Is Marijuana a depressant?
Many people ask the question, “Is marijuana a depressant?” without actually knowing exactly what a “depressant” is. So, what is a depressant? A “depressant” is a fairly technical medical term that means a drug that slows down the rate that your nerves send signals to each other. Depressants decrease brain activity in certain parts of the brain and, spoiler alert: marijuana is a depressant. Follow-up question: Is it bad that weed is a depressant? (continued…)
Is Weed a depressant? Is that really what you want to know?
Most people who ask the question “is weed a depressant?” actually want to know whether marijuana causes depression. If that is you, please click here: Does marijuana cause depression?
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Is Marijuana a depressant and what is a depressant anyhow?
The short answer is that, yes, marijuana is a depressant. However, this does not mean that weed “causes” depression. Not at all. Let’s take a look at what a “depressant” actually is.
Marijuana is a depressant, but what is a depressant?
“Depressant” is short for “CNS depressant”. The CNS is the central nervous system — so, basically, your brain and all the nerves in your body. Depressants have a sedative or calming effect on the body. They make us feel more tranquil. Because of this, certain depressants are actually prescribed for sleep and anxiety disorders. These include benzodiazapenes such as Valium, Xanax, Halcion, ProSom, and Clonazepam. The “benzos” can be addictive over time. I have heard mixed information on this. Some doctors are extremely concerned about the potential addictive properties of them, while others believe that a regular low daily dose is unlikely to cause longterm ill effects. Alternatively, there are now many CBD oils that can be used, which don’t give you the high from marijuana, yet give you the benefits. CBD can be used as an alternative to traditional medicines and to marijuana itself.
Other prescription depressants are Ambien, Lunesta, and Sonata. These are said to have fewer potential addictive properties. Also, barbiturates are prescription depressants. These include Mebaral, Luminal Sodium, and Nembutal. The latter are very serious medications — the possibility of accidental overdose is high, so they are usually just used in hospital settings.
Besides these tranquilizing depressants, opioids are depressants. And these are highly addictive as you may know.
Non-prescription depressants include alcohol.
In addition to all of these medications marijuana is a depressant too. Many people who suffer from depression, but have anxiety also are prescribed some of the above medications along with anti-depressants, so the idea that a depressant causes major depressive disorder comes down to confusion over the meaning of the word “depressant”.
In the article “Does marijuana cause depression?” I discuss whether marijuana actually does cause depression. The short answer is that it is not yet clear.
Some studies have shown that a higher percentage of marijuana users are depressed than people who do not use marijuana, but this still leaves a “chicken vs. egg” type of question. Specifically, is it that taking marijuana causes depression? Or is it that depressed people have a greater tendency than average to take marijuana to self-medicate?
Conclusion: So, is Marijuana a depressant?
Is weed a depressant? Yes. However, so are many other commonly used drugs and medications. For example, alcohol is a depressant and opioids are depressants. This does not mean it is to be used lightly, but it means that being a depressant is not necessarily bad in and of itself.
When people ask whether marijuana is a depressant, what people are often really wondering is: Does marijuana cause depression?
If what you really want to know is, “Is marijuana bad?” there is no easy answer. Some people believe marijuana is very helpful for chronic pain and many other conditions. If someone is genetically prone to schizophrenia, some studies have shown that marijuana can trigger schizophrenia that might not otherwise have shown up. That is extremely bad. It seems to affect different people differently, and the frequency of use seems to have an impact.
There simply have not been enough studies for us to determine with certainty who marijuana is safe for and what dosage is appropriate. However, marijuana is similar to alcohol in that, for some people, it is extremely bad — for example, some people cannot drink alcohol because it triggers alcholism — some are allergic to alcohol — etc. But for most people, the occasional drink is one of life’s little pleasures. One glass of red wine per day has even been shown to be healthy for those with heart conditions. Similarly, we might in the future have studies to show that marijuana helps with depression and/or anxiety. Only time will tell.
Meanwhile, although marijuana is a depressant, it does not necessarily cause depression. In fact sometimes, for some people, it has been known to help, but there is simply not enough research yet to say one way or another.