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There are 2 main types of marijuana — here’s the difference

If you’re new to marijuana, shopping at a dispensary can be an overwhelming experience.

Typically, a menu board lists a dozen or more varieties, called strains, with names that sound like punch lines from a Seth Rogen movie. From the subdued Blue Dream to the upbeat and euphoric Berry White, the names give almost no indication of the drug’s effect or strength.

Knowing the difference between the two major species of marijuana, sativa and indica, may help newbies pick a product that best fits their medicinal needs. The characteristics of each are, however, hugely speculative and based on user-reported experiences.

Sativa and indica strains originated from different parts of the world. Sativa, with its long, thin leaves, is believed to have grown in a hot, jungle-like geography. The short and bushy-leafed indica evolved in drier conditions.

Ask any “budtender” or black-market dealer and they will tell you the differences in how these two strains affect the body and mind are easy to spot.

Sativa strains produce a rush of energy that leaves people feeling energized and uplifted, according to strain-review site Leafly. It’s a good pick if you’re heading to a Rihanna concert or penning the great American novel, but not ideal for toking before bed.

Indica strains, on the other hand, help you wind down into a relaxed, sedated state. They’re often believed to be responsible for the “couch-lock” phenomenon that lets stoners binge television mindlessly. (Might I suggest Netflix’s “Stranger Things” for such activity?)

These classifications make our lives easier as consumers. Unfortunately, they may be more fiction than fact.

Dr. Ethan Russo, a neurologist and president emeritus at the International Cannabinoid Research Society, described the myths around sativa versus indica strains as “total nonsense.”

“We would all prefer simple nostrums to explain complex systems, but this is futile and even potentially dangerous in the context of a psychoactive drug such as cannabis,” Russo said in an interview with the Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research journal earlier this year.

He, and other scientists, believe that marijuana’s terpenoids — a large class of organic compounds produced by plants — are largely responsible for the differences in observed effects. A strain’s myrcene content is more likely what causes couch-lock, while limonene produces a heady high.

These compounds and more appear in varied concentrations in sativa and indica, though they’re rarely reported. Smokers don’t know what they’re getting, short of a lab-grade biochemical analysis on the bud they’re buying (which some providers do offer).

It’s nearly impossible to make any definitive assumptions since research has been limited for so long. The federal government currently classifies marijuana in a category of drugs believed to have no medicinal benefits, placing severe restrictions on research, though those are loosening. In August, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agreed to increase the number of institutes it certifies to grow marijuana for research.

There’s also something to be said for the placebo effect, science writer Simon Oxenham points out in a recent investigation. When we read this strain will do that, our minds will the suggestion into reality.

The mind works in mysterious ways, as does marijuana.

Learn the difference between sativa and indica strains of marijuana.

Is marijuana a depressant? What to know

Marijuana is a drug that many people take recreationally, often referring to it as weed. However, others sometimes use it medicinally to manage symptoms of chronic conditions. Some people may wonder whether marijuana is a depressant.

In this article, we explore different types of drug, including depressants, stimulants, and hallucinogens, and determine the categories to which marijuana belongs. We also discuss the effects that marijuana has on the body and mind.

Share on Pinterest Marijuana is a depressant, stimulant, and a hallucinogen.

Marijuana can have a depressant effect, but it is not only a depressant. It may also act as a stimulant or hallucinogen.

For this reason, marijuana is a:

  • depressant
  • stimulant
  • hallucinogen

Marijuana contains a psychoactive chemical called delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). It is THC that alters people’s mental state when they use marijuana.

Smoking, vaping, or consuming marijuana affects every person differently. Marijuana may have a strong depressant effect for some people but not others.

Various types and strains of the plant may also produce different effects on the body and mind.

When people use marijuana, their lungs or stomach absorbs the THC into the bloodstream, which takes it to the brain and other organs.

Once THC reaches the brain, it acts on specific brain cell receptors. Here, marijuana can produce depressant, stimulant, and hallucinogenic effects.

Common examples of each include:

  • a sense of relaxation (depressant effect)
  • mild euphoria or elevated mood (stimulant effect)
  • heightened sensory perception (hallucinogenic effect)

Marijuana can have a range of effects, which fall into the following categories:

Depressant

Depressants are drugs that have a relaxing effect. They may reduce anxiety and muscle tension and make a person feel sleepy.

These effects occur because depressants calm the central nervous system and slow down brain function.

The depressant effects of marijuana include:

  • feeling relaxed
  • feeling less anxious
  • aiding sleep

The adverse side effects of depressants include:

  • slurred speech
  • confusion
  • dizziness
  • slowed breathing
  • memory problems
  • poor concentration

Stimulant

Stimulants are drugs that increase alertness and elevate mood by targeting the neurotransmitters dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain.

Dopamine influences a person’s mood, while norepinephrine affects:

  • blood vessels
  • blood pressure
  • heart rate
  • blood sugar levels
  • breathing

Taking stimulants, including marijuana, may also cause a high or euphoric feeling due to the effect of these drugs on dopamine.

Stimulants also cause physical symptoms, typically increasing the:

  • blood pressure
  • heart rate
  • breathing rate

Side effects of stimulants may include:

  • restlessness
  • anxiety
  • panic attacks
  • paranoia

Hallucinogen

Hallucinogens are drugs that alter a person’s perception of reality.

They may have these effects because they increase serotonin levels in the frontal cortex of the brain, which is the area responsible for mood, perception, and cognition.

Marijuana may, therefore, cause someone to have heightened sensory perception, resulting in them:

  • seeing brighter colors
  • hearing sounds differently
  • being more sensitive to touch

Heightened sensory perception is a mild form of hallucination that some people may find enjoyable.

Hallucinogens can also cause more intense symptoms that may be distressing. The possible adverse side effects of these drugs include:

  • nausea
  • increased heart rate
  • paranoia
  • powerful hallucinations

Examples of each drug type include:

Stimulants Depressants Hallucinogens
marijuana marijuana marijuana
amphetamines alcohol lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD or “acid”)
cocaine benzodiazepines dimethyltryptamine (DMT)
nicotine flunitrazepam (Rohypnol) psilocybin
caffeine gamma-hydroxybutyric acid (GHB) peyote

Although it is illegal in many states, marijuana is a common recreational drug.

Some people use prescription marijuana or self-medicate with the drug. While marijuana use is widespread, this drug does carry risks.

People may experience a range of side effects from the depressant, stimulant, and hallucinogenic properties of marijuana.

These side effects may include:

  • slurred speech
  • confusion
  • dizziness
  • slowed breathing
  • memory problems
  • poor concentration
  • restlessness
  • anxiety
  • panic attacks
  • hallucinations
  • paranoia
  • nausea
  • increased heart rate

Some strains of marijuana are stronger than others. Without having a clear idea of a drug’s potency, a person may experience stronger effects than they expected.

People with depression or related mental health conditions may find that the depressant effects of marijuana make their symptoms worse.

Those who experience anxiety or panic attacks may also increase their risk of symptoms by using marijuana. However, others may find that marijuana reduces their anxiety.

Due to marijuana’s depressant effects, using it regularly can sometimes affect a person’s motivation and ability to complete daily tasks.

For some people, using marijuana may contribute to mental health problems. Recent research suggests that there is a link between marijuana use and an increased risk of psychotic disorder, which may cause delusions and hallucinations.

Marijuana affects everyone differently. People who use marijuana should be mindful of how it affects them personally and consider speaking to a doctor if they are experiencing any adverse symptoms.

Marijuana can act as a depressant, stimulant, and hallucinogen. Learn more about the effects of each type of drug here. We also cover the risks and side effects.