What Kind of Drug Is Marijuana?

Marijuana has depressant, hallucinogenic and stimulant properties. However, it does not neatly fit into any single one of these categories. Many people refer to the drug as a depressant with hallucinogenic and stimulant qualities.
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Cannabis is a unique drug. While heroin is an opioid and cocaine is a stimulant, marijuana doesn’t cleanly fit into a particular category of drugs. Marijuana can depress, excite and impair the central nervous system. This makes it difficult to classify.

Depressant Effects

Marijuana is largely viewed as a depressant because it slows down messages that travel between the body and brain. It can calm nerves, relax tense muscles and lower inhibitions. Prescription depressants fall into three categories: barbiturates, benzodiazepines and sedative-hypnotics. These drugs depress the central nervous system. Physicians often prescribe depressants to individuals experiencing anxiety or sleep problems.
Like traditional depressants, cannabis can cause:
  • Relaxation
  • Dizziness
  • Sleepiness
  • Short-term memory loss
A study published in the journal Psychology of Addictive Behaviors found that the college students who participated often used cannabis to cope with social anxiety. Although their marijuana use temporarily reduced anxiety, the drug caused other problems that affected their academic success, such as procrastination and lowered productivity.

Hallucinogenic Effects

Hallucinogens are a class of drugs that cause profound distortions in a person’s perceptions of reality. These substances, often man-made, are also found in certain plants and mushrooms. Hallucinogens include LSD and PCP. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, large doses of marijuana can cause hallucinations, delusions and a loss of the sense of personal identity. These effects are generally temporary. However, the drug can also exacerbate symptoms of schizophrenia in people with this mental illness. Cannabis can also cause symptoms similar to those of other hallucinogens.
These effects include:
  • Dry mouth
  • Nausea
  • Loss of control over motor skills
  • Detachment from self
A 2016 study by researchers at Arizona State University found that teen boys who used marijuana at least once a week were at an increased risk for experiencing paranoia and hallucinations. These symptoms even occurred after they stopped using the substance.

Stimulant Effects

Stimulants increase alertness, attention and heart rate. This class of drugs includes amphetamines, methamphetamines and cocaine. Doctors often prescribe stimulants such as Ritalin to people with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Although research has linked marijuana to an increased risk for depression, many people use the drug to enhance their mood and treat depression symptoms. But abusing the drug for its stimulant properties can increase a person’s tolerance and lead to marijuana addiction.
Like other stimulants, marijuana can cause:
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Elevated mood
  • Paranoia
The drug’s stimulant properties can also increase anxiety. A 2014 study published in the journal BMC Psychiatry found a link between marijuana use and anxiety among individuals with a history of cannabis use.

How Should You Classify Marijuana?

Marijuana is generally described as a depressant with stimulant and hallucinogenic properties. However, it is not simply a depressant, a hallucinogen or a stimulant. People respond to marijuana in different ways. In some people, the drug can cause anxiety. In others, it might produce feelings of contentment or drowsiness. When used chronically, cannabis may cause delusions. The way a person’s body responds to cannabis depends on his or her age, genetics and history of marijuana use. The amount of THC in the drug, dosage and method of administration are also significant factors in how a person reacts to cannabis. The substance can cause a bevy of short-term health complications, including impaired body movement and changes in mood. Marijuana can also cause long-term health problems, such as brain development issues. To learn more about the effects of cannabis, call a marijuana hotline. An admissions representative can offer you more information about the drug, including nearby treatment centers if you or a loved one is experiencing problems related to marijuana abuse.

Medical Disclaimer: DrugRehab.com aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.

Matt Gonzales
Content Writer, DrugRehab.com
Matt Gonzales is a writer and researcher for DrugRehab.com. He graduated with a degree in journalism from East Carolina University and began his professional writing career in 2011. Matt covers the latest drug trends and shares inspirational stories of people who have overcome addiction. Certified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in health literacy, Matt leverages his experience in addiction research to provide hope to those struggling with substance use disorders.

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