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Is Weed a Depressant, Stimulant, or Hallucinogen?

What are the main drug types?

Drugs are categorized based on their effects and properties. Each one generally falls into one of four categories:

  • Depressants: These are drugs that slow down your brain function. Examples include alcohol, alprazolam (Xanax), and barbiturates.
  • Stimulants: These drugs elevate your mood and increase your alertness and energy. They’re usually highly addictive and can cause paranoia over time. Examples include cocaine, methamphetamine, and prescription medications for ADHD.
  • Hallucinogens: This type of drug alters your perception of reality by changing the way the nerve cells in your brain communicate with each other. Examples include LSD, psilocybin, and MDMA.
  • Opiates: These are powerful painkillers that quickly produce feelings of euphoria. They’re highly addictive and can have lasting effects on your brain. Examples include heroin, morphine, and other prescription painkillers.

So, where does weed, otherwise known as marijuana, fall among these categories? The answer isn’t as tidy as you might think. Its effects can vary widely from person to person. In addition, distinct strains and types of weed can produce different effects.

As a result, weed can be classified as a depressant, stimulant, or hallucinogen, according to the University of Maryland. However, it’s never classified as an opiate.

Keep reading to learn more about what makes weed a depressant, stimulant, and hallucinogen.

Depressants affect your nervous system and slow brain function. Together, these actions can help to calm nerves and relax tense muscles. Depressants can help to treat several conditions, including insomnia, anxiety, or muscle spasms.

However, depressants can also have negative short-term effects, such as:

  • nausea
  • confusion
  • reduced motor coordination
  • low blood pressure
  • slowed breathing
  • slurred speech
  • lightheadedness
  • blurred vision
  • short-term memory loss
  • dizziness

Weed produces similar positive and negative effects, including:

  • relaxation
  • sleepiness
  • muscle relaxation
  • short-term memory loss
  • dizziness

While depressants are generally less addictive than other types of drugs, some of them, like barbiturates, carry a much higher risk. Over time, you can also develop a tolerance to depressants, including weed, meaning you need to use more of it to feel the effects that you used to feel.

You can also become dependent on weed for certain things. For example, if you use weed to help you sleep, you may eventually have trouble falling asleep without it.

In addition, smoking anything, whether it’s tobacco or weed, irritates your airways and can increase your risk of respiratory conditions, such as bronchitis or a chronic cough. Learn more about the effects of weed on your body.

Stimulants have the opposite effects that depressants do. They often increase your heart rate and blood pressure, causing rapid breathing in some people. Stimulants can also improve your mood, especially right after you take them.

While depressants often make you feel sleepy or relaxed, stimulants make you feel alert and energetic. They can also help to increase your attention span.

Stimulants can also have negative, and sometimes dangerous, effects, including:

  • increased body temperature
  • paranoia
  • irregular heart beat
  • anxiety
  • seizures
  • heart failure

Weed is sometimes treated as a stimulant because it can cause:

  • elevated moods
  • racing heartbeat
  • anxiety
  • paranoia

Remember, weed affects everyone differently. Some people might feel relaxed and at ease after using it, while others might feel highly alert or anxious.

Weed carries fewer risks than many other stimulants. For example, methamphetamine and cocaine are highly addictive drugs that can have lasting effects on both your brain and body.

As a stimulant, weed carries the same risks it does as a depressant. You can eventually become dependent on it for its mood-elevating effects, and smoking it can lead to respiratory issues.

Weed is perhaps most often stereotyped for its hallucinogenic effects. While hallucinations are possible, they happen rarely and don’t occur in all users. But the symptoms of weed, such as time distortion, are also part of a hallucination.

Hallucinogens are substances that alter your perception of reality, either through changes in your sensory perception or visual or auditory hallucinations.

Keep in mind that hallucinations and paranoia, which is associated with stimulants, are different things. While hallucinations are false perceptions of objects, events, or senses, paranoia involves a false idea that’s usually accompanied by suspicion.

For example, a hallucination might make you see the person walking in front of you as an animal. Paranoia, on the other hand, might make you think the person has been following you in order to harm you.

In addition to hallucinations, hallucinogens can also cause:

  • altered sense of time or space
  • loss of control over motor skills
  • increased heart rate
  • nausea
  • dry mouth
  • detachment from self or environment

Weed can have all of these additional effects, which is why many people and organizations classify it as a hallucinogen.

Over time, using hallucinogens can lead to speech problems, memory loss, anxiety, and depression. In rare cases, people may be left with psychosis, flashbacks, or a condition called hallucinogen persisting perception disorder.

As a hallucinogen, weed doesn’t do this, but it may cause both anxiety and depression, though it can also relieve these symptoms in some people. Remember, you can also develop a tolerance to or dependence on weed, and smoking it can harm your respiratory system.

Is weed a depressant, a stimulant, or a hallucinogen? We’ll walk you through the different types of drugs as well as their effects and risks. You’ll learn why it’s difficult to place marijuana in a single category and how it behaves like each of these drug categories.

Is Marijuana a Depressant or Stimulant?

Is Marijuana a Depressant or Stimulant?

Marijuana is a complex drug and affects users in a variety of ways. Marijuana at times can act as both a depressant and a stimulant depending on the strain and the chemical reaction it has in a user’s body. In general, however, marijuana affects the user’s attention span, long-term memory storage, and psychomotor skills involved in tasks such as driving a car. Long-term or even chronic use of marijuana has been linked to a possible onset of psychotic episodes in individuals that may be more sensitive to its use and can produce irreversible damage to brain areas altering normal mental functioning. Since marijuana is composed of over 400 active compounds, correlations into direct relationships that it has on users are still being explored. Some studies suggest however that marijuana is more of a depressant, finding that the prevalence of depression is higher in marijuana smokers than nonsmokers. While specific effects of marijuana are still being explored, any consumption of the drug alters the body’s natural state of being, which can always cause impairments in normal functioning.

One of the reasons that the effects of marijuana are not deterministic is that each user has a different reaction to the type of strain that they ingest. Each person has different natural levels of neurotransmitters in their body and the neurotransmitters play a significant role in regulating mood. Marijuana tends to alter the natural flow of these neurotransmitters and it’s difficult to know in what ways and by how much each of these are affected.

In general, weed tends to make the brain function slower than normal and can help to relax muscles and the nervous system, which can mean that neurotransmitters are not operating at the pace that they should be. By slowing down the body, some users may experience relaxation, while for others it can be the onset signs of depression – especially if the use is chronic. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that helps to control the brain’s reward and pleasure centers and is one of the main neurotransmitters that weed effects. In recent studies, cannabis users were found to have significantly lower dopamine releases in the striatum area of the brain. Lower levels of dopamine can also affect mood as it is a neurotransmitter that elicits a “feel good” emotion which can be found to accompany rewarding behavior. Anissa Abi-Dargham, MD, professor of psychiatry at Columbia University Medical Center stated, “we don’t know whether decreased dopamine was a preexisting condition or the result of heavy cannabis use […] but the bottom line is that long-term heavy cannabis use may impair the dopaminergic system, which could have a variety of negative effects on learning and behavior”. Weed is still being researched on whether it elicits depression or just makes pre-existing conditions worse, but in either case, adding a toxic substance to the body that shouldn’t be there in the first place will always bring consequences.

Another issue with weed is that since it is either illegal or only recently legalized in many states, it still has yet to undergo effective regulation. This brings a variety of problems including a mixture of potency and dosage sizes depending on where it is being purchased. Scientists still have so little information about the user’s responses to the drug because the effects of cannabis can vary from user to user. For example, some users may be able to handle a higher THC (the main ingredient in marijuana that gets a user high) content than others, and the effects can even vary based on how much food you have had that day. How much weed one can handle becomes even more challenging to figure out, given how potent cannabis has become in recent years and all the different forms that it can be found in. A recent study found that THC levels have gone up three-fold since 1995, due to the ability to selectively breed more potent plants. All these factors can increase a user’s chances of eliciting depression symptoms or worse yet, exacerbating preexisting depression.

There is still not enough information yet as to what weed does to each user individually and what consequences come from long-term use. Recent studies have found it to be linked to a variety of brain alterations that can cause the user to operate at disadvantaged levels. As weed continues to become legalized and sold at increased rates, it’s only a matter of time before research is able to shed more light on the damages that come with ongoing use.

If there are people in your life who smoke marijuana on a daily basis and exhibit signs of dependence on weed, suggesting and looking for medical advice may be a significant help in cessation before depression (or any other effects of use) are elicited or exacerbated. Doing research and finding out what effects a substance has on the body is a good resource in deciding if some of the long-term side effects are worth the high.

Marijuana can become addictive if treatment isn’t put into place, but recovery is possible. Call Genesis Recovery at 619-717-7319 to learn more about our unique treatment and rehab programs.

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Marijuana at times can act as both a depressant and a stimulant depending on the strain of cannabis and the chemical reaction it has in a user's body. ]]>