Artists have long fallen prey to the idea that their creativity and artistic abilities can be enhanced through psychoactive (affecting the mind) substances such as drugs and alcohol. Hollywood rolls-out a long and sorrowful list of stellar artists who have experienced their downfall through the substance abuse and subsequent addiction to drugs and alcohol—and far too many of them are no longer with us.
Creativity is Not Improved
A recent study on the smoking of marijuana (cannabis) and its effect on creativity debunks the idea that smoking marijuana boots a person’s creativity. In fact, the study researchers from the Netherlands-based Leiden University found that smoking marijuana may in fact, hinder a person’s creativity.
Published in the journal Psychopharmacology, the research findings led study researchers to claim that the belief or idea that smoking marijuana improves a person’s creativity “is an illusion.”
According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), marijuana (cannabis) is the most commonly-used illicit drug in the United States; with 7.3% of Americans aged 12 and over having used cannabis in the past month at time of survey. (2012)
Some who use cannabis claim the drug enhances their creativity, including co-founder of Apple, Steve Jobs. According to an online MNT (Medical News Today) article, Jobs once described the effect marijuana and hashish had on him as making him “relaxed and creative.”
The source of the desired effects that marijuana users are seeking is attributed to the drug’s main psychoactive ingredient, THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). The Leiden University researchers sought to test how marijuana (cannabis) containing different levels of the THC influenced a person’s creative thinking.
The Research Study
The research study was conducted with a group of 59 healthy individuals who regularly used cannabis. There were 7 females and 52 males participating, and the participants were divided into three groups.
One group was given a placebo, another group was given marijuana with a high THC content equivalent to three marijuana joints (marijuana cigarette), and the other group was given a low-dose of THC equivalent to one marijuana joint. Researchers noted that none of the participants were aware of what they were being given.
After taking the THC, study participants completed a series of cognitive tasks designed to measure two forms of creative thinking. Divergent thinking, defined as coming-up with ideas as a result of exploring as many solutions as one possibly can; and convergent thinking—defined as finding the single correct answer to a question.
The Illusion of Enhanced Creativity
Researchers found the high-dose THC cannabis significantly impaired the participant’s divergent thinking capabilities in comparison to the low-dose THC cannabis and the placebo. According to researchers, the decreased scores for flexibility, fluency and originality of responses by participants in the high-dose THC condition reflected the impairments.
Additionally, researchers found that the low-dose THC cannabis smokers failed to significantly out-perform those participants who smoked the placebo in the area of divergent thinking.
A researcher commenting on the study findings said the “improved creativity” which cannabis users believe they experience “is an illusion.”
Moreover, he said that if an individual wanted to overcome writer’s block or any other barrier to creativity, “lighting-up a joint isn’t the best solution”; and smoking several joints in succession can be “counter-productive to creative thinking.”
Artists express the dreams and beauty of our culture, and are a vibrant and vital part of creating the future of our civilization. It is important that they are protected from the false belief that cannabis—or any other psychoactive drug for that matter—will enhance their creativity.
For more information about drugs, and how they affect our artists, our youth, and our culture, please call us today.