What Type of Drug Is Weed? Class, Effects & More
Last Updated Dec 2, 2021
Weed can broadly be said to fall into three drug types: depressant, stimulant, and hallucinogen.
Of these three types of drugs, its depressant effects are arguably the most prevalent. However, the exact experience a user has when using marijuana will vary by the individual, the strain used, and the amount used.
What Makes Weed Hard to Classify?
Marijuana is a drug that is somewhat hard to classify. It doesn’t fall neatly into one drug category, with users often feeling a mix of effects. It can also affect people differently depending on the strain and amount of marijuana used.
Some effects commonly associated with marijuana include the following:
- Anxiety relief
- Reduced inhibitions
Less common effects, some of which contradict the above, include the following:
- A temporary loss of personal identity
Notably, some of these effects, such as hallucinations and a loss of identity, are generally only associated with very high doses of marijuana. The primary cause of marijuana’s effects is THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol), its main psychoactive ingredient.
Relevant Effects by Drug Class
Different drug classes are associated with different primary effects. Since weed has some crossover into different classes, its effects can vary somewhat.
Marijuana can slow down neural signaling in the brain, the primary determining factor that makes a drug a depressant.
Other common depressants include alcohol and opioids. While many people mistakenly associate depressants with causing depression, they don’t generally inherently cause depression or anxiety.
Of the drug classes marijuana falls into, depressant is likely the most appropriate, even if it has notable traits of other classes. Depressants are associated with euphoria, relaxation, and reduced inhibitions, some of marijuana’s most prominent effects.
Stimulants speed up (or stimulate) systems in the body. Marijuana can sometimes have this effect, elevating a person’s heart rate and potentially causing anxiety and paranoia, activating a person’s fight-or-flight response.
While rare, marijuana is known to cause hallucinations and delusions at high doses. Similarly, it has also been known to trigger longer-lasting psychotic disorders in a small number of vulnerable users.
Whether it is appropriate to call the drug a true hallucinogen is debatable. Most users of marijuana products will not experience hallucinogens. At the same time, hallucinations and similar breaks from reality are a reported effect that, by definition, would make the drug hallucinogenic.
Should Marijuana Be Schedule I?
When discussing the type of drug marijuana is, it is worth noting that the DEA classifies it as a Schedule I substance, which means they claim it has a high potential for abuse, no accepted medical use in the United States, and it is dangerous even when used under medical supervision.
While it is possible to use marijuana in a self-destructive way, many people have criticized this classification as politically motivated rather than based on evidence. Even among many experts wary of marijuana’s potential for harm, this classification is often criticized as making researching the drug difficult and promoting misinformation about the extent of its known dangers.
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