Cannabis consumers have always bragged about having more original ideas or heightened creativity after partaking. Unfortunately we don't have a lot of studies that explain how or why this happens. We do know that creativity happens in the brain's frontal cortex and cannabinoid receptors are located in the frontal cortex but not much more than that.
A 2015 Dutch study tested both divergent thinking, brainstorming or coming up with many solutions to a loose problem, and convergent thinking, finding the best solution for a defined problem. The study showed that cannabis consumption did correlate with signs of divergent thinking. Their study focused on regular users and found that low doses increased fluency, flexibility and originality while higher doses decreased divergent thinking. However, regular users have lower dopamine levels so less frequent users may have a different result.
In a 2012 London study, those low on the creativity scale tested as high as those high on the creativity scale while under the influence of cannabis.
Out of the Box
Cannabis lowers inhibitions, opening your mind to new ideas previously outside of the bounds of your conscious thought. It can also get you into trouble if your inhibitions are protecting you from situations that can harm you and others.
Given the right strain, cannabis can cause you to become more of an extrovert. This allows you to be more open to discussion and collaboration, making ideas more abundant and creative solutions more likely.
Throughout his career Carl Sagan praised cannabis for its contribution to creativity and intellectual engagement. He wrote “The illegality of cannabis is outrageous, an impediment to full utilization of a drug which helps produce the serenity and insight, sensitivity and fellowship so desperately needed in this increasingly mad and dangerous world.”
Cannabis releases dopamine, a neurotransmitter in the brain, which stimulates the reward-motivation system. Creative ideas can feed the reward-motivation system, by producing positive stimulation when preferred ideas are discovered, which stimulates the production of dopamine, causing the desire for more ideation.
Cannabis can increase focus at low doses while offer “tunnel vision” at high doses. Properly adjusted, it can help you ignore the distractions of external stimuli and better target your creative solution. Cannabis in low doses may be better for creative thought, while high doses can cause the brain to become chaotic. An optimal level of cannabis intake can be achieved through experimentation.
Magic Time. There seems to be a window of optimum creative inspiration between 5 to 30 minutes after cannabis has first taken effect. This window can vary depending on the method of consumption.
Less is More
The relationship between good cannabis ideation and cannabis stupefaction is a matter of dosage. Perhaps the most common advice related to cannabis is to start small and work up to the effect you desire. The reason behind this advice, as confirmed by clinical studies, is that small amounts of cannabis can keep you lucid and free thinking while too much cannabis can sedate you, leaving your thinking muddled and incoherent. This all depends on the user but in general less is more seems to be a good rule to follow.
The euphoria generally associated with cannabis can increase impulsiveness, generating more ideas, both constructive and destructive, making your creative time more fruitful.
The tide is turning. A majority of Americans think cannabis should be legal and our laws, state by state, are starting to accomplish this. But millions are still denied access, or languish in prisons, due to antiquated laws that hurt rather than help us.
Do your part to help these fellow citizens and show the world how cannabis should be managed, with education, understanding and compassion:
- Support reform legislation efforts by the Senate
- Ask your Congressional Representative to join the Cannabis Caucus
- Support Veterans’ access to Medical Marijuana