Why Marijuana is Considered Both a Stimulant and Depressant

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Marijuana may be one of the most controversial illicit drugs available today.  Advocates for the recreational use of the drug claim that it has no adverse effects on their lives.  Individuals who promote medicinal marijuana insist that the benefits far outweigh the risks.  Also, the continuing debate about it being a gateway drug has yet to be resolved.  Aside from these considerations, there is also some confusion as to whether marijuana is a stimulant, depressant, or hallucinogen.  The fact is, this drug is a combination of the three.  But, is that possible?  Can a drug cause these three different effects without causing harm?  Is cannabis a depressant or stimulant?  Let’s take a look at how abusing marijuana works in the mind and body to produce these different results.

Marijuana As a Stimulant

A stimulant is defined as:

an agent (such as a drug) that produces a temporary increase of the functional activity or efficiency of an organism or any of its parts.”

Stimulants, known as “uppers” increase feelings of well-being and alertness and affect a person’s mood.  Some of the standard stimulants we rely on for these boosts include coffee, sugar, and tobacco.  Certain prescription drugs that act as stimulants include amphetamines such as Adderall or Ritalin.  Illicit drugs such as cocaine, crack-cocaine, methamphetamine, and MDMA are also classified as stimulants.

Although marijuana doesn’t appear on the lists of stimulants, many people enjoy the mood-lifting effects of the drug.  Of course, different strains of cannabis produce mixed results. Also, each person responds to the effects differently.  But, all in all, the most desired stimulant effects of abusing marijuana use include:

  • Euphoria
  • Enhanced well-being
  • Boosts in confidence and self-esteem
  • Elation, talkativeness
  • Reduced inhibitions

Because of these euphoric effects, this drug could be classified as a stimulant,  But, the drug also has the opposite effects for some users, placing it in the classification as a depressant.

Why Is Cannabis Considered a Depressant?

A depressant is defined as:

“an agent that reduces a functional bodily activity or an instinctive desire (such as appetite).”

So, with this in mind, we have to ask “is marijuana a depressant drug?”  The following side-effects indicate that the drug does have a depressant component:

  • Tiredness
  • Muscle relaxation
  • Decreased alertness
  • Lack of motivation
  • Sedation

Most of these symptoms are short-term.  However, chronic abuse can cause an individual to experience prolonged effects.  Some people theorize that cannabis causes chronic depression. This theory is still unresolved.  However, studies show that depression is the reason many people self-medicate with weed.  Also, some of the side-effects mentioned above resemble depression.  Although some studies show a correlation between diagnosed depression and cannabis use, the Mayo Clinic asserts that there is no clear distinction supporting these claims.

Does Abusing Marijuana Produce Hallucinogenic Effects?

Hallucinogens are defined as:

“a substance that causes people to see or sense things that are not real: a substance that causes hallucinations.”

These drugs fall into different categories such as psychedelics, dissociatives, and deliriants. Each classification includes drugs that produce specific effects which are often indicated by their descriptive street names. Marijuana is not listed among these classifications.  However, the THC in cannabis can cause some of the same side effects as these other powerful substances.  The hallucinogenic effects of this drug can mimic those of the harder drugs. Depending on the purity of the cannabis being used, it can cause distortions in emotional, sensory, and cognitive perceptions such as:

  • Paranoia
  • Extreme anxiety
  • Hallucinations
  • Delusions

It is important to note that there are no specifically hallucinogenic strains of marijuana, yet certain strains contain higher levels of THC which can contribute to the hallucinogenic effects. The marijuana produced today has much higher THC content due to improved growing methods.  This increased THC can result in higher risks for developing a tolerance or dependence.  It can also increase the risk of adverse psychoactive effects such as hallucinations or other psychosis.

What Our Government Says About Marijuana

Many marijuana proponents argue that it should be rescheduled or removed from the controlled substances list altogether.  Currently, this drug is classified as a Schedule 1 drug by the US Controlled Substances Act.  This classification means that a drug is considered highly addictive and has no proven medicinal use.  The government also places it in the same category as LSD and claims it is more dangerous than methamphetamine.  But, some states and lawmakers have begun to put cannabis and marijuana in a category of their own.

Recently, the Food and Drug Administration sent warning letters to companies that sell CBD oil (cannabidiol) ordering them to quit claiming that it stops cancer tumor growth.  Despite the fact that CBD is not the compound in marijuana that causes the “high,” the FDA continues to push for more tests and clinical trials before they will approve the drugs.  The United States Attorney General denounced medical marijuana for treating heroin addiction.  He said,  “that would amount to addicts“ one life-wrecking dependency for another that’s only slightly less awful.”

But, on the other side of the issue, there is evidence that medical marijuana reduces opiate-related overdoses.  Also, there is evidence that in the states where medical marijuana is legal, there are fewer opioid overdoses.

A Double-Edged Sword

Marijuana stimulant effects make it attractive to those who want to get high.  Its medicinal benefits make it attractive for those who suffer chronic pain that is not easily controlled by other methods.  Drug dealers make tons of money selling the drug.  Users spend too much money obtaining more of the drug.  Politicians use their position on the drug as a means to gain votes.  Voters no longer know who to believe about the issue.

No matter which side of the controversy we find our position, neither side can say beyond a doubt that marijuana is completely bad or completely good.  For instance, 99% of those who use illicit drugs started out using weed.  But, 63% of these users did not go on to use other illegal drugs.  Another fact to consider is that opioid-related deaths decreased by 33% in thirteen states where medical marijuana is legal.  According to the DEA, no marijuana-related overdose deaths have been reported.

As with any substance of abuse, there are adverse, long-term side effects of abusing marijuana.  Young people are more at risk for long-term cognitive problems as a result of using this drug while their brains are not fully developed yet. Health problems such as lung disease, sterility, and some cancers are reported from abusing marijuana. Comparatively, the list of health problems that result from legal prescription drug use is much longer.

As we continue trying to resolve the controversy, we must also keep educating our young people about the potential dangers of this substance.  All in all, abusing marijuana seems to be a double-edged sword.

Finding Treatment for Marijuana Abuse

Remember, the part of marijuana that has medical benefits is not the same part that causes the “high.”   Also remember, medicinal marijuana use is supervised by trained physicians.  Not knowing these differences can result in adverse effects.  Call us today if you would like more information.  Or, if you or a loved one are seeking help for cannabis problems, call today. One of our representatives will answer your questions and recommend a treatment program that is suited to your unique needs.