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Is Marijuana a Stimulant or a Depressant?

calendar May 20, 2021 user By Key To Recovery

Medical professionals and scientists across the spectrum have mixed opinions when it comes to marijuana. Although some may argue that pot is harmless, others argue the opposite. Regardless of opinion, it’s a fact that California has been more open to the idea over the years of marijuana consumption for both medical and recreational purposes. So, is marijuana addictive? 

At the end of the day, pot is a psychoactive drug. Maybe some mystery still surrounds whether or not marijuana is addictive though because it doesn’t neatly fit into one drug class or another. Is marijuana a stimulant or a depressant? The answer is mixed, just like the opinions most people have about marijuana itself. 

The Science Behind Cannabis Effects and Addiction 

Unlike some other psychoactive substances, cannabis affects a large number of different areas in the brain. This is due to the fact that THC (the chemical compound in cannabis that causes a high) is molecularly similar to a brain chemical called anandamide. This chemical is an endogenous cannabinoid.

People naturally have cannabinoid receptors in their brains. They act as chemical brain messengers sending messages from neuron to neuron. Nerve cells (which are neurons) have cannabinoid receptors. Since THC is so molecularly similar to anandamide, it’s able to bind with these cannabinoid receptors, which activates these receptors. In turn, this disrupts various bodily systems associated with pleasure, memory, sensory, and perception among other functions. 

The brain’s reward system is one part of the brain that marijuana stimulates. Within this system exists a chemical called dopamine which plays a role in: 

  • Pleasure
  • Feeling rewarded
  • Blood pressure and flow
  • Kidney function
  • Heart rate
  • Motivation
  • Nausea and vomiting control
  • Sleep patterns
  • General mood
  • Ability to learn new information
  • Pain intensity

Aside from all the crucial functions dopamine plays a role in, pleasure and reward-seeking are the ones that can lead to addiction. The repeated influx of pleasure and feeling rewarded gets the brain accustomed to the sensation. Over time, it can also cause people to crave and be dependent on these new pleasurable and rewarding feelings so much that they’re willing to disrupt their lives through substance misuse to get them. 

This can cause people to begin to use marijuana in risky situations, such as when driving. Using marijuana during risky situations such as while driving is extremely dangerous as pot affects motor coordination and reaction time. 

In short, consuming marijuana habitually gets the body and brain hooked on the substance. This is partly due to the fact that cannabis affects brain chemistry in a severe manner. 

Marijuana Addiction 

Marijuana Addiction
Anyone who feels like marijuana can’t be addictive should understand that any drug can become addictive, legal or not. This is because drugs affect the brain’s neuroplasticity, which can condition someone to only feel normal when they consume a substance such as marijuana. 

Therefore, when looking at the facts, marijuana is addictive. The fact that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that 1 out of 10 Americans that consume cannabis get addicted to it, is only further proof, especially since this statistic increases for individuals that are under the age of 18 since their brains are so underdeveloped. 

According to the CDC, 1 out of 6 young adults that consume marijuana will also develop a marijuana addiction. An addiction to a substance such as marijuana rewires the brain, which impairs cognitive function, and increases the desire for that substance. As a result, people that suffer from marijuana addiction won’t be able to stop using the substance. Instead, they’ll likely begin to drop the activities that they once enjoyed and forgo following through with important responsibilities in exchange for getting more time to consume marijuana. This can lead to problems in all areas of the lives of chronic marijuana users. Individuals whose craving for marijuana has gotten so bad that it’s causing changes to their brain chemistry and causing them to make risky decisions should attend marijuana addiction treatment. 

What Are the Effects of Cannabis? 

People often choose to consume marijuana because they like the high and relaxing feeling that they get when they do. People can get high from marijuana when they smoke it, vape it, or ingest it. 

Other effects of cannabis include: 

  • Heightened sensory perception 
  • Thinking everything is funny 
  • Altered time perception 
  • Increases in appetite
  • Heightened anxiety 
  • Feelings of panic
  • Fear 

Unfortunately, people don’t get to choose whether they get the pleasant or unpleasant effects of marijuana, especially if they’re consuming marijuana recreationally. While people don’t overdose on marijuana, people can consume so much of the substance that they experience psychosis. Psychosis is a scary experience that involves dissociation, extreme paranoia, and even hallucinations. 

Is Marijuana a Stimulant or a Depressant? 

Again, marijuana doesn’t fit into the category of stimulant or depressant. This is partly due to the fact that there are various different strains of marijuana. Each strain of marijuana can produce the effects of multiple different types of drugs. To better understand how marijuana can fit into multiple drug categories, it’s important to understand each of the drug categories. 

What Is a Stimulant? 

In short, stimulants are substances that speed up the body’s systems, including the central nervous system. There are many types of stimulants. Some stimulants are legal while others are illegal. 

Common types of stimulants include: 

  • Caffeine 
  • Cocaine 
  • Meth 
  • MDMA 
  • Adderall 

Stimulants have their place in the medical community (and sometimes in breakfast beverages, like coffee), but can be highly addictive in nature. People who abuse stimulants tend to take them because they can make an individual feel energized and euphoric. 

Marijuana can have the same effect on individuals as other stimulants, especially particular strains of marijuana. Some people may consume marijuana to feel energized and euphoric. Marijuana can even make a person experience increased heart-rate/blood pressure. Thus, although pot may not be as addictive as stimulants like meth, people can still become addicted to it because of its stimulant-like effects. 

What Is a Depressant? 

Depressants slow down the body’s systems. Like stimulants, depressant drugs have their place in the medicinal world, while also carrying the risk of abuse Types of depressants include: 

  • Alcohol 
  • Benzodiazepines 
  • Barbiturates 
  • Laughing gas 

Since depressants slow down the body’s systems, they tend to make individuals feel relaxed, content, and calm. That’s why a person may be prescribed a type of depressant to help alleviate symptoms of anxiety disorders and insomnia. 

Many depressants are controlled substances for a reason. A controlled substance is a type of substance that the government believes has a potential for abuse. Marijuana has the same effect as many depressants, making those who consume it feel more relaxed and sleepy. For this reason, people can develop a substance use disorder to marijuana just like any other depressant drug. 

Marijuana As a Hallucinogen

Is Marijuana a Stimulant or a DepressantNot only can pot act as a stimulant or a depressant, but it can also act as a hallucinogen. Drugs in the hallucinogen class alter one’s perception of reality. For instance, hallucinogens may distort someone’s auditory and visual senses. As a result, that person may hear and see things that aren’t actually there. 

While most people won’t see anything too out of the ordinary after consuming marijuana, they may see colors more vibrantly. This only further adds to the possibility that one may develop a marijuana use disorder. 

Treatment for Marijuana Use Disorders 

At this time, there isn’t any official treatment for a marijuana use disorder. Despite that, the addiction treatment community understands that abruptly stopping marijuana use after developing an addiction can result in withdrawal symptoms. 

When a person develops a dependency on pot, that person may experience the following withdrawal symptoms when they stop using it: 

  • Increased irritability 
  • Insomnia 
  • Bodily aches and pains 
  • Loss of appetite 
  • Intense cravings to consume marijuana 
  • Increased symptoms of anxiety and mood disorders

A detox or addiction treatment center may prescribe individuals medications to help them combat some of the discomforts of withdrawal. Some of these medications range from sleep medication to fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH) inhibitors. 

Some individuals may abuse marijuana to deal with their underlying mental illnesses. Still, many states have legalized the substance. Therefore, to treat both marijuana addiction and its underlying mental health issues, people should attend dual diagnosis treatment.

When an individual suffers from both a substance use disorder and a mental health disorder, he or she has a dual diagnosis or co-occurring disorder. Talk therapies, like cognitive-behavioral therapy and dialectical behavior therapy, can help individuals stop self-destructive thought patterns as well as the behaviors that accompany them.

Addiction treatment centers may also use holistic therapies to complement talk therapy and help individuals find ways to cope with symptoms of mental illness in a positive manner. Holistic therapies range from physical exercise to expressive writing. 

Achieve Lasting Recovery From Your Marijuana Use Disorder at The Key to Recovery 

At The Key to Recovery, we know the answer to “is marijuana a stimulant or depressant?” We also know how to achieve lasting sobriety through the right mindset and the right addiction treatment team. 

Clients at The Key to Recovery also learn life skills to help them build the strongest foundation for a lifetime of sobriety. What makes us here at The Key to Recovery special is the fact that we accept all people, regardless of their religion, sexuality, or gender orientation. We accept people that need emotional support animals as well. 

Here at the Key to Recovery, we offer both inpatient and outpatient options to help serve as many individuals as possible. Therefore, if you or a loved one struggles with any kind of substance use disorder, reach out to us today. The road to recovery is long, but we’ll be with you every step of the way.