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 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 marijuana can produce different effects.
As a result, marijuana 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 marijuana 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
Marijuana 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 marijuana, meaning you need to use more of it to feel the effects that you used to feel.
In addition, smoking anything, whether it’s tobacco or marijuana, irritates your airways and can increase your risk of respiratory conditions, such as bronchitis or a chronic cough. Learn more about the effects of marijuana 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
Marijuana is sometimes treated as a stimulant because it can cause:
- elevated moods
- racing heartbeat
Remember, marijuana affects everyone differently. Some people might feel relaxed and at ease after using it, while others might feel highly alert or anxious.
As a stimulant, marijuana 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.
Marijuana 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 marijuana, 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
Marijuana 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, marijuana 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 marijuana, and smoking it can harm your respiratory system.
Marijuana can have a variety of psychological and physical effects that vary from person to person. It can make some people tired or relaxed and give others an energy boost and increase alertness.
It can also help to treat mental health conditions, such as anxiety and depression, in some people. In others, it can actually cause anxiety over time.
As a result, marijuana can be considered a depressant, stimulant, or hallucinogen.