Can Psychedelics Make You More Creative?
Swirling colors, delirious patterns, groovy rhythms and otherworldly vistas. These are some of the first things that come to mind when most people think about psychedelics.
The unique fashion and culture of the 1960s were influenced by the popularity of psychedelic drugs like no other time in our history; the colors, patterns, and hair-dos of that time stand out like a carnival in our otherwise gloomy modern timeline.
Pink Floyd, Jefferson Airplane, The Rolling Stones, The Beatles… the list of bands influenced by psychedelics could go on and on. Aldous Huxley’s works, still hugely influential to this day, are clearly inspired by his experiences with mescaline and LSD. Steve Jobs took LSD in college, and called it “one of the two or three most important things I have done in my life”. The inventor of PCR, a breakthrough biomolecular technique that has revolutionized medical research, said that LSD gave him the intuition that allowed him to make the ground-breaking discovery. Artists and architects, authors and entrepreneurs have been finding inspiration in LSD, mescaline, psilocybin and DMT for decades.
Here at The Third Wave, we have been gathering people’s accounts of the creativity boost provided by psychedelics. We’ve found that entrepreneurs, business people, artists and engineers (and everyone in between!) are frequently turning to microdosing as a means of boosting their work productivity.
Microdosing with psychedelics allows busy working people to continue their daily work routine, but with a boost in creativity and energy that can help with problem-solving, startup ideas, motivation, and insight. In a post-industrial world that is becoming more reliant on new ideas than new forms of manufacturing, creativity in business will continue to be valued at a premium.
GREAT ANECDOTES – BUT WHERE’S THE PROOF?
There have been attempts to scientifically examine the effect of psychedelics on creativity, but so far results have been predictably controversial. Creativity is such an abstract and subjective term, meaning so many different things to different people, that it’s hard to study it with a scientific method.
Out of the studies that have attempted to quantify creativity, one of the most interesting comes from a group investigating the psychedelic mescaline in the 1960s. A group of 27 men were given mescaline and asked to consider a problem they were currently facing in their jobs. Many of the problems had been ongoing for months before the test. Although not a particularly scientific measure, almost all of the subjects found solutions or new avenues of investigation for their problems after a session with mescaline.
More recently, the pioneering Beckley Foundation has released a study investigating the role of the psychedelic brew ayahuasca in boosting creativity. In total, 26 participants took two well-established tests of creativity before and during an ayahuasca session. One of the tests showed that participants were significantly more likely to be thinking ‘divergently’ during their ayahuasca experience; a form of thinking attributed to creativity.
SO, HOW EXACTLY DO PSYCHEDELICS IMPROVE CREATIVITY?
With all this anecdotal and semi-scientific evidence surrounding psychedelics and creativity, are we any closer to understanding how psychedelics might boost creativity in the brain?
Unfortunately, we don’t have a handy region of our brains called the ‘creativity cortex’ that can be turned on and off like a switch. But many neuroscientists agree that creativity requires an increase in divergent thinking; what one might call thinking outside the box.
Divergent thinking involves making unusual or unique connections between concepts, allowing us to see new solutions to problems or develop beautiful art.
Earlier this year, another study from UCL showed that a moderate dose of LSD increased people’s associative thinking – making it harder for them to tell similar objects apart. This means that the psychedelic helped people to make connections between objects that we usually keep separate in our minds, perhaps helping us to ‘think outside the box’.
This groundbreaking research funded by the Beckley Foundation has shown that psychedelics increase the disorder in your brain; allowing new, unique connections to be made, and connecting areas of the brain that normally keep to themselves. It’s possible that this is the basic mechanism through which psychedelics have their effect on creativity.
Although we’re still scratching the surface of how psychedelics work in our brains, they’re clearly doing something amazing to the way we think.
MICRO OR MACRO DOSE?
It seems obvious that a high-dose, day-long, reality-bending LSD trip is going to produce some unique visions and experiences that could inspire art or lifestyle changes; but it’s not practical to undertake that kind of experience frequently if you’re an entrepreneur looking for new business ideas! High doses of psychedelics also carry risks of traumatic experiences if used in the wrong setting.
Microdosing may present a unique way to raise your creativity levels without having to go through an intense transformative process. It means that busy people can still go to work and function normally, but with a subtle improvement in productivity and insight.
But if you’re an artist looking for your next inspiration, maybe the bigger dose is for you!
Microdosing may present a unique way to raise your creativity levels without having to go through an intense transformative process.
A PLACE IN OUR CULTURE FOR CREATIVITY BOOSTERS
What do psychedelics mean for our understanding of creativity? Is creativity a resource we all possess, that can be turned up and down like a volume dial? Imagine if artists could be disqualified from competitions for using creativity-enhancing drugs. The view that creativity is entirely dependent on our genes might become old-fashioned very quickly.
What’s for certain is that psychedelics will become a part of modern business practice. Business is becoming much less about industry and manufacturing, and more about marketing and innovation. As our world becomes more dependent on expanded forms of thinking, psychedelics will become the must-have business resource.
Whether it’s songwriters taking a full-blown psychedelic journey with LSD to get inspiration for a new song, or the average entrepreneur taking a tiny dose of magic mushrooms with their morning coffee, we think that we’ll soon be seeing psychedelics embraced by modern society as true mind-expanders.
We don’t think the benefits will stop at creativity; we think psychedelics will begin to change the world in a much broader sense. Psychedelics as creativity boosters will be a first step towards a happier, more compassionate society.
Important Note: This is a constantly-evolving document. If you believe we’re missing something important, please let us know via the contact page.