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Is Marijuana a Depressant or Stimulant? 4 Key Factors You Need to Know

The facts about marijuana commonly get misreported. Some sources will tell you that marijuana is a depressant. Others will argue that it can be a stimulant in the right circumstances.

Various media outlets regularly report cannabis as the fuel for certain actions people have taken. Usually with zero evidence either way.

So, which is it? Depressant or stimulant?

In this article, we will take a look at the various factors which will affect the way cannabis can affect you.

But first, let’s consider exactly what we mean by a “depressant” and a “stimulant”.

What is a depressant?

man holding sad emoticon

A depressant is a kind of substance which slows down your central nervous system and reduces functional activity. You will commonly feel sleepy or relaxed after taking one.

Examples of depressants include:

  • Sleep medications
  • Benzodiazepines like Valium
  • Barbiturates
  • Alcohol

What is a stimulant?

man holding a smiley emoticon

Conversely, stimulants are substances which raise the levels of physiological or nervous activity in your body. You will usually feel an increase in your energy and alertness after taking one.

Examples of common stimulants include:

  • Caffeine
  • Cocaine
  • Amphetamines

So is marijuana a stimulant or depressant?

Confusingly, it’s both.

The reasons for this include a wide range of factors, including the facts that:

  1. Cannabis is complicated
  2. There are different types of cannabis
  3. There are different methods you can use to take it
  4. People are complicated

Let’s unpack each of these a little further…

1) Cannabis is complicated

One of the biggest problems preventing a decisive determination as to whether marijuana is a stimulant or depressant is its complexity.

It contains:

  • More than 113 different cannabinoids (a kind of chemical which alters neurotransmitter release in your brain – the commonly known THC and CBD are cannabinoids)
  • Dozens of different terpenes (essential plant oils)

Plus, the effects of some of these chemicals may actually worth in opposite directions!

For example, CBD is suspected to be responsible for some of the positive cognitive effects of marijuana. Opposed to this is THC, which may make your memory worse.

cannabis leaf

2) There are different types of cannabis

On top of this, not all cannabis is the same.

The various strains and types of cannabis produce many different effects when taken. For instance:

Many varieties of the cannabis indica strain are known for producing a very relaxing effect.

On the other hand, a variety of cannabis sativa from South Africa colloquially known as “Durban Poison” can produce a powerful stimulant effect.

Different strains also contain different concentrations of THC, CBD and the other active ingredients found in the cannabis plant.

This is one of the reasons why distilled cannabis concentrates with proven 99-100% purity of concentration are the only ones to have been approved for medical use by the Food and Drug Administration in the US.

Isolating and treating each of the chemical compounds found within cannabis individually is the only way to test their effects and potential.

3) There are different methods you can use to take it

One of the things which numerous scientific studies on cannabis fail to account for is the manner in which it is consumed.

There are a number of different ways you can take cannabis, including:

Smoking it

Vaporizing it

Orally ingesting it

Applying it topically

-Via suppositories

This can mean your body is required to process the active ingredients in different ways. This can change the amount of time it takes to notice an effect, the duration of the effects and their intensity.

For example, eating cannabis containing quantities of THC is known to usually produce a more intense but delayed effect. This is because it takes your body longer to metabolize the THC. But, when it does, the THC is converted into a different type of THC which is much stronger.

Sometimes the resulting concentrations are enough to produce a hallucinogenic effect.

4) People are complicated

Finally, your physiology will play a huge role in how taking cannabis will affect you.

You might:

-Have physiological differences which mean you experience a relaxed effect where other people experience anxiousness – or vice versa

-Be particularly susceptible to certain cannabinoids

-Be especially resistant to certain active ingredients found in the plant

-The environment you are in will almost certainly play an important part too.

You may:

*Be in a very quiet, safe space and end up feeling relaxed

*Be in a very loud and over-stimulating environment and end up feeling stressed

*Be in an unknown or oppressive environment and end up feeling paranoid

What conclusions can we draw?

So, is cannabis a depressant?

The truest answer to the question is “not necessarily.” Marijuana’s cognitive effects and any other reactions you might experience when taking it will depend on various factors.

Not least, what type it is and the concentrations of active ingredients it contains, where and how you have chosen to take it and your own body’s make-up.

The next time someone asks if marijuana is a depressant, you will know there is no set answer.

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