Creativity is not improved through cannabis use, claims study

Some people believe that smoking cannabis boosts creativity. But a new study by researchers from Leiden University in the Netherlands claims this is not the case; smoking cannabis may even hinder creativity.

The research team, including Lorenza Colzato of the Cognitive Psychology Unit at the Institute of Psychology at Leiden University and the Leiden Institute for Brain and Cognition, recently published their findings in the journal Psychopharmacology.

Cannabis, or marijuana, is the most commonly used illicit drug in the US. According to a 2012 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 7.3% of individuals aged 12 and over had used cannabis in the past month.

Some cannabis users claim the drug enhances creativity. As the researchers point out, Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple, once stated: "The best way I could describe the effect of the marijuana and hashish is that it would make me relaxed and creative."

Such effects have previously been attributed to the main psychoactive ingredient in cannabis - tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). The researchers wanted to test how cannabis - with different doses of THC - influenced creative thinking.

Enhanced creativity from cannabis use 'is an illusion'
The researchers enrolled 59 healthy regular cannabis users (52 males and seven females) to the study and divided them into three groups.

One group was given cannabis with high THC content (22 mg, equivalent to three joints), another group was given cannabis with a low dose of THC (5.5 mg, equivalent to one joint), while the remaining group was given a placebo.

The team notes that none of the candidates were aware of what they were being given.

All participants were then required to complete a series of cognitive tasks that measured two forms of creative thinking: divergent thinking (coming up with ideas by exploring as many solutions as possible) and convergent thinking (finding the only correct answer to a question).

The researchers found that cannabis with high-dose THC significantly impaired divergent thinking among participants, compared with low-dose THC and a placebo. "This is reflected in the decreased scores for fluency, flexibility, and originality of responses of participants in the high-dose condition," the researchers say.

Furthermore, they found that participants who smoked cannabis with low-dose THC did not significantly outperform those who smoked the placebo when it came to divergent thinking.

Low- and high-dose cannabis appeared to have no effect on convergent thinking among participants.

Commenting on the team's findings, Colzato says:

"The improved creativity that [cannabis users] believe they experience is an illusion. If you want to overcome writer's block or any other creative gap, lighting up a joint isn't the best solution. Smoking several joints one after the other can even be counterproductive to creative thinking."

Medical News Today recently reported on a study published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, which claimed women may be more sensitive to the effects of THC than men.

Source: Medical News Today