Photo of some cannabis leaves. Photo of some cannabis leaves.

Is Marijuana a Depressant? Breaking Down the Depressant Myth

A lot has been said about marijuana over the past decade or so. Conversations regarding the plant’s medicinal, recreational, and even industrial use have been aplenty. 

The legal status of cannabis is in a state of flux as countries all over the world decriminalize it. However, it’s not just decriminalization, countries are also legalizing it for recreational purposes. 

While a lot of people know what marijuana is, many view it as a simple recreational tool. People completely disregard its potential in terms of researching its effects on the human mind. 

This article explores everything we know about cannabis so far, so let’s dig into it!

A close-up view of the dried Cannabis (marijuana).
By Avery Meeker/Unsplash copyrights 2020

1. Depressants and Other Categories 

Before diving right in, people must understand what a depressant is. Depressants are drugs or substances that slow the brain down. People usually engage in these substances to unwind. Alcohol and barbiturates are good examples of depressants. 

1.1 Stimulants 

variety of medication capsules on a plain surface.
By Markus Spiske/Unsplash copyrights 2019

Stimulant drugs tend to be highly addictive because they elevate the mood 1and provide a boost to your energy levels as well as alertness. Examples of stimulants include cocaine and medications for ADHD.

Even though the question of whether marijuana is a depressant remains rampant, weed is classified as a stimulant.

1.2 Hallucinogens 

Hallucinogens2 can alter the way our brain perceives reality. They change the way nerve cells in the brain conversate with each other. Long-term side effects of this can cause problems like anxiety and psychosis. Some of the most popular examples of this have to be LSD, psilocybin, and even MDMA

Marijuana has always been considered a hallucinogen of sorts. This sentiment has been there even when it was criminalized worldwide. 

1.3 Opiates 

Opiates are quite possibly the most addictive substance out there. They are mainly used to treat injuries and severe wounds. Opiates3 are effective painkillers.

However, these painkillers produce feelings of euphoria, and this is why it’s so addictive. Long-term exposure to opiates can have a permanently damaging effect on the brain. 

Technically, marijuana can be classified as a depressant, stimulant, and even a hallucinogen. However, it cannot be deemed an opiate. 

2. Is Marijuana a Depressant? Check with the Depressant’s Effects 

Dried green marijuana balls. Is Marijuana A Depressant?
By Ndispensable/Unsplash copyrights 2018

It’s important to understand the effects the plant produces that can be classified as a depressant. As mentioned earlier, depressants slow down the functionality of the brain. 

This helps in relaxing the tense muscles and calming the nerves. Depressants are generally used to treat insomnia, anxiety, and even muscle tears or spasms. However, unregulated use of depressants can lead to problems like nausea, low blood pressure, lightheadedness, and even blurred vision4

Marijuana, as a depressant, is liable to cause problems like memory loss (short-term) and dizziness. However, if used under the guidance of a medical expert, it can also be used for muscle relaxation. 

Depressants aren’t as addictive as some of the other drug types mentioned earlier, but it’s common for people to develop a tolerance to depressants. This pretty much proves that regular smokers will tend to increase their intake of cannabis and consequently form a dependence on it. 

Another factor to consider when answering the question of whether marijuana is a depressant is that weed affects people differently. Other factors like pre-existing health conditions and lifestyle choices come into play here.

3. Is Marijuana a Depressant? Some Views

3.1. Cannabis as a Stimulant 

cannabis farming in a glass room.
By Richard T/Unsplash copyrights 2020

Stimulants are pretty much the opposite of depressants. So, it adds another layer of complexity to it since marijuana is also a stimulant. Even though it seems contradictory, marijuana acts as a depressant and as a stimulant, too.

Stimulants make you feel alert and energetic while improving the attention span in some cases. However, just like depressants, stimulants come with their set of problems, too. 

Paranoia is one of the most commonly reported side effects of stimulants. Some other common problems can be anxiety and seizures. Stimulants also can hurt people with pre-existing heart conditions as they can cause heart failure. 

Marijuana is classified as a stimulant because it can cause an increase in heart rate, improve mood, and even anxiety. 

Marijuana carries the same risks as a depressant and as a stimulant, too. Marijuana, as a stimulant, can be highly addictive because it can elevate the mood and cause a dependence on it. 

3.2. Cannabis as a Hallucinogen 

white and brown cigarette stick on white and black floral textile
By Shelby Ireland/ Unsplash copyrights 2020

Hallucinogens cause hallucinations, and smoking or inhaling marijuana doesn’t cause visual hallucinations. However, being under the influence of cannabis can cause things like time distortion, which is also a form of hallucination. 

So, is marijuana a depressant or a hallucinogen? The answer continues to get complicated. However, it should be specified that although hallucinations are rare when consuming weed, they can still make certain users experience visual, sensory, and auditory hallucinations.

Hallucinogens and marijuana can cause symptoms like distorted sense of time and space, loss of motor skills, increased heart rate, and dry mouth, among many others. Marijuana can cause all of these effects, and that’s why it’s also classified as a hallucinogen. 

4. Conclusion 

Long-term use of marijuana can cause problems like psychosis5. Long-term use of any hallucinogen can potentially cause psychosis. 

Marijuana is a substance that we’re only beginning to understand; as more countries legalize it, more researchers can study the plant in detail. Marijuana is also unique because, unlike most substances, it classifies as a depressant, stimulant, and even a hallucinogen.

We’ve barely begun to scratch the surface of everything marijuana is capable of, and it remains to be seen where the future takes us.

  1. Handley, Ian M., et al. “Affect and automatic mood maintenance.” Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 40.1 (2004): 106-112. ↩︎
  2. Nichols, David E. “Hallucinogens.” Pharmacology & therapeutics 101.2 (2004): 131-181. ↩︎
  3. Moallem, Seyed Adel, et al. “Opioids and opiates.” Handbook of drug interactions: a clinical and forensic guide (2012): 159-191. ↩︎
  4. Shingleton, Bradford J., and Mark W. O’Donoghue. “Blurred vision.” New England Journal of Medicine 343.8 (2000): 556-562. ↩︎
  5. Broome, Matthew R., et al. “What causes the onset of psychosis?.” Schizophrenia research 79.1 (2005): 23-34. ↩︎

Last Updated on February 21, 2024 by Namita Soren

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