Medical News Today: 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.

Overview

marijuana which is a depressant
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)

Different drug types

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

Depressant

person sleeping
The depressant effects of marijuana can aid sleep.

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

These effects occur because depressants calm thecentral nervous systemand 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:

Hallucinogen

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

They may have these effects because they increaseserotoninlevels 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

Drug type chart

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

Risks and considerations

a woman having a panic attack next to a window.
Risks of taking marijuana include panic attacks, slurred speech, and confusion.

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 withdepressionor relatedmental healthconditions 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 researchsuggests 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.

Summary

Marijuana has depressant, stimulant, and hallucinogenic effects. It may promote relaxation, enhance mood, and increase sensory perception.

Marijuana users may also experience the typical side effects of depressant, stimulant, and hallucinogenic drugs.

Anyone with concerns about their marijuana use can speak to a doctor to find out what support is available.

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