Numerous studies to examine the effect of cannabis on creativity have been undertaken.1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9
However, their findings have yielded contrasting outcomes.
- A low dose of THC improves creativity: Weckowicz looked at the effects of a higher dose THC (6mg THC) and a lower dose THC (3mg THC) compared to placebo and a control group.9 The THC doses were smoked with a water pipe and with every inhalation, the volunteers held their breath for 20-30 seconds. While both THC groups showed impairment on a couple of intelligence tests, the low dose group with 3mg inhaled THC performed better than the other three groups on some of the tests for divergent thinking to measure their creativity.9 The authors postulate that low dose cannabis may improve the results on certain tests associated with creativity, possibly by producing euphoria and diminishing inhibitions.9
- At higher doses, THC does not improve creativity: In another study, Kowal and colleagues tested a vaporized higher dose THC (22mg THC), a lower dose THC (5.5mg THC), and placebo on divergent thinking (a measure of creativity).6 They found that the high dose group had significant impairment on a test used to measure divergent thinking, while the low dose had no difference from placebo.6 It should be noted that in this study, the doses were higher than the ones used in Weckowicz’s study from the section above, which could indicate that there is no (strong) effect at all, or that there is, for example, a low threshold at which creativity may occur (3mg), or suffer (at an undefined higher dose). It is important to note that everybody can respond differently and that even between responders, different doses can be required to achieve the same effects.
- THC only improves creativity in people who typically have low creativity: Schafer and colleagues divided study participants into two groups, High Creativity and Low Creativity, then tested their creativity while intoxicated by smoking their own cannabis and while they were sober.8 The results of one of the tests, namely the verbal fluency test which examines divergent thinking, showed that the low creativity group was more creative while intoxicated than the sober one, bringing them to the same level as the high creativity group.8 The high creativity group showed no difference in creativity based on their intoxication state.8
Some of the evidence is not as strong or clear. For example, Block and colleagues state in their study publications that cannabis users had more “uncommon associations”, which they don’t clearly define, but which could be interpreted as being more creative
Conversely, the results by Bourassa and colleagues showed that in novice users who had never used cannabis before, there was no positive effect
on divergent thinking (creativity), while it was reduced in regular users.2
LaFrance and Cuttler showed that sober cannabis users noticed higher levels of self-reported
creativity. However, contrary to their goal to show that cannabis would increase divergent thinking as a measure of creativity, their results showed that cannabis actually inhibited it.7
- Block, R. I.; Farinpour, R.; Braverman, K. (1992). Acute effects of marijuana on cognition: relationships to chronic effects and smoking techniques. Pharmacology, biochemistry, and behavior, 43(3), 907--17.
- Bourassa, Maurice; Vaugeois, Pierre (2001). Effects of Marijuana Use on Divergent Thinking. Creativity Research Journal, 13(3-4), 411--416.
- Crean, Rebeca D.; Crane, Natania A.; Mason, Barbara J. (2011). An evidence based review of acute and long-term effects of cannabis use on executive cognitive functions. Journal of addiction medicine, 5(1), 1--8.
- Green, Bob; Kavanagh, David; Young, Ross (2003). Being stoned: a review of self-reported cannabis effects. Drug and alcohol review, 22(4), 453--460.
- Hart, C. (2001). Effects of Acute Smoked Marijuana on Complex Cognitive Performance. Neuropsychopharmacology, 25(5), 757--765.
- Kowal, Mikael A.; Hazekamp, Arno; Colzato, Lorenza S.; van Steenbergen, Henk; van der Wee, Nic J. A.; Durieux, Jeffrey; Manai, Meriem; Hommel, Bernhard (2015). Cannabis and creativity: highly potent cannabis impairs divergent thinking in regular cannabis users. Psychopharmacology, 232(6), 1123--1134.
- LaFrance, Emily M.; Cuttler, Carrie (2017). Inspired by Mary Jane? Mechanisms underlying enhanced creativity in cannabis users. Consciousness and Cognition, 56(September), 68--76.
- Schafer, Gráinne; Feilding, Amanda; Morgan, Celia J. A.; Agathangelou, Maria; Freeman, Tom P.; Valerie Curran, H. (2012). Investigating the interaction between schizotypy, divergent thinking and cannabis use. Consciousness and Cognition, 21(1), 292--298.
- Weckowicz, T. E.; Fedora, O.; Mason, J.; Radstaak, D.; Bay, K. S.; Yonge, K. A. (1975). Effect of marijuana on divergent and convergent production cognitive tests. Journal of abnormal psychology, 84(4), 386--398.
- Block, R. I.; Wittenborn, J. R. (1985). Marijuana effects on associative processes. Psychopharmacology, 85(4), 426--30.