• Meditating and immersing in culture are the most effective means to boost creativity
  • Using drugs was the 'least and also non-effective' method
  • Other studies have essentially debunked the idea of using drugs to boost creativity, too
  • Creativity isn't limited to artists anymore, and there are other ways to boost it

From jazz musicians to beat poets, artists have long romanticized the idea that drugs can unlock new levels of imagination and inspiration. But is there any truth to this commonly held belief? According to recent research, these claims may be nothing more than a fallacy.

In fact, experts suggest that turning to meditation, rather than drugs, maybe a more effective way to spark one's creativity. The latest study better understands the truth about the link between drugs and creativity.

For the study, which is published in the Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity and the Arts, researchers conducted a meta-analysis of hundreds of papers that delved deep into the ways of boosting creativity.

"We clustered all studies into 12 methods to identify the most effective creativity enhancement methods," they wrote.

The study authors found that creativity can indeed be enhanced. However, among the methods they looked at, cognitive manipulation using drugs was the "least and also non-effective" method.

"It doesn't do anything for creativity. People don't benefit from it – it just has no effect at all," one of the study authors, Paul Hanel of the University of Essex, said as per The Guardian.

Instead, the most effective methods were complex training courses, meditation and exposure to culture. Mindfulness techniques like meditation, for instance, boosted short-term imagination, according to the University of Essex. While experiencing other cultures may help expand one's horizons.

"I hope the findings will help the growing number of people who rely on their creativity to earn a living," Hanel said in the university release. "We believe it is a positive message that drugs do not enhance creativity, given the side effects of drugs."

There has long been a notion that drugs, such as cannabis, mushrooms or perhaps LSD (Lysergic acid diethylamide), can enhance creativity. While there are fascinating anecdotes about famous works that were supposedly created under the influence of these substances, the concept has been largely exaggerated.

Rona Cran, an associate professor of American literature at the University of Birmingham, emphasizes that many accomplished creatives did not rely on drugs or alcohol to fuel their work, as she recently told The Guardian. Although she is not one of the authors of the current study, her insight is valuable in the ongoing debate about the relationship between drugs and creativity.

Then there's a grim side that people rarely talk about.

"What we hear about in the media is people who successfully enhance their creativity using drugs, but you don't hear about the examples where someone took drugs and passed out and therefore their creativity was lower," Hanel said, as per the outlet.

Further, some of the ideas that come from being under the influence may not be as plausible later on, study lead author, Jennifer Haase of the Humboldt University of Berlin, added.

This is not the first time that researchers have debunked the idea of using drugs to enhance creativity. For instance, a previous study exploring the impacts of cannabis on creativity found no impact on those given a low dose. The effects were even worse in those on a high dose: they performed "significantly worse."

A study of LSD's impact on creativity also found that while it enhanced imagination, cognitive flexibility and creativity while in a psychedelic state, it also impaired the ability to use the brain's sensory perceptions to craft original ideas.

There is also the danger that using an outside substance to boost one's creative process may lead it to become a part of the person's routine. This may, in turn, point the individual toward the direction that may lead to dependence over time.

"There are many ways to enhance and encourage creative thinking," Haase said in the university release.

The study authors cautioned against recommending it for the purpose of enhancing creativity though they acknowledged that in some cases it may actually contribute. For instance, a beautiful art piece can still arise from a vision seen while under a hallucinogen, noted Hanel. And there are still artists who tout the role of such substances in their creation process.

This leads to the question: could it be that the drugs are not responsible for the artists' creativity after all? Instead, perhaps the artists possessed a natural creativity that was present regardless of whether they used drugs or not.

In some ways, this was something that Aerosmith musician Steven Tyler expressed in a 2019 GQ story about musicians who had gone clean.

"I thought I would lose my creativity," Smith said when asked about what scared him about getting sober. "All the magic that you thought worked when you were high comes out when you get sober. You realize it was always there, and your fear goes away.... "

"I retain ideas longer and clearer," singer-songwriter Ben Harper added. "I wake up with ideas the way I used to."

The present study suggests that there are alternative and potentially safer methods for enhancing creativity that may even yield better results. Engaging in meditation, for example, is a simple yet effective practice that has been shown to not only boost creativity but also reduce stress and provide other health benefits.

The researchers say creativity is not limited to individuals in creative fields such as art and writing. Rather, creativity has a role to play in all aspects of life, including business and everyday interactions. As such, the findings of this study could be beneficial to anyone seeking to boost their creativity, whether they are seeking innovative solutions to problems or seeking to improve their business.

Hanel emphasizes that creativity is ubiquitous in the modern world and can be a critical factor in determining success or failure. He hopes that the study's results will inspire people from all walks of life to tap into their creative potential and discover new sources of inspiration.

Representation. Pixabay