It’s not uncommon for cannabis to be used to stimulate creativity. Many people smoke or consume the herb while painting, gardening, or making music. Seth Rogan even said that he smokes cannabis in order to really focus on script writing. But does cannabis actually make you more creative?
First, let’s talk about what happens to your body and mind while you’re doing your favorite creative activity. Dopamine is released aiding in concentration, joy, and also acts on the brain’s “reward center”. So when you’re in a creativity frenzy, thinking of all manner of ideas, your dopamine levels rise, then you are able to concentrate on your task, and often get a rewarding feeling of accomplishment.
After dopamine, noradrenaline comes into the picture. This chemical is most often referenced in junction with your “fight or flight” response. In a creative setting, noradrenaline actually provides drive. Higher heart rate, increased focus, even more rapid breathing all occur just as they would in less pleasant situations, but your body and mind use this instead to help motivate you to complete your chosen task.
Serotonin, one of the chemicals responsible for feelings of wellbeing and happiness, is also present in high concentrations during creative times. It can play a part in creative drive, as serotonin is a key element to obsession. All of these are regulated by phenethylamine, which also is released during care-free times, and helps with self-love and acceptance. It’s obvious how this could make the creative process more fruitful and free-flowing.
Now, what happens when you smoke cannabis? Well, some of the same things actually. Dopamine levels are increased, fostering a state of mind perfect for the production of (though not directly contributing to) chemicals like serotonin. In addition, dopamine increases focus, so smoking can give your creative concentration an extra boost. Cannabis also increases heart rate and opens your bronchial tube up, similar to what noradrenaline does.
The final big player when you smoke cannabis is anandamide. The so-called “bliss molecule” anandamide is responsible for feelings of joy, pleasure, and contentedness. Cannabis mimics its effects in your body, so it’s no wonder that getting high before being creative can truly help you along; it quells the constant self-criticism many creatives deal with.
So essentially, cannabis doesn’t make you a more creative person, but it can be an incredible resource in balancing and optimizing your creative spikes. It may get the juices flowing in a way and that may lead to an increase in creative activity. For example, when I have a great idea in my head for writing, but I just can’t focus, I smoke a little and I can really get into the groove of things.
But on a less scientific and more personal note, I would say I agree with Bob Marley:
“When you smoke the herb, it reveals you to yourself”
So, the herb simply shows you how far you can go, and helps take you there.
Shasta Nelson is a California Native and a cannabis connoisseur. She's been involved in the industry at every level since she was a teenager. Currently she provides content for Roottie, DOPE Magazine, and Terpenes and Testing. She's also a creative writer, with a graphic novel underway.