June 22, 2021

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Is Marijuana a Depressant?

Is Marijuana a Depressant?

Does marijuana fit in the depressants category? What is the link between them? Since it affects the users differently, individuals can’t help but wonder about the weed drug classification.

Yes, marijuana can be classified as a depressant because it slows down your brain function and affects your nervous system. Several studies show that marijuana acts as a depressant, and according to Mayoclinic (2018), depression is significantly higher in marijuana smokers than non-smokers. Individuals use marijuana to detach themselves from the depressive symptoms.

Depression and Marijuana

Can Marijuana Cause Depression?

If we talk about the composition of marijuana, it is a complex drug. It affects individuals in various ways. Each person reacts differently to the type of strain he/she ingests.

People who suffer from depression use marijuana to numb or dull their negative thoughts and feelings. However, several studies suggest that excessive and regular use of weed may create depression among users.

The NASEM (National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine 2017) conducted the most extensive marijuana health effects study. Based on the evidence, researchers concluded that there is a slight chance that weed can create depressive disorder risks.

Moreover, chronic or long-term use of marijuana can trigger schizophrenia or psychosis (a condition in which an individual cannot differentiate between reality and fantasy), as cited in Mayoclinic 2018.

These psychotic episodes can cause irreversible damage to the brain areas and can alter normal mental function.

These side-effects are usually due to the excessive intake of weed!

Can Marijuana Treat Depression?

Marijuana tends to alter the natural flow of neurotransmitters that delivers relaxation to the body. Consuming weed in low doses can improve depression; however, no studies or research supports the theory that it can cure depression.

Furthermore, cannabis can reduce negative thoughts among depressive people—clinical research published in J. Psychoactive. Drugs (2014) highlights that the usage of marijuana decreased the symptoms of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). It reduced PTSD symptoms by 75%.

What is a Depressant Anyway?

Depressants, as the name suggests, depresses or slows down the central nervous system. Our central nervous system is composed of the spinal cord and brain accompanied by cells called neurons and a complex nerve network.

These cells and nerves are responsible for sending signals or messages to the different body parts.

Depressants increase the neurotransmitter GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid). What does this neurotransmitter do? It can slow down your spinal cord and brain’s regular activity by reducing the transmit signals from the body nerves.

You will find three main depressant drugs in the market. These include sleep medications, benzodiazepines, and barbiturates. These medications available are safe and helpful.

Depressants Risks

Misusing the depressants can significantly increase the risks, and these include addiction and dependence. Excessive consumption to enjoy the euphoric effects can pose severe and dangerous side effects.

Depressants are usually less addictive than other drugs available like barbiturates. However, after an extended period, your body becomes used to that certain amount of dosage.

This is also the case of weed! Thus, you can slowly become dependent on it because your body will need more to feel those effects that you are used to feeling.

Moreover, overdosage can considerably lower the individual’s breathing and heart rate. The aftermath can be life-threatening and can require instant medical attention.

That’s not all! People who are sensitive to this drug and are experiencing severe depression, panic attacks, anxiety, or other mental health problems should be cautious because weed’s depressant effects can make their symptoms worse.

How Does Marijuana Work As A Depressant?

Before understanding the working of marijuana, let’s quickly go through marijuana’s most active ingredients.

THC

Tetrahydrocannabinol or THC is the psychoactive compound present in marijuana. It is the notorious compound responsible for producing high sensations and psychological effects.

The cannabinoid receptors are present in some regions of the brain; THC attaches itself and activates them. Thus, these areas of the brain get triggered:

  • Time and sensory perception
  • Concentration
  • Coordination
  • Thinking
  • Pleasure
  • memory

CBD

Cannabidiol, or CBD, the second active ingredient in cannabis, is extracted from the hemp plant. Unlike THC, CBD is not a mind-altering ingredient, and it does not make you feel high.

Effects Of Marijuana

On using the drug, the chemicals present in marijuana combine with the brain’s cannabinoid receptors. As a result, these receptors change the mind’s balance and let you experience high or euphoric effects.

Our body possesses neurotransmitters that play a huge role in mood regulation. Moreover, marijuana, as mentioned above, is capable of altering neurotransmitters’ natural flow.

It alters a few chemicals’ normal functioning, changes the mind’s balance, and does not allow neurotransmitters to operate as they usually do.

Thus, it relaxes the tense muscles, calms the nerves and the nervous system. That is why several people experience a reduction in their depressive symptoms.

Even though weed can trigger depressant-like effects like the other depressants, the difference is that it does not affect GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid). Its sedative effects are due to the sudden increase in Dopamine.

Smoking marijuana causes THC and various other chemicals to pass directly into your bloodstream. THC triggers the brain cells to produce Dopamine. The positive effects of Dopamine are instantly felt when smoked.

In contrast, consuming cannabis with beverages or food delays the effects. It is because THC has to go through the digestive tract first and then gets absorbed.

It takes around thirty minutes or an hour for the cannabis effects to kick in. Plus, the ingestion does not absorb as much THC as smoking. Therefore, it is advised to consume marijuana with caution because many individuals accidentally consume a high dosage of THC.

What does Dopamine do? Dopamine, also called the “feel good” hormone is an essential part of the brain’s pleasure and rewarding system. It promotes positive feelings such as pleasure and happiness among individuals.

A study cited in Nature (2016) showed that the initial usage of marijuana could increase dopamine levels. However, it also indicated that the drug’s regular use could slowly decrease this neurotransmitter’s amount in the brain.

You may already have guessed what lower levels of Dopamine would do to our body. Impairment of the dopaminergic system can affect your mood and can produce adverse effects on your learning and behavior.

Marijuana Pleasant and Unpleasant Effects

Besides feeling relaxation and pleasant euphoria after smoking marijuana, here are some other common effects:

  • Fits of giggles
  • Increase in appetite
  • Altered sense of time
  • Sensory perception heightens

Individuals consuming large doses of marijuana can experience temporary and unpleasant effects. Instead of being euphoric and intensely relaxed, some people might feel:

  • Panic
  • Distrust
  • Fear
  • Anxiety

Marijuana’s Depressant Effects

Consuming marijuana can help you in:

  • Eliminating insomnia
  • Feeling relaxed
  • Diminishing anxiety

Besides these positive pointers, here are a few short-term side-effects of depressants.

  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Poor concentration
  • Short-term memory loss
  • Slurred speech
  • Confusion
  • Slowed breathing
  • Blurred vision
  • Low blood pressure
  • Motor coordination diminishes
  • Lightheadedness
  • Panic attacks
  • Restlessness

Which Specific Brain Parts Do Marijuana Affect?

These are the following parts of the brain that are greatly affected by marijuana.

Neocortex

This part is responsible for movement, decision-making, and complex thoughts. When marijuana affects this part, it is not safe to drive as it becomes problematic.

Basal Ganglia and Cerebellum

These areas are responsible for balance and movement, and marijuana can alter these functions.

Nucleus Acumens

This area regulates motivation and reward.

Amygdala

This area regulates anxiety, fear, and emotions. When affected by the THC, individuals can feel panic or paranoia.

Is Marijuana Only a Depressant?

Marijuana is not only a depressant, but it also acts as a hallucinogen and stimulant. Stimulants, unlike depressants, increase your blood pressure and heart rate. They trigger mood-elevating effects and make you feel energetic and alert.

Cannabis as a hallucinogen, alters your auditory, sensory, or visual perceptions. Hallucinogenic effects are possible, but they rarely occur and might not happen to all cannabis users.

However, it is essential to remember that paranoia and hallucinations are two different things. Hallucinations are sensations that your mind creates, but they are not real. Contrastingly, paranoia is a feeling that makes you think that you are being threatened.

Bottom Line – Is Marijuana a Depressant

The physical and psychological effects of marijuana can vary from individual to individual. It can make a few people sleepy and relaxed. Plus, it can deliver an energy boost and euphoria to others.

Therefore, marijuana is classified as a depressant, hallucinogenic, and stimulant. But, many people can experience side effects as well.

It can work wonders in eliminating anxiety and depression for some, and for others, it can make their symptoms worse. Small doses can diminish the depressive symptoms, but prolonged usage can alter the mental function; thus, causing irreversible damage to the brain.

Furthermore, smoking marijuana every day can make you dependent. What’s worse? It makes you an addict. Plus, it can lower your dopamine levels that can cause changes in your moods.

Therefore, it is better not to self-medicate with marijuana. Using this drug to diminish health issues can worsen the symptoms as it increases the tolerance levels.

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