The notion of whether or not medical cannabis can induce creativity in users has become a popular quandary. Though not of as much importance to researchers and scientists as its actual medical benefits, this idea that creativity might be spurred by the use of medical cannabis has grabbed the attention of professionals and consumers alike. Whether or not it might foster creativity depends on the individual’s definition of the word. What does it even mean to be creative? Well, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re a natural-born artist or gifted singer like you might believe.
What Constitutes Creativity?
More than anything else, creativity is about a person’s mindset. While individuals will have varying degrees of success in regards to artistic pursuits, creativity means so much more than that; it can mean ingenuity, adaptability, innovation, imagination, thoughtfulness, progressiveness—you name it. According to a study done by Schafer et al. published in 2012 on “schitzotypy, divergent thinking and cannabis use,” Schafer et al. define two major areas of creativity: schitzotypy and divergent thinking. Schitzotypy can be defined as a continuum of personality characteristics as relate to psychosis and schizophrenia ranging from normal to schizophrenic. Divergent thinking can be defined as a tendency to rework information in the brain in order to generate “novel ideas and solutions,” according to Schafer et al.
For their study, Schafer et al. rounded up one-hundred and sixty participants. For the purpose of this study and due to restrictions on cannabis research, participants smoked their own cannabis. Creativity was measured through numerous means on both days including:
- Psychotomimetic States Inventory (PSI): Forty-eight item questionnaire; tests state psychotomimetic symptoms
- Verbal fluency task: Naming as many words as the participant could think of in sixty seconds that begin with a certain letter; tests divergent thinking and state creativity
- Category fluency task: Giving as many verbal responses the participant could think of in sixty seconds that pertained to a certain category (i.e. animals); tests semantic fluency
- The Remote Associates Test (RAT): Thinking of words that pertained to sixteen different word triads in four minutes; tests convergent and divergent thinking
In order to do this, participants completed these tasks sober on either day one or day seven and then intoxicated by cannabis on the opposite day (as well as some additional tasks on the sober day in order to better measure base creativity). Participants were identified as a part of one of two groups: the high trait creativity group and the low trait creativity group.
Among their findings, Schafer and colleagues found a few things in relation to each test:
- Psychotomimetic States Inventory (PSI): State schitzotypy scores were consistently much higher in both groups on their intoxicated day
- Verbal fluency task: Those who were a part of the low trait creativity group demonstrated fantastic improvements in verbal fluency when under the influence of cannabis, so much so that they rose to meet the levels of the high trait creativity group
o This is believed to be due to a “disinhibition of frontal cortical functions” which would explain why there wasn’t as much change in the high trait creativity group—this disinhibition might already be present in their brains
o The high trait creativity group’s scores did not change on the second day
- Category fluency task: No measurable correlation between cannabis use and creativity was found
- The Remote Associates Test (RAT): While the high creativity group performed better than the low creativity group, there was an overall decrease in performance in the high creativity group
What this Study Means for Creativity in Cannabis Users
All in all, this study demonstrated that cannabis may just increase “verbal generation,” especially in those who would be part of the low trait creativity group. While the high trait creativity group was already predestined to do better on the tasks, it is explained that this might be because they have “enhanced functioning in the temporal cortex” and, as stated, an already existing “disinhibition of frontal cortical functions” that better facilitate divergent thinking.
In his own article on the study as was published on Psychology Today, V. Krishna Kumar (Ph.D.) disseminates the inner workings of this same study himself. Kumar ties in a great point regarding Schafer et al.’s study: While these findings are interesting, does this mean that creativity will become a condition to be treated just like any other? According to the Schafer et al. study, lack of creativity just might be some sort of “brain deficit,” in Kumar’s words, even going on to compare it to attention deficit disorder, commonly treated by Ritalin and Adderall. Could a cannabis-derived medicine be engineered in the future to treat creativity deficits?
Regardless of what path the future of creativity takes, these findings are certainly something to look into if you fancy yourself a less creative person. Who knows—maybe even taking medical cannabis for another illness will have the added benefit of improved creativity for those with naturally lower creative traits. AGRiMED’s medical marijuana products are produced through advanced multi-phase extraction and distillation processes and will be available in dispensaries state-wide in Pennsylvania later this year.
Kumar, Krishna V. (2012, April 20). Cannabis and creativity. Psychology Today. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/psychology-masala/201204/cannabis-and-creativity.
Schafer, Gráinne, et al. (2012, March). Investigating the interaction between schizotypy, divergent thinking and cannabis use. Consciousness and Cognition, 21(1), 292-298. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1053810011002856.