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Is marijuana a depressant? What to know

Marijuana is a drug that many people take recreationally, often referring to it as weed. However, others sometimes use it medicinally to manage symptoms of chronic conditions. Some people may wonder whether marijuana is a depressant.

In this article, we explore different types of drug, including depressants, stimulants, and hallucinogens, and determine the categories to which marijuana belongs. We also discuss the effects that marijuana has on the body and mind.

Share on Pinterest Marijuana is a depressant, stimulant, and a hallucinogen.

Marijuana can have a depressant effect, but it is not only a depressant. It may also act as a stimulant or hallucinogen.

For this reason, marijuana is a:

  • depressant
  • stimulant
  • hallucinogen

Marijuana contains a psychoactive chemical called delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). It is THC that alters people’s mental state when they use marijuana.

Smoking, vaping, or consuming marijuana affects every person differently. Marijuana may have a strong depressant effect for some people but not others.

Various types and strains of the plant may also produce different effects on the body and mind.

When people use marijuana, their lungs or stomach absorbs the THC into the bloodstream, which takes it to the brain and other organs.

Once THC reaches the brain, it acts on specific brain cell receptors. Here, marijuana can produce depressant, stimulant, and hallucinogenic effects.

Common examples of each include:

  • a sense of relaxation (depressant effect)
  • mild euphoria or elevated mood (stimulant effect)
  • heightened sensory perception (hallucinogenic effect)

Marijuana can have a range of effects, which fall into the following categories:

Depressant

Depressants are drugs that have a relaxing effect. They may reduce anxiety and muscle tension and make a person feel sleepy.

These effects occur because depressants calm the central nervous system and slow down brain function.

The depressant effects of marijuana include:

  • feeling relaxed
  • feeling less anxious
  • aiding sleep

The adverse side effects of depressants include:

  • slurred speech
  • confusion
  • dizziness
  • slowed breathing
  • memory problems
  • poor concentration

Stimulant

Stimulants are drugs that increase alertness and elevate mood by targeting the neurotransmitters dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain.

Dopamine influences a person’s mood, while norepinephrine affects:

  • blood vessels
  • blood pressure
  • heart rate
  • blood sugar levels
  • breathing

Taking stimulants, including marijuana, may also cause a high or euphoric feeling due to the effect of these drugs on dopamine.

Stimulants also cause physical symptoms, typically increasing the:

  • blood pressure
  • heart rate
  • breathing rate

Side effects of stimulants may include:

  • restlessness
  • anxiety
  • panic attacks
  • paranoia

Hallucinogen

Hallucinogens are drugs that alter a person’s perception of reality.

They may have these effects because they increase serotonin levels in the frontal cortex of the brain, which is the area responsible for mood, perception, and cognition.

Marijuana may, therefore, cause someone to have heightened sensory perception, resulting in them:

  • seeing brighter colors
  • hearing sounds differently
  • being more sensitive to touch

Heightened sensory perception is a mild form of hallucination that some people may find enjoyable.

Hallucinogens can also cause more intense symptoms that may be distressing. The possible adverse side effects of these drugs include:

  • nausea
  • increased heart rate
  • paranoia
  • powerful hallucinations

Examples of each drug type include:

Stimulants Depressants Hallucinogens
marijuana marijuana marijuana
amphetamines alcohol lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD or “acid”)
cocaine benzodiazepines dimethyltryptamine (DMT)
nicotine flunitrazepam (Rohypnol) psilocybin
caffeine gamma-hydroxybutyric acid (GHB) peyote

Although it is illegal in many states, marijuana is a common recreational drug.

Some people use prescription marijuana or self-medicate with the drug. While marijuana use is widespread, this drug does carry risks.

People may experience a range of side effects from the depressant, stimulant, and hallucinogenic properties of marijuana.

These side effects may include:

  • slurred speech
  • confusion
  • dizziness
  • slowed breathing
  • memory problems
  • poor concentration
  • restlessness
  • anxiety
  • panic attacks
  • hallucinations
  • paranoia
  • nausea
  • increased heart rate

Some strains of marijuana are stronger than others. Without having a clear idea of a drug’s potency, a person may experience stronger effects than they expected.

People with depression or related mental health conditions may find that the depressant effects of marijuana make their symptoms worse.

Those who experience anxiety or panic attacks may also increase their risk of symptoms by using marijuana. However, others may find that marijuana reduces their anxiety.

Due to marijuana’s depressant effects, using it regularly can sometimes affect a person’s motivation and ability to complete daily tasks.

For some people, using marijuana may contribute to mental health problems. Recent research suggests that there is a link between marijuana use and an increased risk of psychotic disorder, which may cause delusions and hallucinations.

Marijuana affects everyone differently. People who use marijuana should be mindful of how it affects them personally and consider speaking to a doctor if they are experiencing any adverse symptoms.

Marijuana can act as a depressant, stimulant, and hallucinogen. Learn more about the effects of each type of drug here. We also cover the risks and side effects.

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.