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is marijuana a depressant or antidepressant

Cannabis: Potent Anti-depressant In Low Doses, Worsens Depression At High Doses

A new neurobiological study has found that a synthetic form of THC, the active ingredient in cannabis, is an effective anti-depressant at low doses. However, at higher doses, the effect reverses itself and can actually worsen depression and other psychiatric conditions like psychosis.

It has been known for many years that depletion of the neurotransmitter serotonin in the brain leads to depression, so SSRI-class anti-depressants like Prozac and Celexa work by enhancing the available concentration of serotonin in the brain. However, this study offers the first evidence that cannabis can also increase serotonin, at least at lower doses.

Laboratory animals were injected with the synthetic cannabinoid WIN55,212-2 and then tested with the Forced Swim test — a test to measure “depression” in animals; the researchers observed an antidepressant effect of cannabinoids paralleled by an increased activity in the neurons that produce serotonin. However, increasing the cannabinoid dose beyond a set point completely undid the benefits, said Dr. Gabriella Gobbi of McGill University.

“Low doses had a potent anti-depressant effect, but when we increased the dose, the serotonin in the rats’ brains actually dropped below the level of those in the control group. So we actually demonstrated a double effect: At low doses it increases serotonin, but at higher doses the effect is devastating, completely reversed.”

The anti-depressant and intoxicating effects of cannabis are due to its chemical similarity to natural substances in the brain known as “endo-cannabinoids,” which are released under conditions of high stress or pain, explained Dr. Gobbi. They interact with the brain through structures called cannabinoid CB1 receptors. This study demonstrates for the first time that these receptors have a direct effect on the cells producing serotonin, which is a neurotransmitter that regulates the mood.

Dr. Gobbi and her colleagues were prompted to explore cannabis’ potential as an anti-depressant through anecdotal clinical evidence, she said. “As a psychiatrist, I noticed that several of my patients suffering from depression used to smoke cannabis. And in the scientific literature, we had some evidence that people treated with cannabis for multiple sclerosis or AIDS showed a big improvement in mood disorders. But there were no laboratory studies demonstrating the anti-depressant mechanism of action of cannabis.”

Because controlling the dosage of natural cannabis is difficult — particularly when it is smoked in the form of marijuana joints — there are perils associated with using it directly as an anti-depressant.

“Excessive cannabis use in people with depression poses high risk of psychosis,” said Dr. Gobbi. Instead, she and her colleagues are focusing their research on a new class of drugs which enhance the effects of the brain’s natural endo-cannabinoids.

“We know that it’s entirely possible to produce drugs which will enhance endo-cannabinoids for the treatment of pain, depression and anxiety,” she said.

The study, published in the October 24 issue of The Journal of Neuroscience, was led by Dr. Gabriella Gobbi of McGill University and Le Centre de Recherche Fernand Seguin of Hôpital Louis-H. Lafontaine, affiliated with l’Université de Montréal. First author is Dr. Gobbi’s McGill PhD student Francis Bambico, along with Noam Katz and the late Dr. Guy Debonnel* of McGill’s Department of Psychiatry.

A new neurobiological study has found that a synthetic form of THC, the active ingredient in cannabis, is an effective anti-depressant at low doses. However, at higher doses, the effect reverses itself and can actually worsen depression and other psychiatric conditions like psychosis.

Is Weed a Depressant, Stimulant, or Hallucinogen?

What are the main drug types?

Drugs are categorized based on their effects and properties. Each one generally falls into one of four categories:

  • Depressants: These are drugs that slow down your brain function. Examples include alcohol, alprazolam (Xanax), and barbiturates.
  • Stimulants: These drugs elevate your mood and increase your alertness and energy. They’re usually highly addictive and can cause paranoia over time. Examples include cocaine, methamphetamine, and prescription medications for ADHD.
  • Hallucinogens: This type of drug alters your perception of reality by changing the way the nerve cells in your brain communicate with each other. Examples include LSD, psilocybin, and MDMA.
  • Opiates: These are powerful painkillers that quickly produce feelings of euphoria. They’re highly addictive and can have lasting effects on your brain. Examples include heroin, morphine, and other prescription painkillers.

So, where does weed, otherwise known as marijuana, fall among these categories? The answer isn’t as tidy as you might think. Its effects can vary widely from person to person. In addition, distinct strains and types of weed can produce different effects.

As a result, weed can be classified as a depressant, stimulant, or hallucinogen, according to the University of Maryland. However, it’s never classified as an opiate.

Keep reading to learn more about what makes weed a depressant, stimulant, and hallucinogen.

Depressants affect your nervous system and slow brain function. Together, these actions can help to calm nerves and relax tense muscles. Depressants can help to treat several conditions, including insomnia, anxiety, or muscle spasms.

However, depressants can also have negative short-term effects, such as:

  • nausea
  • confusion
  • reduced motor coordination
  • low blood pressure
  • slowed breathing
  • slurred speech
  • lightheadedness
  • blurred vision
  • short-term memory loss
  • dizziness

Weed produces similar positive and negative effects, including:

  • relaxation
  • sleepiness
  • muscle relaxation
  • short-term memory loss
  • dizziness

While depressants are generally less addictive than other types of drugs, some of them, like barbiturates, carry a much higher risk. Over time, you can also develop a tolerance to depressants, including weed, meaning you need to use more of it to feel the effects that you used to feel.

You can also become dependent on weed for certain things. For example, if you use weed to help you sleep, you may eventually have trouble falling asleep without it.

In addition, smoking anything, whether it’s tobacco or weed, irritates your airways and can increase your risk of respiratory conditions, such as bronchitis or a chronic cough. Learn more about the effects of weed on your body.

Stimulants have the opposite effects that depressants do. They often increase your heart rate and blood pressure, causing rapid breathing in some people. Stimulants can also improve your mood, especially right after you take them.

While depressants often make you feel sleepy or relaxed, stimulants make you feel alert and energetic. They can also help to increase your attention span.

Stimulants can also have negative, and sometimes dangerous, effects, including:

  • increased body temperature
  • paranoia
  • irregular heart beat
  • anxiety
  • seizures
  • heart failure

Weed is sometimes treated as a stimulant because it can cause:

  • elevated moods
  • racing heartbeat
  • anxiety
  • paranoia

Remember, weed affects everyone differently. Some people might feel relaxed and at ease after using it, while others might feel highly alert or anxious.

Weed carries fewer risks than many other stimulants. For example, methamphetamine and cocaine are highly addictive drugs that can have lasting effects on both your brain and body.

As a stimulant, weed carries the same risks it does as a depressant. You can eventually become dependent on it for its mood-elevating effects, and smoking it can lead to respiratory issues.

Weed is perhaps most often stereotyped for its hallucinogenic effects. While hallucinations are possible, they happen rarely and don’t occur in all users. But the symptoms of weed, such as time distortion, are also part of a hallucination.

Hallucinogens are substances that alter your perception of reality, either through changes in your sensory perception or visual or auditory hallucinations.

Keep in mind that hallucinations and paranoia, which is associated with stimulants, are different things. While hallucinations are false perceptions of objects, events, or senses, paranoia involves a false idea that’s usually accompanied by suspicion.

For example, a hallucination might make you see the person walking in front of you as an animal. Paranoia, on the other hand, might make you think the person has been following you in order to harm you.

In addition to hallucinations, hallucinogens can also cause:

  • altered sense of time or space
  • loss of control over motor skills
  • increased heart rate
  • nausea
  • dry mouth
  • detachment from self or environment

Weed can have all of these additional effects, which is why many people and organizations classify it as a hallucinogen.

Over time, using hallucinogens can lead to speech problems, memory loss, anxiety, and depression. In rare cases, people may be left with psychosis, flashbacks, or a condition called hallucinogen persisting perception disorder.

As a hallucinogen, weed doesn’t do this, but it may cause both anxiety and depression, though it can also relieve these symptoms in some people. Remember, you can also develop a tolerance to or dependence on weed, and smoking it can harm your respiratory system.

Is weed a depressant, a stimulant, or a hallucinogen? We’ll walk you through the different types of drugs as well as their effects and risks. You’ll learn why it’s difficult to place marijuana in a single category and how it behaves like each of these drug categories.