As a psychoactive plant, marijuana has long been used for its recreational as well as medicinal effects. Many long-term stoners say they use cannabis to boost creativity, citing the improved creative flow as one of their favorite aspects of the herb. Since there is overwhelming anecdotal evidence linking cannabis and creativity (and creators, for that matter), leading to the common acceptance of the idea in present cannabis culture
So, is our understanding of cannabis’ power to unlock our creative power true, or is just so much blown smoke? Here, we’ll delve into what science and research have to say about the relationship between cannabis and creativity. We’ll take a look at the science of creation and imagination before examining the role cannabis plays in opening up our connection to our creative mind. We’ll also include some guidance on the practical applications of cannabis (and cannabinoids) for harnessing your creative potential.
Creativity & Dopamine: Inside the Brain
Before we go further, we’ll need a cursory understanding how marijuana behaves in the brain. Marijuana contains cannabinoids (specifically THC) that act on our endocannabinoid system to mediate the production and reception of neurotransmitters. THC in particular stimulates dopamine production, which leads in turn to a better mood, relaxed mindset, and general sense of wellbeing.
The more dopamine the brain releases, the more intense the resulting feelings of euphoria become. This high often leads to increased creativity, improved mood, and reduced stress response. Dopamine, amplified by THC, helps regulate specific brain functions to improve focus, mental clarity, and sensory perception.
Creativity & Divergent Thinking
Creativity, based on research, is associated with the brain’s frontal lobe. When cannabis is consumed, it makes this area of the brain more active due to its ability to increase cerebral blood flow (CBF). The activities of these neurotransmitters spur creative outputs.
The frontal lobe also houses what’s called “creative divergent thinking.” One of the metrics in measuring creativity, it helps in coordinating abstract ideas for creative problem-solving. Divergent thinking is imperative for creativity—which is the ability to yield several solutions to a somewhat broad problem.
Divergent thinking is what makes creative thinkers creative. Examples of such are brainstorming, freewriting, and coming up with outside-the-box solutions.
Cannabis Connects Abstract Ideas
A 2015 study by the University College London, reveals that the psychoactive attributes of marijuana can potentially improve divergent thinking. Cannabis increases the ability to form abstract connections leading to breakthroughs of inspiration and ideation.
However, it should be noted that this is only effective when appropriate doses of cannabis are consumed. As too much of this psychoactive plant may lead to the opposite effect.
Cannabis Improves Episodic Memory Retrieval
The memory of autobiographical events such as times, places, and so forth—which can be stated clearly and in detail, is what is called episodic memory. The recollection of these events is one of the main components of the episodic memory process.
Studies show that cannabis can enhance episodic memory retrieval. This improved retrieval of past events can make a person more creative by drawing upon more inspiration.
Cannabis Improves Pattern Recognition
Another important aspect of creativity is pattern recognition. It allows an individual to conclude any sort of data, whether it be visual, mathematical, or semantic.
Pattern recognition helps find solutions to a problem by noticing related things. It helps the brain curate multiple ideas and filters the most relevant one.
A Psychiatric Research study published in 2010, reveals that marijuana consumers show greater ability to connect seemingly disconnected words. Researchers have also found that cannabis users are more able to connect abstract ideas, see patterns easily, and produce more creative ideas.
How to Use Cannabis to Boost Creativity
While weed has been scientifically demonstrated to enhance creativity, it can also have the opposite effect. In circumstances such as using the wrong strains, overdosing, consuming it with the wrong people or environment—can hamper creative output.
Everyone has their level of tolerance and preference. The cannabinoids in weed may affect people differently. Below are some tips to use cannabis to enhance creativity.
- Use Cannabis that contains THC and CBD together
Lastly, when using marijuana to elevate creativity—choose cannabis products wisely. Cannabinoids, as mentioned above, affects people differently so it’s important to choose the right strain for you.
You may start by picking strains that contain a mix of THC and CBD. This is because CBD can prevent THC from producing an overpowering effect. This will allow you to become more focused and productive.
- Pick the right strain – Different marijuana strains produce different effects. Sativa and sativa-dominant strains give a cerebral high which is more likely to boost creativity. On the other hand, indica and indica-dominant strains have a more relaxing, sedative effect. If engaging in creative work, it’s best to avoid overly sedative strains. Instead, pick strains that will make you more alert, energetic, and clear-headed.
- Start with lower doses – When it comes to cannabis and creativity, proper dosage is key. If your goal is to consume weed to boost your creativity, it is always recommended to start with lower doses. Doing so will prevent the possibility of becoming too elevated, or too “high.”
If you’re consuming strains high in THC content and taking it in large doses, chances are, it may make you less creative. This is specifically because if THC content is high it may enhance divergent thinking but may weaken convergent thinking—which is also essential to creative thinking. What’s more is that studies show that a higher dose of THC (22mg) had a strong opposite impact while a lower dose of THC (5.5mg of 19% THC) increases the creative impact on fluency, flexibility, and originality. The research also infers that high doses of cannabis can, in reality, impair divergent thinking. Another reason not to overdose is that too much weed can promote anxiety and restlessness.