Do you wonder about cannabis drug classification? The effects vary with different users. It can be a depressant, a stimulant, or a hallucinogen.

Exploring possible cannabis drug classifications

cannabis use
Photo by Matteo Badini

Depressants, also known as ‘downers’, will put you to sleep, relieve anxiety and muscle spasms, and prevent seizures. They can effect concentration and coordination.

They do not necessarily make a person feel depressed but rather effect the central nervous system, slowing down the messages between the brain and the body. (1) Examples are alcohol, benzodiazepines, GHB, and Kava. (2)

Stimulants elevate your mood and increase your alertness and energy, quite opposite to depressants. This class of drugs speeds up the messages between the brain and the body. (3) Examples include amphetamines, cocaine and crack, caffeine, nicotine, and ecstasy. (4)

Hallucinogens are a class of drugs that cause hallucinations or profound distortions in a person’s perceptions of reality. Under the influence of hallucinogens people often report rapid, intense emotional swings and seeing images, hearing sounds, and feeling sensations that seem real but are not. (5) Examples include LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide), PCP (phencyclidine), magic mushrooms (psilocybin), ketamine, and morning glory seeds. (6)

Is it a depressant, stimulant, or hallucinogen?

Cannabis is distinctive because it has properties of all three classifications.

THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) is the main psychoactive compound in marijuana. THC is a cannabinoid that makes people feel “high. Psychoactive substances are substances that, when taken in or administered into one’s system, effect mental processes such as cognition or affect. (7) Cannabinoids support the process of homeostasis in the human body by enabling the body’s endocannabinoid system.

It works differently on different people.

Cannabis slows down the central nervous system’s activity making some users feel relaxed, calm, sleepy, less anxious along with some level of dizziness and short-term memory loss. It can be considered to be a depressant. (8)

Like stimulants, cannabis induces feelings of pleasure for some. Experiences such as elevated moods, racing heartbeat, anxiety, and paranoia are common. (8) Cannabis is also known for its appetite-stimulating effects preventing nausea and vomiting in the advanced stages of illnesses such as cancer and AIDS. (9)

Most case reports of user experience describing hallucinations following acute cannabis exposure involve individuals with current psychosis or a family history of psychosis, populations that are known to have an atypical response to cannabis. A growing literature continues to explore the relationship between cannabis use and the development of psychosis among individuals with an underlying vulnerability for psychosis. (10)

Cannabis as a drug and addiction

cannabis drug classification
Photo by Tobias Tullius

Contrary to popular belief, people can become addicted to cannabis. Continued, frequent, and heavy cannabis use can cause physical dependency and addiction.

Some people can develop tolerance to the effects of cannabis. Tolerance is characterized by a need for larger doses of a drug to maintain the same effects. Tolerance can develop after a few doses. In some people, tolerance can eventually lead to physical dependence and/or addiction.

Addiction can develop at any age, but youth are especially vulnerable because their brains are still developing. (11)

So, the usage of cannabis as a depressant, stimulant, or hallucinogen should be checked. This can help avoid the development of tolerance and addiction.