Is Marijuana a Stimulant or Depressant?

Is marijuana a depressant or is marijuana a stimulant? The answer is more complicated because marijuana doesn’t necessarily fit into just one of these categories. Additionally, certain types of marijuana may produce different effects and symptoms, which makes it even harder to categorize marijuana.

Marijuana continues to be used by millions of people every year but surprisingly the nature of marijuana is not completely known by many. People are often confused when asking – is marijuana a stimulant or a depressant? This is because marijuana not only creates a calming and sedating feeling but it also creates an uplifting and invigorating feeling. 

Many drugs are usually clear cut, sleeping pills and other sedatives are clearly depressants because of their sedating/calming effects. Cocaine and caffeine are considered stimulants because of their uplifting effects. But since marijuana affects the person in both ways, is cannabis a depressant or a stimulant?  In order to answer this question, it’s important to take a closer look at marijuana as well as the different categories of drugs out there today. 

What is Marijuana and Its Effects?

So, is marjunana a depressant or a stimulant? Before we can answer this question, let’s take a closer look at marijuana. Marijuana, or cannabis, is a combination of dried flowers (specifically cannabis Sativa). Marijuana goes by many different names and is typically smoked or mixed in different kinds of food. 

The main component in marijuana that creates its mind-altering effects is THC (delta-tetrahydrocannabinol). This creates a series of effects and symptoms in those who use cannabis. Marijuana can affect people differently, depending on the type of cannabis that’s being used as well as the amount. Those who use marijuana typically feel a sense of calm and a euphoric high as well. Some of the other initial effects of cannabis use include:

  • Laughter
  • Increased appetite and hunger
  • Altered or distorted sense of time (passing time)
  • Increased/altered sensory perception (such as brighter colors and sounds, etc.)

With this in mind, not all of marijuana’s effects are relaxing and pleasant, some people may experience:

  • Panic
  • Distrust/paranoia
  • Panic
  • Fear

However, these unpleasant sensations may be due to a large amount of cannabis being used or inexperience with the substance. Those who use marijuana at high doses may experience psychosis and other hallucinations. Now that we know more about marijuana and its effects, we can now focus on is cannabis a depressant or a stimulant?

Stimulants, Depressants, and More: Understanding These Drug Categories

To understand whether marijuana is a stimulant or depressant we must first take a look at the different types of drugs. There are a set of categories that help determine what a certain drug does Depending on the properties and effects of a drug, it will land in one of these four categories:

Marijuana and Its Effects
  • Stimulants – These drugs typically increase or elevate a person’s mood. A person will be more alert and energetic. Stimulants can be highly addictive and include cocaine, prescription drugs, and methamphetamines (meth). 
  • Depressants – These drugs slow down a person’s brain function and central nervous system (CNS). Depressants create a feeling of relaxation/calm. Alcohol and Xanax are two of the most common types of depressants. 
  • Opiates – Opiates usually come in the form of painkillers and when abused create a feeling of euphoria for their users. They can be very problematic in the long-run and addictive as well. Heroin, morphine, and prescription painkillers are all considered opiates. 
  • Hallucinogens – These drugs alter a person’s perceptions and brain activity. LSD and MDA are both prime examples of commonly used hallucinogens. 

So which category does marijuana fit in? Well, one might argue that this drug fits into multiple categories.

How is Marijuana a Stimulant?

Marijuana is a stimulant because it speeds up the messages between a person’s brain and body. Specifically dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine (these three control the reward system as well as other functions in the brain). In turn, marijuana affects a person’s focus, mood, and attention when in use. Additionally, marijuana increases a person’s heart rate and elevates a person’s mood; which are both features of stimulants. 

Stimulants are seen as the opposite of depressants, particularly because stimulants give a euphoric high and increase energy. Commonly abused stimulants include methamphetamines, cocaine, and even caffeine. While marijuana is not as dangerous or risky as other stimulants, it still poses some risks of dependency (specifically the mood-enhancement marijuana is known for). 

How is Marijuana a Depressant?

Depressants are considered the opposite of stimulants in that they slow down the messages between the brain and the body. When a person uses marijuana, their central nervous system activity is slowed down. Marijuana slows down a person’s breathing and creates a drowsy/relaxed effect. These effects are common in depressant drugs. Because of these effects, depressants are often used to treat cases of insomnia, anxiety, and other conditions.

With frequent use marijuana can end up having negative effects as a depressant, these may include the following:

  • Confusion
  • Blurry vision
  • Impaired coordination
  • Lowered blood pressure
  • Short-term memory problems
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea

When taken in high doses, depressants can cause more severe problems like cardiac arrest and even death in some cases if a person already has a heart condition. Alcohol, benzodiazepines, and opioids are all common forms of depressants. Just like stimulants, depressants can lead to dependency and addiction after prolonged use. A person can become dependent on marijuana for specific actions (sleeping, socializing, working, etc.). While marijuana isn’t as addictive as other depressants or stimulants, a person may still experience certain withdrawal symptoms. 

How is Marijuana Considered a Hallucinogen?

Not only is marijuana a depressant and a stimulant but it is also considered a hallucinogen in some cases as well. Hallucinogens are known as psychedelics and usually distort a person’s perception of reality. A person who uses hallucinogens may see, hear, or even feel things that aren’t actually there in reality. Psychedelics like PCP and LSD are more intense than marijuana when it comes to hallucinations. 

While many people consider marijuana to be a hallucinogen, people who use cannabis rarely experience hallucinations unless there are high amounts of THC in the strains. However, this doesn’t mean a person may not experience hallucinogenic effects in larger doses. While hallucinogens aren’t considered as addictive as other forms of drugs, they can still cause problems down the line, specifically psychosis and other medical conditions. 

A Closer Look at THC and CBD in Marijuana 

How is Marijuana a Depressant?

The two main ingredients/chemicals active in marijuana are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). Together, these two chemicals create the psychological effects of marijuana when used. THC, in particular, attaches to the brain’s receptors and activates them. Marijuana impacts the following brain receptors:

  • Thinking
  • Concentration
  • Coordination
  • Pleasure (dopamine)
  • Memory

CBD on the other hand is another active ingredient in marijuana. CBD comes from another hemp plant (a marijuana cousin). There are many active ingredients and marijuana and CBD is one of many. With this in mind, CBD is not known to cause the “high” that comes with smoking or using marijuana. However, the legality of CBD is still unknown at this time. 

Risks Associated with Marijuana Use

While the drug category that marijuana belongs in may be inconsistent, there are some more concrete risks involved with constantly using marijuana. Compared to other drugs, marijuana is not considered ‘addictive’ per se and is not nearly as dangerous in the short and long-term.  However, there are still risks involved with frequently using marijuana (especially at higher doses). 

Many of marijuana’s potential risks are more on the mental health side than the physical side of things. Some risks of constant marijuana use may include the following:

  • Defective motor skills – Contrary to popular belief, marijuana can affect and impair a person’s motor skills and functions. A person may be impaired for up to three hours after consumption – during this window a person should not drive. We all know that alcohol is a prime culprit when it comes to driving under the influence but marijuana is a close second. 
  • Anxiety – Marijuana has the potential to cause anxiety in some people or a feeling of unease or discomfort (this is mainly on a case by case basis)
  • Schizophrenia relapse – For those who deal with schizophrenia, using marijuana may cause a relapse in its symptoms.
  • Dependency – While addiction is usually not linked with marijuana usage, a person can still become dependent on marijuana use. When not using, a person may experience a variety of different withdrawal symptoms similar to other drugs (irritability, cravings to use, restlessness, etc.). These cases are typically known as marijuana use disorder

Getting Help for Addiction at Coastal Detox

Is marijuana a depressant or a stimulant? While the answer may not be clear-cut, there is no question when someone needs professional help. If you or a loved one is suffering from an addiction, Coastal Detox is here to help. We offer quality and evidence-based treatment to serve all your needs. Addiction recovery doesn’t have to be a grueling and lonely process; our team is by your side through the whole process. Don’t wait to get help; give us a call today to learn more about our facility and comprehensive detox process. 

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