Does Cannabis Help Improve How you Create or Problem Solve?
After 10,000 years of use, we still know staggeringly little about how the plant helps (or hinders) the search for new ideas. Even in the golden age of cannabis studies, the most important source of knowledge is still the individual user. This is especially obvious when we talk about cannabis and its effects on creativity:
for millennia, interventions involving CBD or THC have helped people lower their inhibitions, making them less likely to self-censor, more likely to take risks, and more open to making mistakes. It’s been extremely useful to people whose work or hobbies involve an ability to improvise and innovate,
and yet we’re still not at a point where we can generalize about the effect of a given product on creative output, or how those effects might differ from one person and another.
Cannabis is too complex for that, and frankly, so are we. Experts working in the neuroscience, psychology, or human development fields will tell you that creativity is an exceedingly difficult concept to pin down. And seriously, If there was a substance that could probably help people find new ideas—and that you could literally sell in a bottle (or canister, or bag of gummies)—then we’d have sold our company a long time ago, and bought a mansion for each of our grandkids.
For now, there’s staggeringly little that we know for sure. One 1992 study, supported with data from 2002, suggested that marijuana inhalation could stimulate increased blood flow in parts of the brain involved with originality. There has been little follow up since then. A 2015 study, conducted in the Netherlands, linked low doses of THC (5.5 mg) with a slight increase in subject’s cognitive fluency and flexibility. These traits are associated with “divergent thinking,” a brainstorm-style mode that’s useful for finding multiple solutions to a single, well-defined problem, but higher doses (22 mg) produced the opposite effect.
A study from 2012 found that moderately potent cannabis use provided a boost to people with a low baseline for divergent thinking, but no change was seen among those with a high baseline. And in 2017, researchers found that marijuana users may be able to narrow down several solutions into one, a recognizable form of “convergent thinking” that can be useful to people in creative fields. This, too, was encouraging news—or would have been, if the authors hadn’t added that the users were more extraverted, and more open to new experiences than non-users. As they defined it, extraversion is a personality trait, rather than the temporary chemical reaction in their brains, and so all the study showed was that cannabis may simply be more attractive to creative people. In other words, it doesn’t necessarily make you more creative.
To people who already know what works for them, these reports may have the power of affirming the role that edibles, tinctures, or dried flowers play the artistic process. We’re cool with that, since ultimately, no one knows more about the role cannabis should have in your life than you do.
Do these products enhance your experience of painting landscapes, sculpting with clay, or writing short stories? Well, then, our advice is to go for it. Does cannabis make it more fun to jam out on a Fender? So long as you don’t live in the apartment upstairs—or refuse to tune your instrument—we suggest you embrace it. We’re not Judge Judy. It is one hundred percent ok to conclude that cannabis might make you a better artist, poet, dancer, or musician. On the other hand, it is one hundred percent ok to believe that it won’t.