Can consuming marijuana really make you more creative? 

Can consuming marijuana really make you more creative?  It’s an age old question and the reason it’s become an age-old question is because there’s no clear answer to it.  To begin with, how do you measure creativity in scientific terms?  Then how do you isolate on cannabis to determine see what role (if any), it plays in the creative process?

The science of measuring creativity

Leaving aside the topic of marijuana and the creative process, there are compelling reasons to look for a scientific way of measuring creativity (regardless of whether it’s fuelled by cannabis or purely inherent in the individual).  One of the main drivers for this is that these days, creativity is hugely valued by employers since it is associated with “out-of-the-box thinking” and hence with innovative problem-solving skills.  In other words, while creative talents such as musicians may be the ones who gather headlines, it’s the creativity of unsung talents such as scientists, engineers, product developers and so forth which has led to many of the inventions we appreciate today.

cannabis-creativityBecause of this, scientific studies regarding marijuana and the creative process have tended to look at whether cannabis helps people to come up with creative solutions to problems.  For example, a recent study in the Netherlands, asked 60 people to brainstorm a list of uses for everyday items and compared the creativity of the results obtained after using marijuana (a high dose and a low dose) with those obtained without the help of THC.  The conclusion of the study was that cannabis was actually a negative influence on the creative process.

While the study in question was scientifically valid in its approach, it was based on the premise that “creativity” is the same as “problem-solving skills”, but marijuana has always been associated with the world of art in its broadest sense, particularly the world of music and musicians and it’s hard to see how a study which measured people’s ability to brainstorm unusual uses for everyday objects could be applied to the skills (and talent) needed to create original lyrics or inventive riffs.  In other words, the “creative professions” are a long way away from the worlds of science, engineering and so forth.

If it’s difficult (impossible) to come up with an objective measure for creativity, then perhaps the best approach would be to to look at how cannabis influences brain function.  The beneficial properties of marijuana are thanks to two chemical compounds known as THC and CBD.  THC is by far the quicker-acting of the two and typically gets to work in a matter of seconds after inhalation (it can take longer when used as an edible or topical, but is still much quicker than CBD).

The science of a THC high

thc-creativityYour body is essentially a mosaic of living cells and the cells inside the brain are called neurons.  Neurons communicate with each other by means of neurotransmitters, which are essentially a mobile phone network for the brain.  THC can mimic or block the actions of neurotransmitters, thereby influencing the behaviour of the brain.  For example, while THC itself cannot necessarily cure the underlying medical conditions which make us feel pain, it can tell our brain to stop sending us pain signals and thereby stop us feeling the pain.

In fact, THC does a lot more than just stop us feeling pain.  It stimulates the production of dopamine and simulates the effects of anandamide, both of which are neurotransmitters which are closely linked with feelings of pleasure.  While these may not boost creativity in and of themselves, they may well remove the inhibitions which might otherwise hinder you from really letting loose your creative streak.

Furthermore, it is known that the brain has a remarkable ability to make connections between complex emotional states and simple sensory triggers such as colours, sounds and smells, this phenomenon is known as priming and some scientists believe that marijuana activates “hyper priming”, basically a state in which the brain makes the loosest of connections between feelings and stimuli.  This may be because cannabis heightens sensory perception.  It is known to enhance the sense of smell and also makes colours appear brighter and deeper.  This could easily provide a basis for more creative descriptions or interpretations of life, the universe and everything around us.

Are creative people drawn to marijuana?

cannabis-creative-ideas

Fundamentally, creativity is about making something new, whether that’s something physical like a work of art or a new way of expressing an age-old sentiment such as in a rap song.  It is therefore reasonable to assume that creative people are people who are drawn to new experiences and in some cases at least possibly to pushing boundaries, hence the attraction to marijuana which not only provides a new high each time you use it but has long been illegal in most of the world (in fact in many places it still is).

Perhaps the answer is that creative people use cannabis to boost their creativity.

There is an endless list of successful people who have acknowledged using marijuana, many of whom are celebrated artists, in fact some of the biggest names in music have credited marijuana with helping to unleash their innate creative talents.  While Bob Marley almost certainly has to go at the top of any list of marijuana-inspired musicians, there are plenty of celebrated musicians who have praised marijuana. Madonna, Lady Gaga and Miley Cyrus are three names which spring to mind.

With the legalization of marijuana continuing apace, it may not be long before we see celebrity-endorsed cannabis strains in the same way as we see other brand promotions.  While Snoop Dogg has long been known for his support for legal cannabis, the first major celebrity to promote their own brand of marijuana may turn out to be endorsement queen Rihanna, who happily fills up her Instagram feed with pictures of her using cannabis and in addition to being a talented writer and singer, is also one of the most financially-astute celebrities around right now.

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