Is Marijuana A Depressant?
A lot of people use marijuana “to get high”. But what if it really brings you down? Most people know drugs like caffeine, cocaine, and amphetamines are stimulants.
But you can’t categorize marijuana just as a stimulant. In fact, this substance can also be a depressant, narcotics, or hallucinogen depending on how the user’s body reacts to it. In this article, we will focus on how marijuana can produce each type of effect.
What is a Depressant?
A depressant, or central depressant, is a drug that lowers neurotransmission levels, which is to depress or reduce arousal or stimulation, in various areas of the brain.
These types of drugs tend to make the users feel drowsy, sleepy or relaxed. Common depressants include:
- benzodiazepines (e.g. Valium and Xanax)
- sleep medications
Depressants by themselves are usually okay as long as one doesn’t take too many. (i.e., overdose, drug abuse)
However, when medicine depressants are mixed with alcohol, it could lead to a coma or even death. We shall answer the question “Is Marijuana a depressant?” shortly.
What is a Stimulant?
Stimulants (also often referred to as psychostimulants) is an overarching term that covers many drugs including those that increase the activity of the central nervous system and the body.
Stimulants give the users a feeling of euphoria or pleasure. They are also associated with:
- Increase in alertness & attention
- Intense feelings of happiness
- Increased energy/sociability and self-esteem
- Increased sexual desire and performance
- Opened breathing passages/easier breathing
- Suppressed appetite
While most people would love these side effects, there are also harsh side effects when stimulants are abused. These side effects are:
- Increased heart rate
- Muscle shakes or tremors
- Extremely high body temperature
- Agitation or easily angered
- Heightened blood pressure
Stimulants are widely used by millions of individuals around the world as prescription medication as well as without a prescription (either legally or illicitly) as performance-enhancing or recreational drugs.
Some of the most known stimulants are:
- Lisdexamfetamine (commonly used to treat ADHD)
- Methylphenidate (e.g., Ritalin)
- Amphetamine (also used to treat ADHD)
- Methamphetamine (commonly known as Meth)
- MDMA (commonly known as Ecstasy)
When people experience a “high” feeling from smoking cannabis, it is because their body is treating the drug as a stimulant.
What is a Hallucinogen?
A hallucinogen is a psychoactive agent which can cause hallucinations, perceptual anomalies, and other substantial subjective changes in thoughts, emotion, and consciousness.
These types of drugs basically alter your brain chemistry and the way you perceive reality. Hallucinogens have also been investigated as therapeutic agents to treat diseases associated with perceptual distortions such as:
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder
- Bipolar disorder
The common types of hallucinogens are:
Basically, this type of drug can produce illusions/mental images that appear to be real in a person.
Many people use hallucinogens during social interactions or recreational purposes. Their main focus is to have fun, deal with stress-related issues or to enter into a mental state that allows them to think more freely or clearly.
Marijuana has long been thought of as a hallucinogenic drug. But as you will soon learn, it could be much more than that.
What is an Opiate?
Opiates, originally derived from the poppy plant, have been around for thousands of years. It is a term classically used in pharmacology to mean a drug derived from opium. (Most people now refer to this drug as opioids.)
People use opiates for both recreational and medicinal purposes. They produce a sense of wellbeing or euphoria that can be very addictive to some people, having long-term effects on their brain.
In fact, a high dose of opiates can cause death from cardiac or respiratory arrest.
What most users are unaware of is that tolerance for this drug typically comes fast. So a user can accidentally overdose on opiates easily because they were chasing their next high.
Here are the common names for some opiates:
- Hydrocodone (Vicodin, Hycodan)
- Morphine (MS Contin, Kadian)
- Oxycodone (Oxycontin, Percoset)
- Hydromorphone (Dilaudid)
- Fentanyl (Duragesic)
Most painkiller medication is considered an opiate. For this reason, medical marijuana can be been considered an opiate due to its pain-soothing effects.
What is Marijuana Classified As?
The question of the day is what should marijuana be classified as? Is it a depressant? A stimulant? A hallucinogen? Or an opiate?
The answer is….ALL OF THE ABOVE. You see, marijuana’s effects depend on the user. Marijuana has a different variety of strains, each strain having a different effect once it enters a person’s body.
Each strain varies widely and elicits diverse chemical profiles (marijuana has over 400 compounds) that can produce different effects from person to person. So how marijuana affects your system could be vastly different from how it affects your family and friends.
Let’s analyze how a person uses marijuana and experience either one of these things.
Marijuana as a Depressant
Depressants affect your nervous system and slow brain function. Together, these actions can help to calm nerves and relax tense muscles.
Many people utilize marijuana as a depressant to relax or relieve stress. While this may seem as less harmful than other substances (e.g., alcohol, cigarettes, prescription drugs) to relax, using marijuana as a depressant can be a long-term problem.
For example, if you use marijuana every night so you can go to sleep, this could cause you not to be able to fall asleep without it.
In addition, like smoking cigarettes and other forms of tobacco, smoking cannabis for a lengthy period of time could irritate your airways. This can increase your risk of respiratory conditions, such as bronchitis or a chronic cough.
Marijuana as a Stimulant
The total opposite of depressants is stimulant drugs. Stimulants cause a person to experience heightened awareness and feelings of euphoria or excitement.
Many people who have (or currently) use marijuana experience these types of effects, thereby making it a stimulant for them. These people may even feel that cannabis makes them more “productive” and willing to do or think more.
These effects are harmless if that’s all that they experience. However, it could be an impending issue if marijuana causes:
- racing heartbeat
If marijuana is a stimulant to you, the good news is it is less deleterious and addictive than other stimulants such as meth and cocaine.
However, long-term use still can cause the same issues as if was a depressant. (e.g., respiratory issues)
Marijuana as a Hallucinogen
The biggest stereotype for marijuana is it is a hallucinogen. The reason for that is due to the “getting high” phenomenon.
The truth is (as you just read) everybody doesn’t get “high” when smoking marijuana. Some people’s body reacts to it as a depressant, stimulant or opiate. However, a great number of people has experienced marijuana as a hallucinogen.
Hallucinogens are substances that alter your perception of reality, either through changes in your visual or auditory. So this could make people see things that aren’t really there or think outlandish ideas.
Depending on the strain of cannabis, the hallucinogen effect can be very strong or weak for an individual. In rare cases, people may be left with flashbacks, psychosis, or a condition called hallucinogen persisting perception disorder.
Smoking marijuana shouldn’t cause these mental disorders but it could cause anxiety and depression, although it could also cure these issues too.
Is Marijuana an Opiate?
Many consider marijuana as a hallucinogen, depressant, and a stimulant. But not an opiate. Well, it appears that it actually is an opiate too!
Opiates are powerful painkillers that quickly produce feelings of euphoria. While marijuana isn’t as strong as codeine or morphine, it serves as a pain-killing drug too.
In fact, many people (especially athletes) prefer to use marijuana to alleviate pain because it isn’t super-strong nor does it have an extremely powerful additive effect on the brain.
The answer to the “Is marijuana a depressant?” question is a resounding yes. But marijuana is also a depressant, opiate, and stimulant too! It all depends on how your body reacts to it. As more marijuana laws are passed to legalize it, I wouldn’t be surprised if it is discovered to have other types of effects.