Marijuana Stimulates Creativity and Enriches Experience by Jon Byrne, MD

Dr. Byrne has, on and off, explored the role of cannabis in enhancing consciousness and enriching experience since his late teenage years. After attending a top five medical school, he came to San Francisco to undergo residency training at UCSF and currently lives and practices medicine in the San Francisco Bay Area. As a successful part-time researcher, he has published in prominent journals and has frequently presented his work at national meetings. (Jon Byrne is a pseudonym).

“Marijuana unlocks the ability of my mind to think in new and creative ways, takes me to new heights of ecstasy in the appreciation of music and art, and provides a catalyst for the exploration and deepening of my relationships with others. When marijuana prohibition is ended and the experience of marijuana becomes more free and open, I believe that our culture and society will benefit more from the creative ways of thinking and the more intimate ways of interacting with others that are encouraged by the use of marijuana.”

I have used marijuana occasionally since my late teenage years. I have never been a frequent user, typically getting high perhaps 4-6 times a year, and sometimes going for as long as a couple of years at a time without using marijuana. This is mainly because marijuana is illicit and hence difficult to acquire, and I tend not to put much effort into getting a hold of it. However, from time to time I do hear that a friend of mine has access to it, and I acquire some for personal use.

Having experienced the world of medicine in several different regions of the country, I have learned that the sphere of physicians is no exception to the rule that marijuana use is pervasive in American society. Those who have used the plant for various reasons prior to entering medical school often continue to reap the benefits of marijuana during and beyond their medical training, and of course some are ‘turned on’ by friends and colleagues after becoming a physician. The degree of secrecy regarding marijuana use by physicians varies by the intensity with which the war on drug users is conducted in one’s area of the country. In the San Francisco Bay area, it is quite refreshing to see how things are relatively open. Rather than being a closely held secret, as it might be for a physician in Alabama, physician friends and colleagues often open up to one another relatively easily regarding the fact that they use marijuana. This fairly relaxed and open attitude towards marijuana pervades much of society in this region. I have noticed however, that openness regarding one’s marijuana use tends to respect the medical hierarchy, as do many other social interactions among physicians. Physicians are typically more willing to discuss personal marijuana use with others of similar rank; and are more likely to consider the subject taboo when speaking with those obviously higher or lower than oneself in the medical hierarchy.

I personally use marijuana for a number of reasons. Marijuana unlocks and opens up parts of my mind and psychology that I otherwise would not be aware of, and encourages me to think in new and untested ways. Sensory stimulation, in the form of music, food, sex, and the like, becomes more vivid and pleasurable. The combination of new patterns of thought with more vivid sensory stimulation leads to an enhanced appreciation of art. I sometimes get high and spend my time simply enjoying the experience of listening to music or browsing a collection of artistic works.

Friendships and relationships, especially those involving sexual and romantic intimacy, can be developed and deepened by the use of marijuana with others. Marijuana tends to cause introspection, and by altering one’s habits of thought, yields new perspectives on who one is and how one works psychologically. Hence, marijuana serves as an effective catalyst for understanding oneself and others, and discussing and developing one’s relationships with other people. The pleasure and wonder of sexual intimacy is increased, and as a result the bond between lovers can be strengthened. Marijuana enhances both the physical and psychological aspects of sexual activity. As one becomes more aware of and sensitive to deeper aspects of one’s psychological self, these can be brought out during lovemaking and used to enhance intimacy, understanding, and ecstasy.

I most frequently use marijuana alone, and under such conditions it often stimulates me to develop ideas, particularly about religious, sexual, and political issues. When high, I often sit at my computer, typing my ideas and thoughts into a word processing file, and I browse the web regarding ideas that interest me. Each file is interesting to read afterwards, showing what I was thinking about and how my thoughts progressed during the high.

The state of being high involves a large increase in the spontaneous generation of new ideas and concepts, and the appreciation of associations that one would not ordinarily have noticed. This occurs both as a result of altered patterns of thought, as well as due to the heightened appreciation of sensory stimulation that marijuana offers. Marijuana inebriation has both pluses and minuses when it comes to creative productivity. During the actual high, my short term memory is lessened compared to when I am sober, and the productivity of my high can be impaired by “association overload,” whereby I am flooded with new ideas and associations, driving out the old ones, before the old ones can be effectively processed and developed. I think the most productive way of using marijuana involves occasionally getting high, perhaps once a month or so, recording one’s thoughts and ideas while high, then working through them later when sober. The sober self has the focused purpose as well as the concentration, memory, and discipline to work through the new ideas and associations and make them into something substantial. As Edison said, genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration. I believe marijuana is fantastic for the inspiration part, but for me, much of the perspiration part will take place while sober.

Overall, I believe that the use of marijuana has contributed to my life in a number of ways. Marijuana unlocks the ability of my mind to think in new and creative ways, takes me to new heights of ecstasy in the appreciation of music and art, and provides a catalyst for the exploration and deepening of my relationships with others. When marijuana prohibition is ended and the experience of marijuana becomes more free and open, I believe that our culture and society will benefit more from the creative ways of thinking and the more intimate ways of interacting with others that are encouraged by the use of marijuana.

6 Responses to “Marijuana Stimulates Creativity and Enriches Experience by Jon Byrne, MD”

  1. James says:

    I appreciate your piece… I really do. All you’ve just written is but a reflection of my thoughts, how I feel about maryjane. Like you the expert, I believe in taking it once in a blue moon because that’s when you get to really appreciate it. Not when one is high every minute, every hour of the day. It has its useful or postive sides as long as one is disciplined, of which I mean the ability not to overuse and abuse. I’m down with your piece hundred percent. It’s just wonderful in worship, in sex, music, movie, arts, inspiration, etc.

  2. Paul says:

    I like your article too. There is a lot of literature on how damaging this substance is? and not a lot on on the benefits of the psycho active component. I am a recreational musician and like the notion of brain storming ideas in this altered state and later processing them reflectively. The trick is to not loose oneself in to that world of bliss – lost or enslaved to lower levels of interest, energy, motivation – leading to fatigue, frustration and confusion. My understanding is that visiting this “place” is alright for no more than 96 hours to safely voyage home without loss and with the new found gain. It is to my thinking – self education in tempering oneself to the other self worthy of unfolding and discovery.

  3. Dr. O. Lee Duff says:

    Are t here any well controlled studies out there that explore cognitive functions and the use of cannabis? There are a lot of studies of affective processes (art. music) but not cognitive function. Thanks.

  4. Antonie says:

    Hi, I just read your article and was wondering if the applications of marijuana can be applied in the same way outside the domain of ‘novelty’ interests. Surely marijuana has additional uses in helping to creative conceptualize in areas such as chemistry, physics and biology. In domains where it is not always possible to physically observe something, then we have to rely on the way we infer our information…can we not use marijuana to do the same thing? I feel like marijuana is an indispensable catalyst for scientific thinking.

    I’m also wondering where the line lies with use and overuse. Surely as use increases so does tolerance, if we give ourselves enough time to ‘ease in’ to frequent use, the global effects decrease. I’m interested to see if there is a point where use is frequent enough that the effects are minimized (i.e. your thoughts are not as radical or abstract as they may have been with equal dosage), but so to are the negative effects, i.e your attention is also better than what it would have been with equal dosage. With a good equilibrium of stimulated thought and available attention can we not facilitate a worthwhile and beneficial use for marijuana, even if it is daily (or if the dosage is right)? It’s similar to alcohol, too much of it and your toast, but it in small (and even daily) amounts it has beneficial properties too.

    As an undergraduate student caught in the same window of time and circumstance as Dr. Byrne once was, I’m interested to see if we can take and reply what he has discovered, but with a conscious and deliberate (but informal!) attitude.

  5. Lucy says:

    As the wife of a daily (all day mixed with tobacco) pot smoker for the past 7years I can only pray this substance will not become legal. I just think of children who can potentially use it as a crutch.
    It is awful being with someone who gets disconnected from reality, avoids any type of intimate conversation that triggers difficult feelings , wakes up in the morning anxious and on high alert till his first morning joint is smoked.
    It has taken me till now to realize that these mood swings are perhaps the effect of the pot and not so much the result of me not being a perfect wife.
    If you are evaluating the effects of smoking marijuana don’t rely solely on your perceptions (unless you wish to be with strictly other pot smokers at all times) ask your close relationships.

  6. Kevin says:

    Lucy, as the husband of a daily coffee drinker, I can tell you that my wife wakes up completely groggy and incapable of basic daily functions until she’s had a cup of coffee. Your husband using marijuana as a tool to relax – or my wife using coffee as a tool to revive – isn’t really something of great concern.

    What I find much more worrisome in your note are the other points that you make, that your husband is “disconnected from reality” and that he “avoids any type of intimate conversation that triggers difficult feelings.” It sounds to me like your problems extend far beyond his marijuana use, and it’s likely that the marijuana use is a reaction to those problems rather than the cause of them.

    Please understand, I’m not saying that you’re the problem here, either. I’m saying that whatever’s causing your husband to disconnect needs to be addressed, and that blaming marijuana is probably missing the target, just as blaming yourself for not being a “perfect wife” is also way off base. No one’s perfect.

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