Do Psychedelics Enhance Creativity?

Jonas Rosen, LMSW

Jonas Rosen, LMSW

Founder & Psychedelic Consultant

Preliminary research suggests psychedelics can act as cognitive enhancers and improve creativity.

In modern times, psychedelics are being increasingly recognized for their immense healing powers. Even beyond treating depression, anxiety, and trauma, the potential of these substances extends into many realms of human wellness. This notably includes creativity.

Psychedelics can open the mind, offer new insights, and allow us to explore deep recesses of the unconscious. This would seem to suggest that psychedelics could unlock massive creative breakthroughs. But does the research support that idea?

This claim can be complex to evaluate. Psychedelics produce various effects that could be mistaken for creativity…and creativity itself is hard to define and measure. For the sake of this article, we’ll define creativity as the ability to produce original and unusual ideas, or to make something new, relevant, and useful.

How do psychedelic experiences intersect with creative output? Keep reading for some insights into this question.

Art by Alex Grey

Highly Creative Individuals

It’s interesting to acknowledge that many highly creative and accomplished individuals credit their success, at least in part, to psychedelics. For example: 

  • Steve Jobs
  • George Carlin
  • Aldous Huxley
  • Ken Kesey
  • Kerry Mullis
  • Jim Morrison
  • Jack Nicholson

One of the most remarkable examples of psychedelics and creativity comes from the world of biology. Sir Francis Crick, who won the Nobel Prize for his discovery of the structure of DNA, was actually under the influence of LSD when he made this discovery. He has since credited LSD with playing a significant role in his research around the structure of DNA. 

Francis Crick’s discovery clearly illustrates that psychedelics can represent a remarkable tool for creative breakthroughs. But how exactly do psychedelics improve creativity?

Psychedelic Research

Dr. James Fadiman conducted research into this very question, and investigated the utility of psychedelics in creative problem-solving. Fadiman assembled a group of scientists, mathematicians, and creatives, each of whom were dealing with a creative challenge in their work. He observed that under the influence of a moderately high dose of LSD, many of them were able to find solutions to problems they had been working on for months. Their inhibitions were reduced, ideation flowed more easily, and they could see the problem from different perspectives.

Fadiman’s research suggests that psychedelics can support creativity in the following ways:

  • Increased access to unconscious mind
  • Heightened sensory inputs and aesthetic sensibilities
  • More fluent free association, lateral thinking, and new insights
  • Heightened ability for visual imagery
  • Relaxation and openness
  • Heightened empathy 
  • Lessened inhibitions in experimental ways of thinking and being
  • Potentially heightened motivation

Fadiman found that these creativity-enhancing powers of psychedelics in some cases lasted for weeks at a time. However, it’s important to note that his research also found that psychedelics can hinder creativity in the following ways:

  • Diminished capacity for logical thought
  • Potentially reduced ability to focus and concentrate
  • Lessened ability to verbally communicate and express onenself
  • Tendency to become absorbed in one’s inner experience
  • Experiences of anxiety or challenging emotions
  • Tendency to regard worldly tasks as trivial

Fadiman’s research offers only preliminary findings, and more research is certainly needed to understand more conclusively the link between psychedelics and creativity.

The Importance of Set and Setting

Psychedelics have been described by thousands of people to enhance creativity along every step of the creative process.

However, just like any tool, psychedelics are only effective when used in the appropriate context and with adequate support. Choosing the appropriate set and setting will fundamentally impact outcomes.

Here at Inner Vision, we’re pleased to offer expert insights for using these ancient medicines to their fullest potential. Book a session now to learn more!