Cannabis has a complicated reputation, to say the least. There are, of course, the “stoners” that have no ambition and struggle to put two coherent thoughts together. You know, the kids who puffed behind the school whose eyes were always slightly bloodshot? Stoners are every parent’s favorite PSA against weed.
But another side of cannabis is its reputation for letting creativity blossom and flourish when the body’s natural inhibitors would otherwise quash it down. Famous creatives like The Beatles, Snoop Dogg, Lady Gaga, Willie Nelson, Sarah Silverman, and Ben and Jerry all have been consistent proponents of weed in the creative process. Lady Gaga even going so far as to say, “I have to be high to be creative.”
So what is it about The Bud that makes people feel more creative? Can it really boost creativity, or is it all in their heads?
The Science For Creativity
Your brain is sectioned off into different areas, but it goes beyond left-side-is-analytical and right-side-is-creative. The front of your brain, for instance, is called the frontal lobe, and it is partly responsible for creative thinking. When you use cannabis products, your body sends more blood to that area of your brain, making things work a little better than they might otherwise. The brain also experiences a wash of dopamine after you take a hit, which makes you feel happier about things in general, which can help creativity.
Additionally, certain cannabis products can help relieve stressors that can otherwise prevent the mind from embracing creative solutions. When the body has chronic pain, anxiety, depression, or fatigue, it can be challenging to come up with abstract solutions to everyday problems. Specific strains of Mary Jane can help alleviate those issues, which frees up the mind to think more creatively.
Some of the areas that cannabis can improve with proper dosage appear to be the ability to connect unrelated thoughts, find multiple words, develop out-of-the-box solutions to common problems, and increase mental flexibility.
The Science Against Creativity
The problem is that there is also science that states that cannabis can impair creative thinking. Since “creativity” is very subjective, this study measured it by a test subject’s ability to make convergent or divergent solutions to a particular problem. A convergent solution is considered fairly straight-forward. For example, if you are trying to get from point A to point B, you travel in a straight line. A divergent solution is essentially jumping the tracks and brainstorming lots of possible other ways to get from point A to point B. AKA divergence = creativity.
The study showed that people that were given small doses of cannabis products and placebos have similar numbers of divergent thoughts (similar creative levels), while people given high doses of cannabis had fewer overall divergent thoughts (less creativity overall). The conclusion from that study was that cannabis appears to inhibit creative thinking in heavy users.
So why the discrepancy?
There are a lot of possible reasons why both personal experience/science and science/science don’t match up. In the studies, there are always outlying conditions that are influenced by human error. Additionally, people’s bodies, life experiences, genetics, metabolisms, moods, and ages play factors in how different bodies process cannabis.
There are also so many different strains these days, and not all of them can tout creativity as a primary side effect. Some strains that are CBD-dominant, for instance, will help dull your mind to help you sleep, which inevitably takes creativity off the table (for a few hours, at least). The way you partake and the circumstances you participate under can also influence how creatively you respond after using cannabis products.
Using the wrong strain for you or overdoing it can also lead to outcomes that inhibit creativity. Using too much too quickly can make you feel jumpy or paranoid, which aren’t conducive mindsets to brainstorm new, big ideas.
If you want to use weed specifically to boost your creativity, it’s important that you choose the proper strain and go slowly. Look for something with a relatively low dose of THC so that you can maintain your faculties. As you search through dispensaries, look at the expected outcomes for the particular strains because some strains are specifically bred to help boost creative levels and get you thinking out-of-the-box.
Some people wonder if cannabis makes people creative or if creative people just tend to like cannabis. Unfortunately, there isn’t a correct answer. It seems to make less-creative people more creative, but the existing evidence shows that it doesn’t do much for people who are already creative thinkers.
However you most enjoy cannabis – as a blunt, through a bong, via dry herb vaporizers, or using a one hitter– by choosing the right strain and using it under the correct circumstances, you can potentially have a burst of creativity that can help you write that song, finish that painting, or come up with a solution for making the budgets finally align.