Last Updated: November 18, 2021

A drug that ranks behind only alcohol and tobacco in popularity, marijuana fits into two groups. However, many people seem to wonder, Is Weed a Stimulant or Depressant? Some experts call it a stimulant, while others classify it as a depressant. Still, some researchers say that hallucinogen describes it better. However, most medical professionals agree to call it both a stimulant and a depressant. Not knowing what to call marijuana can confuse you. How many times have you asked, is marijuana a stimulant or depressant?” The answer can make a difference. You may decide not to use it when you know what it does to your body medically. If you need FREE help please contact the National Helpline about mental and/or substance use disorders, prevention, treatment, and recovery in English and Spanish.

Marijuana a Stimulant or Depressant

Using Different Descriptions for the Same Drug

Instead of wondering, “Is cannabis a depressant or a stimulant?” some facts can give you a truthful answer. When you think about marijuana, you know that it comes from the cannabis plant. What you need to know about it requires an understanding of different drug classifications. Whether one or the other, marijuana can trigger psychotic episodes in vulnerable users.

Types of Stimulants


The stimulant caffeine comes in full-strength tea or coffee, chocolate candy bars, and your favorite soft drinks. It affects some of the same areas of your brain as cocaine, but it does it differently. As a mind-altering substance, it has more users in the world than any other.

You can notice the stimulant effect as your heart rate increases, making you breathe faster. The way you move responds to marijuana as it changes your motor skills and can make driving a car unsafe.

Nicotine, Cocaine, and Meth

Nicotine in tobacco works as a stimulant too, but people cannot get it as easily as caffeine. Even less available, cocaine use breaks the law, but its use as a stimulant tends to appeal to many. Meth, an addictive stimulant, requires a prescription or illegal manufacture.

Marijuana, a complex chemical, qualifies as a stimulant as it affects your attention span. Also, it limits your long-term memory. Smoking marijuana may present more cancer risk than tobacco. These answers can help you reply to someone who asks, is marijuana a stimulant or depressant. As a stimulant, it makes most people have more energy and feel happy and alert.

Types of Depressants

Marijuana shares the ability to work as a depressant and stimulant as alcohol does. As a psychoactive drug, a substance that affects your mental functions, it may result in damaging your mind or brain. As a depressant, marijuana slows brain functions. When you wonder is marijuana a stimulant or depressant, you can find out if either one helps or harms you.

As a depressant, marijuana gives you plenty of signs of the effects on your body. It starts by increasing a brain chemical that limits activity. While helpful for people who have anxiety or cannot sleep, it can change how you feel and behave. Your ability to think and speak can change, and you may have confusion and slurred speech.

Lower blood pressure may occur along with slower breathing. Light-headedness, headache, and dizziness occur as effects that depressants produce. The complex mix of symptoms can make it hard to answer a question that someone may ask. With knowledge, you have a reply to the inquiry, is cannabis a depressant or a stimulant. As you learn more, you can see that it can act as both a depressant and stimulant.

Is Weed a Stimulant or a Depressant?

The dual aspects of marijuana let it produce different reactions that show its stimulant effects. You can expect it to perform opposite to the depressive effect that it creates on some people. The question is cannabis a depressant or a stimulant has two answers.

It can act as a depressant sometimes and as a stimulant on another occasion. A drug must produce some effects that experts agree on as essential to qualify as a stimulant.

Stimulant Effects of Marijuana

An increase in heart rate and blood pressure makes it a stimulant, and it produces again elsewhere. Energy level and appetite have an upsurge, and feelings of paranoia become intense. The unpleasant experience can make you distrust others and feel that they suspect you of something.

Stimulants can increase anxiety and heart problems as well. Among the pleasant effects that it can produce, a feeling of well-being can elevate mood, energy, and alertness. Feelings of euphoria may create the rewards that please some users, and others may choose it to boost self-confidence.

Shy people who often prefer to remain quiet can present a different appearance entirely. By becoming lively and talkative, you may show the effect that a stimulant has unless it produces the opposite results. The National Institutes on Health confirms what you probably already know: Stimulants sharpen your attention, focus your mind and boost your energy. Along with those increases comes higher blood pressure, respiration, and heart rate.

Even when asking, “Is marijuana a stimulant or depressant?” it might seem like being a  stimulant has good outcomes, it may not do so when you least expect it. Confused thoughts can prevent focusing or paying attention, and a lack of concentration can occur. You may feel depressed and not understand why. Discomfort may show up as discouragement, sadness, and despair.

Depressive Effects of Marijuana

A decision to use a drug to tamp down responses may make sense when it helps control anxiety, insomnia, and muscle spasms. Other than helping with those, your body may react with responses that you do not like. The answer to your question is cannabis a depressant or a stimulant may require experiences that you do not want.

An accepted purpose of a depressant requires it to release tension and relax muscles. The depressant effects include memory loss and decreased coordination. A typical response to marijuana as a depressant makes you want to sleep or rest.

is Marijuana Weed a Stimulant or Depressant

Some effects that you may experience when marijuana acts as a depressant include slowing your brain’s functions. Although it can provide relief from anxiety and difficulty sleeping, it can produce bad outcomes. Some short-term effects may decrease the coordination that you need for driving or flying. Also, it can impair the accuracy of your memory.

Dizziness and blurred vision can occur, your breath rate may slow down, and blood pressure may decrease in the short term. As a depressant or stimulant, marijuana has strong addictive qualities.

As marijuana affects your nervous system, it can calm your nerves and relax your muscles. Other effects that you may expect to experience include lightheadedness, blurred vision, and dizziness. Your speech may become more deliberate, and you may find that you slur some words.

A decrease in coordination may make you move about clumsily and have trouble keeping your balance. Nausea and confusion may come with using marijuana when it acts as a depressant.

Watching for Interactions with Other Substances

The importance of is marijuana a stimulant or depressant may increase when you want to know about potential dangers. Since you know that it can act as both, you may also see the risks involved with using it. Fear of the unknown can serve as a guide that cautions you to avoid using marijuana with prescription drugs, alcohol, or tobacco.

Marijuana’s effect on you depends on your experiences with it or other drugs, how you take it, and the strength of a dose. Also, your gender and biological makeup influence how it affects you. What science knows for sure can help you decide to avoid mixing marijuana with any other substance.

The combination can produce a more powerful effect than either can have alone. Smoking tobacco and marijuana at the same time can expose you to harmful chemicals. Even more, you risk damaging your lungs and your heart.

When you take prescription drugs, you can count on your body to react appropriately when you take them as directed. Mixing them with marijuana can change the way they work in ways that you cannot imagine. Your reaction to marijuana as a depressant may significantly increase the impact on your body.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse cites depressants as drugs that can slow your brain to help you cope with stress. However, they cause the drowsiness that you may feel if marijuana acts as a depressant for you. A double dose can prove dangerous to your health.

Psychology Today reports that stimulants such as amphetamines, meth, and cocaine can increase your energy and alertness. However, their ability to increase your heart rate, blood pressure, and respiration may create a risk when marijuana acts as a stimulant. Too much exposure can put your health at risk.

Finding a Path Forward with Professional Help

Our compassionate approach to anyone suffering from addiction provides help when you need it the most. We know that you can get the sobriety you want and regain a healthy lifestyle free of drugs. Our treatment home for you offers a safe environment that encourages recovery with shared spaces.

Here at CNV Detox, you can find the support and strength to choose a drug-free path to recovery. Contact us to find out more information regarding our addiction counseling and treatment options. We have helped many others learn the answer to is marijuana a stimulant or depressant, and we can help you too.

Our brains work in truly magnificent ways. The brain literally controls every aspect of our lives. Without proper brain function, we would not be able to perform even the most basic task. Due to the fact that the brain is so complex, even the slightest of changes can completely alter the chemical makeup. Everything we do can affect how our brains react and perform. This is especially true when it comes to the consumption of drugs and alcohol. Drugs and alcohol can change the way that neurotransmitters work in the brain, which changes the user’s emotions and, ultimately, the way they think and behave.

In this blog, we will take a look at what exactly neurotransmitters are as well as answer the question of “how do drugs affect neurotransmitters?”

How Does the Brain Work?

Before we can get into how drugs work on the brain, it’s important to have an understanding of how the brain works as a whole. 

The brain is like a very complex and powerful computer, controlling every aspect of the body. Instead of electrical circuits on the silicon chips that control our electronic devices though, the brain consists of billions of cells, called neurons, which are organized into circuits and networks. 

Each of these neurons acts as a type of switch, controlling how information is processed and sent out. If a certain neuron receives a strong enough signal from other neurons it’s connected to, it will fire off and send its own signal to those other neurons. 

Different brain circuits are responsible for coordinating and performing specific functions. Networks of neurons send signals back and forth to each other and among different parts of the brain, the spinal cord, and nerves in the rest of the body. 

how do drugs affect neurotransmitters

What Is A Neurotransmitter?

When a neuron wants to send a message, it releases something called a neurotransmitter into the gap between it and the next cell. The neurotransmitter crosses the synapse and attaches to receptors on the receiving neuron, like a key into a lock. This causes changes in the receiving cell. Neurotransmitters are what signals the brain to do certain things such as producing feelings like anger, joy, anxiety, and cravings. 

How Do Drugs and Alcohol Affect the Brain and the Neurotransmitters?

As we mentioned earlier, due to the overall complexity of the brain, even the slightest change can greatly alter the way it functions. When a person takes drugs or drinks a lot of alcohol, it can interfere with the way that neurons send, receive, and process signals that are sent by the neurotransmitters. 

Some drugs can actually activate neurons because of the chemical structure and makeup of the drug. They will attach to the neurons and actually help activate them. While those types of drugs might mimic the natural chemicals of the brain, they don’t activate neurons in the same way as the brain would do so naturally, which can lead to abnormal brain activity.

Other types of drugs can cause neurons to release large amounts of natural neurotransmitters. They can even prevent the normal recycling of brain chemicals by interfering with the transporters. This can cause a disruption when it comes to the communication between neurons.

Are There Specific Parts of the Brain That Are Affected By Substance Abuse?

While the entire chemical makeup of the brain can change as a result of prolonged substance abuse, there are three main areas of the brain that can be particularly affected by substance abuse more than others.

Prefrontal Cortex

The prefrontal cortex is the part of your brain that controls the ability to think, problem-solve, make decisions, plan, and have self-control. When someone has a substance abuse disorder, it can reduce their ability to control their impulses, making it “easier” to continue abusing substances. The prefrontal cortex is also the last part of the brain to mature, making teens and young adults more susceptible than others.

Basal Ganglia

The basal ganglia is the part of the brain that produces pleasure and creates motivation. It also is involved in the formation of habits and routines. These areas form a key node of what is sometimes called the brain’s “reward circuit.” When drugs are put into the body, it can cause this circuit to over-activate. This is what produces the euphoria that comes with being high. Over time though, the circuit adapts to the substances that are constantly being put into it, thus developing a higher tolerance which causes dependence and addiction.

how do drugs affect neurotransmitters

Extended Amygdala

This part of the brain plays an active role in producing feelings of anxiety, irritability, unease, and other types of stress. This is the part of the brain that is affected once the drugs start to wear off and withdrawal symptoms begin to set in. Over time, this part of the brain will become more and more sensitive, resulting in the person needing to take more and more of the substances of abuse in order to get temporary relief from the discomfort. 

In addition to these parts of the brain, some drugs can also disrupt other parts of the brain, such as the brain stem. This disruption is what can lead to serious medical complications and even overdoses. 

What Types of Drugs Affect Neurotransmitters More Than Others?

Certain substances affect certain parts of the brain, and their neurotransmitters are different from others. This is based largely on the effects that the drug produces and what part of the brain it pertains to. Here are some of the more common substances of abuse and the neurotransmitter they largely affect:

Serotonin Inhibitory Neurotransmitter

This neurotransmitter works as a mood stabilizer and impacts mood, sexual desire, sleep, and appetite. The drugs that affect this neurotransmitter are:

Glutamate Excitatory Transmitter

Glutamate, also known as the major excitatory neurotransmitter, increases neuron activity and is involved in learning, memory, and cognitive functions. The drugs that most commonly affect this neurotransmitter are:

  • PCP
  • Alcohol
  • Ketamine

Gamma-aminobutyric Acid Inhibitory Neurotransmitter

Also known as GABA, this neurotransmitter lowers stress levels and decreases feelings of anxiety by slowing down the blood pressure, heart rate, and body temperature. The substances that affect this neurotransmitter are:

  • Sedatives
  • Tranquilizers
  • Benzos
  • Alcohol

Norepinephrinean Excitatory Neurotransmitter

This neurotransmitter acts in a similar manner to adrenaline. It activates the sensations and feelings in the body most associated with adrenaline such as raised blood pressure, accelerated heart rate, and an increase in body temperature. It can also affect anxiety levels, sleep, appetite, and sensory processing abilities. This neurotransmitter is most commonly affected by:

  • ADHD medications such as Adderall and Ritalin
  • Cocaine
  • Amphetamines
  • Meth

Endogenous Cannabinoids Non-standard Neurotransmitter

This neurotransmitter interacts with the CB1 cannabinoid receptors in the brain, which impact memory, movement, and cognitive functions. Marijuana and synthetic cannabis such as spice are the two things that affect this neurotransmitter the most.

how do drugs affect neurotransmitters

Are Neurotransmitter Problems Related to Addiction Treatable?

The good news is that while lengthy and hard, most ailments associated with substance abuse can be treated over time with the proper treatment methods.

The first step in the treatment process is to detox off of any and all harmful substances. Detoxing should be done under constant medical care and supervision at either a hospital or medical facility, a dedicated detox center, or a treatment center that also offers detox services such as CNV Detox. Attempting to detox on your own can be incredibly dangerous and even potentially life-threatening.

Once detox has been completed then treatment can begin. Your treatment professional will recommend you enter into either an inpatient or outpatient rehab program based on which option is best for you and your condition. 

Behavioral therapies such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) have been proven to be the most effective when it comes to restoring brain function and connectivity. CBT improves self-reliance and enhances self-esteem while teaching effective coping mechanisms and measures for preventing relapse when confronted with potential triggers. It can also help teach you healthy ways to enhance pleasure and occupy the mind without the need for illicit substances such as drugs or alcohol.

How Do Drugs Affect Neurotransmitters?

Neurotransmitters are a very sensitive part of the brain. Even the slightest change in the chemical makeup of the brain can play a significant role in how the brain operates. Prolonged use of drugs and alcohol can change the entire chemical makeup of the brain, including how the neurotransmitters function.

Contact CNV Detox for Help Today

If you or someone you know is suffering from a substance abuse disorder, it’s important to get the help you need before it’s too late. At CNV Detox, we know how important it is to live a healthy and sober life. That’s why in addition to offering detox programs, we also offer treatment programs for a variety of addictions and disorders. Contact us today to learn more about the services we provide and how we can get you on the road to recovery.

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