Is there a link between cannabis and creativity?
If you’ve ever partaken in cannabis, you might know that a sudden spark of creative energy can sometimes happen while immersed in your “high.”
But why does cannabis seem to make this happen?
What does science say about this abrupt activation of the creative fountain within?
In this article, we will discuss and dissect some topics related to cannabis and creativity, such as:
- What is meant by “creativity?”
- Why does cannabis sometimes induce the creative process?
- Do certain varieties of cannabis have more creative-inducing effects?
- How do individual personalities affect cannabis-stimulated creativity?
Other common names for cannabis that you might see are marijuana, pot, weed, Mary-Jane, or ganja.
Check out this hilarious (and creative) pot-inspired version of Baby Shark, Reggae Shark (you will laugh so hard).
Novel thoughts, instant insights, and a fast-flowing stream of consciousness are common side effects of the high that some cannabis induces.
Many musicians, actors, and artists even admit to using cannabis to enhance their creative process.
They claim it makes their minds and bodies unhindered and open, allowing them to push limits, break boundaries, and take their artistic innovations further than ever before.
So, why does cannabis cause us to feel extra creative?
Before we get into that, let’s clarify exactly what the “creative process” means.
What is Meant by “Being Creative?”
In his popular podcast Huberman Lab, Dr. Andrew Huberman, a neuroscientist, and professor in the neurobiology department at Stanford School of Medicine, discusses the mental processes that contribute to creativity and comprise the process of creative thinking.
According to Professor Huberman, the first step in the creative process is called divergent thinking.
Divergent thinking means brainstorming or exploring lots of different ideas.
The second step in the mental creative process is convergent thinking.
Convergent thinking is taking a lot of loose ideas, such as those gathered during a brainstorming session, and weaving them together to associate them using their common themes.
So, for your brain to participate in creativity, it must first use divergent thinking, the mining and discovering of ideas.
Then it must use convergent thinking, linking those discovered ideas in a way that makes sense.
Cannabis and Creativity
Scientific studies have shown a link between cannabis use and increased creativity.
However, it’s been found that this link is not all that straightforward.
It doesn’t depend solely on science or physical evidence.
The connection between cannabis and creativity also relies on something highly variable: individual human personality traits.
Before we discuss the science of how cannabis relates to enhanced creativity, here are a few key cannabis-related terms:
- Psychoactive compound= A substance that affects how the brain works and causes changes in mood, awareness, thoughts, feelings, or behavior.
- Strain= A variety of cannabis, with its unique makeup of psychoactive compounds.
- THC= Tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive compound that is the main active ingredient of cannabis.
- Sativa= One of two main types of cannabis. Sativa causes an energizing effect that can improve mood, increase creativity, and strengthen focus.
- Indica= The other main type of cannabis. We commonly link Indicas with bodily effects, like tingling throughout the body, reduced bodily motion, and sleepiness.
There are multiple ways that one might ingest cannabis to experience its effects.
You can smoke, vape, or eat (through cannabis-infused foods called edibles) your marijuana.
How Cannabis Enhances Creativity
Regardless of the method of ingestion, cannabis can trigger a response in the brain that includes the creative process.
But why does cannabis trigger this response?
The interaction of psychoactive compounds with neurotransmitter receptors in the brain can partially explain the spark of creativity many people feel shortly after getting high.
These interactions can vary significantly with the type and amount of psychoactive compounds in a strain of cannabis.
Indica strains are mostly associated with changes in the body and rarely produce the psychoactive effects within the brain that cause a creative burst when ingested.
Sativa strains of cannabis are known for their “headiness,” or causing a “head high,” a stimulatory effect typically experienced as an altered state of mind, which includes increased creativity.
The cannabis plant has over 70 psychoactive compounds, but it is primarily THC that causes the psychoactive effects on the brain.
THC binds to neuron receptors in the brain that trigger the release of dopamine, a neuromodulator known for its pleasure-inducing effects.
Increased dopamine isn’t just a pleasurable feeling.
They also believe dopamine increases our brains’ ability to strive, focus, and find things interesting.
This enhanced seeking, focus, and sense of interest is a large part of the creative process.
Divergent thinking and the willingness to consider many ideas depend on these qualities.
Since cannabis can increase dopamine levels in certain areas of the brain, and dopamine is closely related to focus and finding things interesting, ingesting cannabis increases the probability of engaging in divergent thinking.
Which is a necessary component of the creative process.
However, science has also confirmed that the second step in creative thinking, convergent thinking, is not a result of increased dopamine in the brain.
In fact, scientists show a link between convergent thinking and decreased dopamine levels in the brain.
This is the important distinction of how cannabis can increase creativity in certain individuals.
The neurological effects of cannabis use are a dopamine release in the brain; that’s it.
So, it’s not directly through neurological effects that divergent and convergent thinking occur.
Those are processes that a user must still choose to engage in.
Therefore, cannabis use simply increases the chances of divergent and convergent thinking.
How Personality Plays a Role in More Creativity from Cannabis Use
So how does the individual person play a role in whether they will experience increased creativity from cannabis?
A unique study by researchers at Washington State University entitled Inspired by Mary Jane? Mechanisms underlying enhanced creativity in cannabis users found an answer.
They concluded that anyone willing to partake in cannabis is already a more open and inclusive individual.
Marijuana users are more willing to try new things, have new experiences, and explore new ideas.
This inherent openness plays a large part in an individual’s experience of increased creativity from getting high.
To quote their findings,
“While mainstream media has propagated the idea that cannabis expands the mind and enhances creativity, our results show the link between cannabis and creativity is largely a spurious correlation. [Instead, it’s] Driven by differences in personality that are related to cannabis use, for example, openness to experiences that are related to both cannabis use and augmented creativity.”
Meaning people who are more open to new experiences will be more likely to use cannabis, and people who use cannabis are more likely to be open to new ideas.
According to Dr. Huberman, “that combination of features [that] enhances the convergent and divergent thinking that is characteristic of the creative process.”
So, the answer to “Why does cannabis make me more creative?” is two-fold.
The release of dopamine caused by the binding of THC in the brain spurs the act of creative thinking.
But the completion of the creative thinking process relies more on the individual personality traits of the user.
Namely, their openness to new ideas.
So, if you are someone who experiences a rush of creativity, new ideas, and special insights after using cannabis, consider yourself to be an “open” individual.
And remember, your openness is a necessary component of your unique experience, whether or not it includes cannabis!
If you want to learn more, please check out these weed quotes for more insight.
Click the share button below if you found this article interesting and want to share it with your friends!