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:
- reduced motor coordination
- low blood pressure
- slowed breathing
- slurred speech
- blurred vision
- short-term memory loss
Weed produces similar positive and negative effects, including:
- muscle relaxation
- short-term memory loss
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
- irregular heart beat
- heart failure
Weed is sometimes treated as a stimulant because it can cause:
- elevated moods
- racing heartbeat
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
- 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.
There are 2 main types of marijuana — here’s the difference
If you’re new to marijuana, shopping at a dispensary can be an overwhelming experience.
Typically, a menu board lists a dozen or more varieties, called strains, with names that sound like punch lines from a Seth Rogen movie. From the subdued Blue Dream to the upbeat and euphoric Berry White, the names give almost no indication of the drug’s effect or strength.
Knowing the difference between the two major species of marijuana, sativa and indica, may help newbies pick a product that best fits their medicinal needs. The characteristics of each are, however, hugely speculative and based on user-reported experiences.
Sativa and indica strains originated from different parts of the world. Sativa, with its long, thin leaves, is believed to have grown in a hot, jungle-like geography. The short and bushy-leafed indica evolved in drier conditions.
Ask any “budtender” or black-market dealer and they will tell you the differences in how these two strains affect the body and mind are easy to spot.
Sativa strains produce a rush of energy that leaves people feeling energized and uplifted, according to strain-review site Leafly. It’s a good pick if you’re heading to a Rihanna concert or penning the great American novel, but not ideal for toking before bed.
Indica strains, on the other hand, help you wind down into a relaxed, sedated state. They’re often believed to be responsible for the “couch-lock” phenomenon that lets stoners binge television mindlessly. (Might I suggest Netflix’s “Stranger Things” for such activity?)
These classifications make our lives easier as consumers. Unfortunately, they may be more fiction than fact.
Dr. Ethan Russo, a neurologist and president emeritus at the International Cannabinoid Research Society, described the myths around sativa versus indica strains as “total nonsense.”
“We would all prefer simple nostrums to explain complex systems, but this is futile and even potentially dangerous in the context of a psychoactive drug such as cannabis,” Russo said in an interview with the Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research journal earlier this year.
He, and other scientists, believe that marijuana’s terpenoids — a large class of organic compounds produced by plants — are largely responsible for the differences in observed effects. A strain’s myrcene content is more likely what causes couch-lock, while limonene produces a heady high.
These compounds and more appear in varied concentrations in sativa and indica, though they’re rarely reported. Smokers don’t know what they’re getting, short of a lab-grade biochemical analysis on the bud they’re buying (which some providers do offer).
It’s nearly impossible to make any definitive assumptions since research has been limited for so long. The federal government currently classifies marijuana in a category of drugs believed to have no medicinal benefits, placing severe restrictions on research, though those are loosening. In August, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agreed to increase the number of institutes it certifies to grow marijuana for research.
There’s also something to be said for the placebo effect, science writer Simon Oxenham points out in a recent investigation. When we read this strain will do that, our minds will the suggestion into reality.
The mind works in mysterious ways, as does marijuana.
Learn the difference between sativa and indica strains of marijuana.