How Does Cannabis Boost Creativity?

Pull your rolling gear out, smoke one and find the muse in the world surrounding you!
10 February 2021
12 min read
How Does Cannabis Boost Creativity?

Contents:

Ever since we can remember, cannabis and arts have been linked together, it seems almost as if these two were the peanut butter and jelly to our sandwich. And while getting everyone to agree on something can be a difficult task, when it comes to marijuana's capacity to boost creativity you'll get a 'hell yeah' as an answer for sure. 

How many times have you smoked one and ended up extra inspired to make a drawing or painting, or perhaps to play some music on your guitar, bass or any other instrument, to write something, and more? And what about films and series or museums as well? When you smoke a joint and sit through art, don't you feel more connected?

 

Of course those puffs of weed just threw you into a creative state of mind!

Of course those puffs of weed just threw you into a creative state of mind!

 

We've even heard of those who smoke and feel that boost to make order in their house as they blast up some jams, which is a sort of creativity. So, in conclusion, we can reaffirm that marijuana boosts creativity indeed. But how exactly does this happen?

That's what we're set to find out in this article. 

1. What Is Creativity and Divergent Thinking?

To begin with, let's see what we can consider as creativity. In the dictionary, creativity is defined as the inclination to produce or recognize ideas, alternatives, or possibilities that may help solve problems, provide entertainment for ourselves and/or others, and communicate. 1 

 

What is considered creativity and how does cannabis boost it?

What is considered creativity and how does cannabis boost it?

 

Furthermore, according to Cambridge's definition, creativity is the ability to produce or use original and unusual ideas. The American psychologist Dr. Ellis Paul Torrance, however, made a more complex definition, which might be slightly more accurate. 

"Creativity is a process of becoming sensitive to problems, deficiencies, gaps in knowledge, missing elements, disharmonies, and so on; identifying the difficulty; searching for solutions, making guesses, or formulating hypotheses about the deficiencies: testing and retesting these hypotheses and possibly modifying and retesting them; and finally communicating the results." 2

However, creativity is so subjective that its definition can vary from one person to another, since what does science or book definitions really know about creativity?

Divergent Thinking

Well, to answer that previous question, science turns to divergent thinking as a way to measure creativity. It is considered to be a type of thought process that analyzes all possible solutions, or as many as one can think of, and normally in a brainstorm kind of way, which means, spontaneously, in a non-linear way, and allowing thoughts and ideas to flow freely. 4

 

Science measures creativity through divergent thinking, which is boosted with cannabis.

Science measures creativity through divergent thinking, which is boosted with cannabis.

 

Divergent thinking is associated with these methods of brainstorming, a.k.a. producing ideas in a short lapse of time, without judging them for what they are, but allowing more, newer ideas to keep coming up. 

Some of the methods to boost divergent thinking include: 

  • Brainstorming: shooting ideas randomly, without a precise order or sense, but most of the time aiming towards a specific goal;
  • Keeping a journal: it can help register random ideas that may come up during the day, gathering a collection of thoughts;
  • Freewriting: when for a certain time period, a person is set to write non-stop about a particular subject;
  • Mind or subject mapping: normally done after a brainstorm, it is the act of building a map in which the random ideas are somehow connected. You start off with an idea and go all the way to its branches. 

So, how does cannabis help to boost these processes of creativity and divergent thinking?

2. Cannabis, Creativity and It's Functioning On The Brain

Science has found that the part of the brain connected with creativity is the frontal cortex because it is this part of the brain the one that's in charge of the essential cognitive processes involved with creativity: 5

  • Working memory: it is a memory system in our brain which has a limited capacity, responsible for remembering things in the short-term, processing, and manipulating information;
  • Abstraction:  it is a thought process characterized by adaptability and flexibility. Abstraction is liked to the more undefinable side of life, it is considering thoughts that aren't exactly concrete, or specific objects, it could involve concepts or feelings;
  • Planning: a set of functions in the brain that are essential for controlling behavior. This part is the one required to make the idea take formal and get closer to achieve the final goal.
  • And cognitive flexibility: it is the capacity to switch easily between thinking about two completely different concepts, to think about various concepts at the same time, or even find a link between completely unrelated concepts as well.

Since marijuana has shown to increase the blood's flow in the frontal lobe, in turn, this part becomes more active, which means, more creative in some cases. In fact, a study led in 1993 could actually demonstrate that cerebral blood flow (CBF) indeed increases when a person consumes marijuana. 

The study stated that, when two persons with high and low creativity, though that's completely subjective in our opinion, are compared, the first one has both, a higher baseline frontal lobe activity, and a wider frontal increase as he or she performs tasks that involve creativity. This activity stimulates creative output in two instances.

 

Cannabis boosts blood's flow in the frontal lobe, in charge of creativity.

Cannabis boosts blood's flow in the frontal lobe, in charge of creativity.

 

In the first place, it turns on the area surrounding the nucleus accumbens in the brain, which is the part of the brain most famously known for being involved in the reward circuit, acting as a mediator of reward. Secondly, it's in the frontal lobe where the phenomenon of creative divergent thinking takes place, hence, creativity. 7

3. What's The Ideal Dose Of Cannabis To Boost Creativity?

While most of us stoners can affirm the effectiveness of marijuana for boosting creativity from our own individual point of view, we can also affirm that many times cannabis ended up rendering us useless, most likely those times where we had smoked a lot. 

In fact, a study led in 2014 found that different doses of cannabis produced different effects on people and their creative processes. The study consisted of three groups of people who were all stoners, which were administered three different types of doses, a low one, a high one, and a placebo. 8

As a result, the low dose group was found to improve in two major aspects of divergent thinking, fluency regarding the number of active responses provided, and flexibility in the diversity of the answers. However, the placebo group was quite close to the results of this group on this aspect as well. 

 

Low doses of cannabis are best to boost creativity.

Low doses of cannabis are best to boost creativity.

 

When it came to originality, a.k.a. creating something new and unique, the low dose group won by far, followed by the placebo group. Meanwhile, the high dose group showed poor results in all of the points mentioned before except for one. 

When it came to elaboration regarding the explanation and details of the responses, the super stoned group took the lead, while the low dose and placebo ones ended up in a tie. So we can conclude that marijuana does influence creativity but in high doses, you might end up in a vegetable state of mind. 

4. The Bottom Line

So, while we all tend to believe that marijuana boosts creativity, and it does, it only works in lower doses. Then if you want to use weed as your friend to create, definitely do so, but be aware of the fact that too much may cause unproductiveness

Anyway, as much as we like to rely on studies, not everything is as black or white as science likes to differ, and perhaps you're one of those in the grey area, who can smoke tons of marijuana and end up creating beautiful masterpieces

What we mean is, nothing is too clear when it comes to creativity, and for some reason it is that every true artist is different from others, because their brains work in their own unique ways. Don't try to fit into any box that isn't your own, and enjoy whatever works for you, lots of weed and creating or maybe lower doses. 

 

EXTERNAL REFERENCES

  1. "What is creativity?" Human Motivation, 3rd ed., by Robert E. Franken. 1994. 
  2. "Creativity" Cambridge Dictionary. 
  3. "Scientific Views of Creativity and Factors Affecting Its Growth" Vol. 94, No. 3, Creativity and Learning. Dr. E. Paul Torrance. Summer 1965.
  4. "Strategies of Divergent Thinking" University of Washington. 
  5. "Connecting the Dots: Your Brain and Creativity" Dita Cavdarbasha and Jake Kurczek. May 2017.
  6. "Acute changes in cerebral blood flow after smoking marijuana" R. J. Mathew and W. H. Wilson. 1993. 
  7. "Frontal lobe neurology and the creative mind" Leonardo Cruz de Souza, Henrique Guimarães, Antônio Lúcio Teixeira, Paulo Caramelli, Richard Levy, Bruno Dubois, and Emmanuelle Volle. July 2014. 
  8. "Cannabis and creativity: highly potent cannabis impairs divergent thinking in regular cannabis users" Mikael A. Kowal, Arno Hazekamp, Lorenza S. Colzato, Henk van Steenbergen, Nic J. A. van der Wee, Jeffrey Durieux, Meriem Manai, and Bernhard Hommel. October 2014. 

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