Cannabis and Creativity

People have been using cannabis for years to help them stimulate the creative process.

For many, using cannabis is a very pleasant experience with heightened euphoria and a sense of awe of the world.

There are claims that it loosens self judgment and latent inhibitions (learned irrational fear, i.e. am I good enough?) by allowing connection to the source from which all of creation flows from.  That is to say it lets the person experience things in a deeper and more profound way where connectedness with all things becomes obvious.

Then there are others that would say that is a bunch of malarkey.  It doesn't help with the creative process at all.  "You either have it or you don't, kid." 

Now, let's not negate the fact that a lot of creative people work very hard to get where they are and talent is what drives them there in the first place, but does it really help with that spark of inspiration or that divine unique new idea?

How does it all work?

Creative persons have shown to have an increase in cerebral blood flow to parts of the frontal lobe according to studies by the National Institute of Psychiatry in Mexico City and the Department of Neurology at Harvard Medical School.

It is thought that the frontal lobe generates the creative process by serving as the hub for what is called "divergent thinking".  The ability to develop in different directions, use a variety of premises and avoid command limiting assumptions in making deductions. 

It is established that dopamine levels are increased when a person uses cannabis or any other drugs for recreational purposes for that matter.


A synapse receptor

Dopamine is a chemical called a neurotransmitter that is responsible for transmitting signals across the brain.

Normally, GABA neurotransmitters in the brain block dopamine transmitters but when THC is introduced into the body, it blocks the GABA which then allows the dopamine through in greater quantity.  Apparently, the dopamine concentrates itself in the brain's "reward centre" called the nucleus accumbens and a person experiences euphoria.  

Dopamine is also reported to affect the area of the brain associated with novelty seeking.

In creative people this would be the holy grail as they seek to discover new ways of looking at the world and expressing themselves in it.  This relaxation phase of being "high" may help with the creative process for as long as the active ingredient lasts.  

A mind strong with divergent thinking

Back to the nucleus accumbens.

The brain's reward centre.

It is a collections of neurons located in the outer part of the forebrain which, we've established, is affected by the dopamine neurotransmitter.  It seems output neurons from the nucleus accumbens project to the pre frontal cortex of the frontal lobe and establish connections between the two which may explain why the creative process is enhanced when frontal lobe activity is stimulated.

So now you know the basic science, but...

There is a downside.

A recent University of Leiden, Netherlands research is showing that no dose and low dose smokers performed best in convergent and divergent thinking tasks.

This may explain the findings of research done in 2002 (1) which demonstrated that marijuana decreases the rate of firing among neurons  and alters the communications between nerve cells through the closing of calcium channels responsible for neurotransmitter release.  I don't think anybody would disagree that given enough marijuana it will eventually slow you down.  Sometimes that's the desire.

What's missing?

Things that are not taken into consideration when performing these studies is the levels of THC and CBD.

The buffering action of the CBD's on the THC is unexplored for the most part except by the cannabis aficionados.  Creative types know that strains that are more sativa like, higher THC, lower CBD's, produce a clearer, what is deemed, "cerebral high."

Ultimately, it always goes back to the individual:  If it works for you, great.  If it doesn't, then it doesn't.

Most all of us know people in both camps and that's what makes us all unique.   

What is obvious is using or not using cannabis is not going to alter the creative human potential.

A mind full of ideas