Is Cannabis a Depressant?
At Compassionate Clinics of America, when we help our patients get their medical cannabis card, we believe in empowering them to find relief from their medical conditions through responsible and legal access to medical cannabis.
We strive to provide weekly education on how cannabis affects different parts of the body and the mind to ensure that every patient we work with gets the most out of their cannabis experience.
One question that often arises in our consultations is “Is cannabis a depressant?”. In this article, we aim to provide clarity on this question by exploring some of the scientific evidence and opinions on whether cannabis is a depressant and dispelling common misconceptions surrounding how cannabis affects the mind, and our mood and brain function.
What is a Depressant?
Before delving into whether cannabis is classified as a depressant, it is essential to understand what a depressant is.
Depressants are substances that slow down the central nervous system. The central nervous system (CNS) is the core control center of the body, consisting of the brain and spinal cord. It receives, processes, and interprets information from the peripheral nervous system and coordinates responses, ensuring proper functioning and regulation of bodily processes.
Common examples of depressant drugs include alcohol, benzodiazepines, and barbiturates.
People often turn to depressants to relieve anxiety, induce relaxation, or promote sleep; however, many of them have increased risk for misuse or drug abuse.
How Marijuana Affects the Body and Mind
Cannabis sativa is a complex plant that contains numerous chemical compounds such as cannabinoids and terpenes. The psychoactive Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and non-intoxicating cannabidiol (CBD) are the most commonly known cannabinoids, while linalool, myrcene, and beta-caryophyllene are some examples of the aromatic compounds called terpenes.
These compounds interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system, which plays a vital role in regulating various physiological processes, including mood, pain, appetite, and sleep. The endocannabinoid system is vital in maintaining homeostasis, or balance within the body’s functions.
Is Cannabis a Depressant Though?
Cannabis is not classified as a depressant. Instead, it is considered a psychoactive drug that can induce both relaxing and stimulant effects.
The primary psychoactive compound in marijuana, THC, binds to cannabinoid receptors in the brain, leading to altered perceptions, a euphoric feeling, and increased sensory awareness.
When used for medical purposes, and not overused, cannabis is an effective way to manage and find relief from many medical conditions, and overall provides a low risk for abuse.
Marijuana as a Potential Mood Stabilizer for Mental Health Disorders
While marijuana is not a depressant, some studies suggest that it may have mood-stabilizing properties.
Medical cannabis has been used to alleviate symptoms of various mental health conditions, including depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Numerous studies have explored the impact of cannabis on depression, with participants self-reporting their experiences. A 2017 survey involving nearly 1500 medical cannabis users found that more than half of them were using cannabis to manage depression. Overall, most respondents expressed that medical cannabis provided significant relief, with even a small amount of inhaled cannabis alleviating the dark and negative thoughts associated with depression.
In another study, nine investigations on medical marijuana and depression were reviewed, revealing that seven of them showed substantial improvements in depression symptoms.
However, no long-term studies have been conducted to observe the prolonged effects of medical marijuana on depression symptoms.
Interestingly, in the 1960s, researchers attempted to establish a link between cannabis use and a lack of motivation, known as the “anti-motivational syndrome.”
As of now, there is no concrete evidence supporting the notion that cannabis either enhances or diminishes motivation, dispelling the belief that cannabis makes individuals “lazy.”
CBD has been the subject of research for its potential antidepressant effects.
Balancing THC and CBD
At Compassionate Clinics of America, our focus is on helping patients find the right cannabis strains and dosages that suit their individual needs.
Strains with a balanced THC to CBD ratio are often recommended for individuals seeking relief from mood-related issues without experiencing the anxiety or paranoia that high THC strains may induce in some cases.
Potential Risks and Precautions
While medical cannabis can be beneficial for some individuals, it is essential to understand that its effects can vary depending on the individual and the specific strain used.
There is such thing as too much of a good thing, where one may over-consume and overpower the cannabinoid receptors with too-much THC.
When this happens patients can feel adverse effects such as panic attacks, false perceptions, slurred speech, loss of motor skills, dry mouth, high blood pressure, memory problems, unpleasant thoughts, time distortion, respiratory issues, or it may indeed have a depressant effect.
If this happens, there are ways that you can reduce the effects of too much THC such as counteracting it with THC, getting exercise (sweating it out), chilling out and watching TV or YouTube, or simply going to sleep.
One of the most important things, however, is to use cannabis responsibly and not to overconsume, or consider microdosing as a way to consume cannabis. As prominent advocate Steve DeAngelo stated, “Use cannabis for wellness, not intoxication.”
Cannabis is NOT a Depressant
In this article, we have shown that cannabis is not classified as a depressant like some other drugs; rather, it is a psychoactive substance with potential mood-stabilizing and stimulating properties.
While medical cannabis has shown promise in alleviating symptoms of certain mental health conditions, responsible use and personalized treatment plans are crucial to maximize its benefits while minimizing potential risks.
At Compassionate Clinics of America, we remain committed to guiding those who get their medical cannabis card with us on their medical cannabis journey, providing compassionate care and the necessary resources to enhance their overall well-being.