Is Marijuana A Depressant?

September 30, 2022
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Is weed a depressant? How to classify cannabis.

Are you looking for answers to the question, "is marijuana a depressant?" If you have ever felt sleepy or sedated after using cannabis, you might have wondered, “is weed a depressant?” This article answers the questions “what is a depressant?”, “is weed a depressant?”, and “is cannabis a CNS depressant?” We will also discuss whether weed is an upper or a downer, and why this is such a common question. If you want to know if marijuana is a depressant, read on!

What is a Depressant?

Depressants are drugs that slow down the activity of the brain. The Alcohol and Drug Foundation defines a depressant as a class of drugs that decreases stimulation and arousal. At a basic level, depressants “do not directly reduce arousal in the brain; they enhance the activity of a neurotransmitter that reduces arousal in the brain.” This neurotransmitter is GABA. In mammals, GABA is the primary inhibitory neurotransmitter and glutamate is primary excitatory neurotransmitter, and their balance controls “the brain’s overall level of excitation.” Depressants work by enhancing the activity of GABA, which has a “calming influence on anxiety and acute stress reactions.” Depressants can cause a range of effects from calming you down, to making you drowsy, and “extending progressively to sleep, unconsciousness, coma, surgical anesthesia, and…fatal respiratory and cardiovascular depression.” Luckily, cannabis does not lead to fatal respiratory and cardiovascular depression. If you want to know why you can’t fatally overdose on weed, click that link. Some common depressants include alcohol, prescription benzodiazepines like Xanax, prescription sleep medication like Ambien, and cannabis.

Is Marijuana a Depressant or Antidepressant?

Many people wonder if marijuana is a depressant or an antidepressant. That makes sense given that in some states, doctors can recommend medical marijuana to patients suffering from depression. Additionally, animal studies indicate that cannabinoids like THC can have antidepressant effects. However, cannabis can help you relax or fall asleep. The sedating effects of cannabis suggest it also acts as a depressant. So, is cannabis a depressant or an antidepressant? If you recall, the definition of a depressant is a drug that slows down brain activity, which is why depressants are also called central nervous system depressants, or CNS depressants. The opposite of a depressant is not an antidepressant, but a stimulant, or a drug that increases CNS activity. At a basic level, an antidepressant is defined as “anything, especially a drug, used to prevent or treat depression.” For example, SSRIs and MAOIs are two classes of antidepressants with different mechanisms of action. SSRIs affect serotonin levels by inhibiting the reuptake of serotonin into the synapse, while MAOIs block the breakdown of neurotransmitters like dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine. In the United States, cannabis is federally illegal and classified as Schedule I Drug with no medical benefit. As a result, the FDA does not consider cannabis to be a treatment for depression. Please note that we are not advising anyone to replace prescription drugs with cannabis. Anyone who feels they may be suffering from depression should consult their healthcare practitioner to determine the best course of treatment. The question “is marijuana a depressant or antidepressant” is based in the misconception that depressants and antidepressants are opposite. Depressants refer to the effect of a drug on the CNS, not how it affects mood. In fact, many depressants induce euphoria. So, is weed a depressant? Let’s find out whether marijuana is an upper or a downer.

Is Weed a Depressant?

The answer to the question “Is weed a depressant?” is “yes, cannabis is a CNS depressant at some doses.” Cannabis is a biphasic drug. For an in-depth discussion of this idea, check out Does Weed Help With Stress? Remember how the levels of GABA and glutamate determine the overall excitation of the brain? Cannabis is known to significantly increase GABA levels. However, cannabis also increase glutamate and dopamine, which means that weed is a stimulant as well.

Is Weed an Upper or Downer?

Evidently, the answer to “is weed an upper or downer” is a bit complicated. Cannabis is both an upper and a downer. There isn’t a simple answer, which is why this question persists through the years. Beyond the effects of THC, there are other compounds in cannabis that can sedate you. For example, if you consume a strain with moderate to high myrcene, linalool, or terpineol terpene content you may experience calming and sedative-like effects. As we discussed in Is Cannabis Good for Sleep?, cannabis was historically classified in medical textbooks as a hypnotic and sedative, two types of drugs that are depressants. In short, cannabis is a depressant.

Get Started on Your Cannabis Wellness Journey

Have you started your cannabis wellness journey? Jointly is a new cannabis wellness app that helps you discover purposeful cannabis consumption so you can achieve your wellness goals with cannabis and CBD. On the Jointly app, you can find new cannabis products, rate products based on how well they helped you achieve your goals, and track and optimize 15 factors that can impact your cannabis experience. These 15 factors include your dose, the environment in which you consume cannabis, who you are with when you ingest, how hydrated you are, the quality of your diet, how much sleep you got last night, and more. Download the Jointly app on the App Store or the Google Play Store to get started on your cannabis wellness journey. 

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