cannabis use disorders and reduced levels of dopamine in the striatum. The latter is a portion of the brain responsible for attention, working memory, and impulsive behavior. Too little dopamine usually results in less motivation to engage in creative activities. 

Cannabis impairs one’s ability to detect mistakes

Cannabis makes regular users less able to monitor mistakes. This was recently shown in a placebo-controlled study carried out by Mikael Kowal. A famous experiment carried out by NASA suggested the same conclusion. When spiders were given cannabis, they couldn’t complete spinning the web as they gave up halfway through. The portions they have created were much less accurate than those spun by their sober “relatives”.

Memory problem

Cannabis affects memory which can be bad for creativity. Most cannabis lovers find it challenging to bring together long-term memories and short-term memories. This is the reason why we tend to quickly forget ideas that seemed so brilliant while we were high.

On the bright side, sometimes cannabis can enhance episodic memory retrieval, although this phenomenon isn’t well studied. Users report having recalled long-forgotten things from their past in detail.

How to use cannabis to enhance creativity

A hand is holding a joint with cannabis.
It’s good to begin with the low dosage and increase it in some time.

Some tips might help you increase the chances of getting sparks of creativity while using cannabis. Here are the basics:

1.  Start low and go slow

Still, it depends on the kind of activity you’re going to engage in. Overdosing isn’t recommended as high amounts of THC generally make users feel less creative. However, if you’re going to paint, a higher dose edible might turn out to be the right option. If you’re a writer in the wait of an inspiration, microdosing is something you should consider as it will let you sharpen your focus.

2. Stick to strains that are low in myrcene

As a rule, if you use a sedative strain, you will be highly unlikely to do anything creative. Sativa, Indica, or a hybrid? It’s not so simple and doesn’t tell you everything. Classifying all cannabis strains into these two categories is oversimplification. Some Indica strains might make you energized and full of zest, while there are Sativas that might have powerful sedative effects. What does make a difference is the myrcene content. If the strain is low in this terpene, it’s better for getting that creative blood pumping.

Unless you feel that your creative endeavor demands a deep introspection that can be evoked by sleep-inducing buds, opt for myrcene-low strains. 

3. Use CBD-rich strains

Strains that contain a mix of THC and CBD might also help. However, the ratio might be well-balanced. The amount of CBD should be enough to prevent THC from becoming dominating and let you stay focused. 

The Verdict

Cannabis is a wonderful plant that can bring a lot of good things when used wisely. Still, it would be a mistake to think that whenever you use it, it will make you a real artist or a creative genius. It all boils down to the following:

  • How much and how often you consume
  • Whether you’re a creative person when sober
  • What your expectations about using cannabis are
  • The strain of your choice and its THC/CBD ratio
  • Your current psycho-emotional state

Sometimes, for some people, cannabis can really fuel creativity, mostly by endowing you with the ability to make connections between unrelated concepts. However, it doesn’t happen as often as you might think.

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