How Does Cannabis Affect Focus and Creativity?

Jointly is a cannabis wellness app that launched in April 2020. Jointly’s mission is to help people discover purposeful cannabis consumption. Purposeful cannabis consumption starts with the question: why do you use cannabis?

Many people use cannabis to enhance their creativity and focus. What does that look like?

It could be a computer programmer who finds that consuming a 1:1 CBD-THC edible in the morning settles her nerves for the day and opens her mind up to new solutions; a 70-year-old triathlete who discovers that a few drops of a sativa tincture allow him to stay focused during grueling bike rides; or a Ph.D. student who breaks up long hours in the lab with a few tokes from a high-CBD joint.

Is cannabis the right choice for you to enhance your focus and creativity? Jointly can help you find out! But first let’s review what is known about cannabis, focus, and creativity.

Is Cannabis a Cognitive Booster?

In the popular imagination, cannabis has a much closer link to creativity than it does to focus, but there is also a long tradition of cannabis being used to enhance focus, especially during prolonged physical activities.

For example, wrestlers in Northern India traditionally took bhang, a cannabis-infused drink, “to ensure long term concentration during exhausting all day practice.”

Many recent artists and thinkers also tout marijuana’s creativity-sparking benefits. Steve Jobs once said, “The best way I could describe the effect of the marijuana and hashish is that it would make me relaxed and creative.”

Cannabis and Creativity

According to Dr. Alice Flaherty, cannabis may boost creative output: “Marijuana is a stimulant. And most stimulants, in the short term anyway, boost output of all kinds.”

Dr. Flaherty explains that cannabis may affect creativity by boosting cerebral blood flow to the frontal lobes, which serves as the control center for “divergent creative thinking.”

While creativity is hard to measure, scientists have teased out two processes that are thought to play a role in creativity: divergent thinking and convergent thinking.

Brainstorming is divergent thinking or “being able to explore options through loose associations to generate novel ideas.” Convergent thinking is the opposite: you take various different ideas and find a common thread between them.

Dopamine, Creativity, and Cannabis

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is associated with learning and motor control, but it also plays an important role in divergent and convergent thinking.

A 2010 study looked at the relationship between dopamine and creativity and found that too much or too little dopamine harms divergent thinking, but a middle amount is just right.

THC is known to stimulate dopamine release in the striatum, which is a part of the brain involved in creative activities. However, chronic marijuana use may lead to decreased dopamine activity in the brain.

This data suggests that in long-term cannabis users with depressed dopamine activity, inhaling THC could temporarily improve their divergent thinking.

But convergent thinking is “negatively correlated with dopamine activity, so inhaling marijuana should hamper this aspect of creative thinking in anyone.”

Does Cannabis Enhance Creativity?

A 2003 survey revealed that 50% of cannabis users believe cannabis heightens their creativity. Of course, self-reported surveys are not exactly objective.

An early clinical trial from 1975 looked at the effect of marijuana on convergent and divergent thinking and found that a 3mg joint of THC improved divergent thinking, but a 6mg joint worsened it. If your goal is to focus or create, it is probably best to start with a small dose.

In 2011, Dr. Gráinne Schafer and colleagues at the University College London reviewed literature “suggesting that the effects of cannabis on creativity have not been extensively studied nor are the mechanisms by which it stimulates creativity well understood.”

In 2012, Schafer et al. published a study demonstrating that people with low creativity demonstrate improved verbal fluency after consuming cannabis. However, people with high creativity were unaffected by consuming cannabis.

So there is some evidence that cannabis can enhance creativity, but how it affects you seems to vary based on your specific neurochemistry, genetics or personality.

Why Might Cannabis Enhance Creativity?

One of the reasons cannabis might enhance creativity is simply because it is psychoactive. Many people have found that “the exaggerated emotions and altered perspectives they’ve gained from drugs stimulate their creativity.”

Dr. Grainne Schafer suggested that cannabis produces psychotomimetic symptoms, which might lead to connecting seemingly unrelated concepts. Of course, while this state may be beneficial for generating new ideas and connections, these ideas should be reviewed and edited the next day.

As Gina Beavers, a painter who makes surreal, abstract pieces emphasizes, “A few times, I’ve been mulling over how to solve some issue and weed will give me ideas, but not always the ones I go with. I have to wait and look at the solutions in the light of day.”

Why Might Cannabis Enhance Focus?

Scientists have given much less attention to how cannabis impacts focus. However, many people note that a purposeful dose of cannabis or CBD helps them focus.

Perhaps one of the ways that cannabis or CBD helps people focus is by muting distractions like mild anxiety, stress or chronic pain.

Additionally, there is evidence that cannabis affects aging brains differently than young brains, so the focus-enhancing effects of cannabis or CBD may vary based on age.

People who are chronically stressed may find more focus-enhancing benefits from cannabis than people with less stress. Chronic stress often results in chronic inflammation.

Research published in November 2019 by Dr. Ali Mazaheri and colleagues at the University of Birmingham showed that “inflammation specifically affected brain activity related to staying alert.”

“These results show quite clearly that there’s a very specific part of the brain network that’s affected by inflammation,” says Dr. Mazaheri. “This could explain ‘brain fog’.”

People who find that CBD helps them focus may have CBD’s anti-inflammatory effects to thank for that.

Research into how CBD affects Alzheimer’s disease (AD) has revealed that CBD can “reduce the neuroinflammatory response as well as promote neurogenesis…” and that CBD reverses and prevents the development of cognitive deficits in AD rodent models.

The available data suggests that CBD and THC-CBD combinations may exert a stronger anti-inflammatory effect than THC alone and, as a result, might be better for enhancing focus.

Use Jointly to Focus and Create Better with Cannabis

With Jointly, you measure how well a cannabis product helps you achieve your goals.

As you work to improve your focus or creativity with cannabis, Jointly helps you track the 15 factors that can impact your results so that you can enjoy your ideal experience every time.

Jointly users who have optimized their cannabis consumption by reporting at least 10 cannabis sessions are getting results that are 38% better than before.

Download the Jointly app today and start achieving your wellness goals with cannabis and CBD!

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