Substance Abuse
7 minutes

Is Weed A Depressant? What Marijuana Does To the Brain And Body

Medically Reviewed
Last Medically Reviewed on: May 30, 2023

One of the most important things you can do is understand how different drugs affect your body, especially if you’re currently using or considering using those drugs.

Knowing how a drug is likely to affect you can make it easier to spot potential problems, and also helps you gauge risk more effectively.

Of course, understanding drugs aren’t enough to make them safe or to make it a good idea to use them. But, since weed is being legalized or partially legalized in a lot of places, it’s one of the most important drugs to understand.

A lot of people think that weed is a depressant, like alcohol, but the truth is a little more complicated. Let’s talk about how weed works in your body, what it does, and the effects and side effects you can expect from the drug.

is weed a depressant

Is Weed A Depressant, Stimulant, Or Hallucinogen?

Calling weed a depressant is a bit of an oversimplification. Some of the active chemicals in weed can act as depressants, while other chemicals can be stimulating or have other effects on your body.

One of the things you need to understand about weed, to understand how it works and the different effects it can have on your body, is that weed is a natural plant full of many different chemicals. The most important of those chemicals, at least to us, is in a class called cannabinoids.

Cannabinoids are naturally occurring chemicals that are found in weed and some related plants. They have a wide range of effects because cannabinoids are very similar to naturally occurring endocannabinoids found in our bodies.

Not all cannabinoids are well understood, there are still a lot of studies needed to fully understand which cannabinoids are most important, how they interact with the endocannabinoid system, and the full range of effects that weed and weed products can have.

That said, the two most important cannabinoids that we’ve identified and studied so far are THC and CBD.

Before we keep going, it’s important to have a working definition of depressants, stimulants, and hallucinogens:


Depressants are drugs that work to slow your central nervous system, which can result in a feeling of relaxation, calmness, or fatigue. High doses can be dangerous and may lead to breathing complications.


Stimulants work on the central nervous system like depressants, but instead of slowing the system down they speed things up. Can lead to feelings of alertness, improved concentration, jitters, and anxiety. Stimulants can also be dangerous and may increase your heart rate and blood pressure to dangerous levels when used to excess.


Hallucinogens can create heightened senses that may lead to visual, auditory, and physical hallucinations. Hallucinations can vary in severity and nature. Some hallucinations may be easy to ignore or even pleasant, while other hallucinations can be upsetting and difficult to ignore.

THC is the psychoactive cannabinoid in weed and weed products. It’s the one that makes you feel high and may be responsible for a range of other effects, including the sometimes stimulating or hallucinogenic effects [1] of weed.

But, even when it comes to THC, we’re still figuring out how to classify the chemical and how to anticipate its effects because they can vary widely from person to person, and from one dose to another.


The other cannabinoid that’s generally considered the most important is CBD, which is widely considered responsible for the relaxation and pain-relieving properties of weed. CBD likely acts [2] as a depressant at high doses, and more like a stimulant at low doses.

How Cannabinoids Work

Chemicals that work differently at different concentrations are called biphasic. Put simply, biphasic drugs are dependent on dosage and a few other factors to determine how they work.

It’s important to understand that at least some if not all, cannabinoids are biphasic in your brain because that means that taking more weed isn’t necessarily going to give you the same effects as the previous dose.

The higher the concentration of each cannabinoid in your system the more likely it is that you’ll reach the threshold required to change the way the drug works in your system.

While cannabinoids primarily work on the endocannabinoid system, one of the effects of using weed is also a change in the concentration of important neurotransmitters in your brain.

These effects are like other drugs like opioids and party drugs, though the exact concentrations of neurotransmitters and how weed affects you varies from person to person and also changes depending on the variety and potency of the weed or weed product you’re consuming.

What Marijuana’s Effects Have On The Brain And Body

Now that you know a little bit about how weed works, and why it’s so hard to classify weed into a single category, or even to categorize individual cannabinoids, let’s talk more about the effects of weed on your brain and body.

Remember, the effects you experience depend in part on your body’s natural chemistry, the type of weed you’re consuming, how much you consume, and even how you consume it.

For instance, dabbing may [3] be more likely to cause hallucinogenic effects because you’re ingesting a highly refined highly potent form of weed that makes it easy to consume more than you intended to.

We’re going to combine the intended effects of weed for the people who use the drug and the side effects here. It’s important to understand the full range of what can happen when you use weed products because failure to understand can be dangerous or lead to side effects that you aren’t prepared for.


The potential effects of weed include:

  • Euphoria (feeling high, feeling happy)
  • Drowsiness or fatigue
  • Increased heart rate
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Altered senses
  • Altered sense of time
  • Difficulty moving
  • Impaired proprioception (sense of where you are in space)
  • Nausea
  • Increased appetite
  • Dry mouth
  • Dry eye
  • Altered cognition
  • Impaired memory
  • Temporary hallucinations
  • Temporary psychosis
  • Increased risk of long-term hallucinations
  • Increased risk of long-term psychosis


If you’re considering using weed it’s important to know that weed is likely to be more harmful and to cause more serious side effects the younger you are when you start taking it, and the larger the dose when you take it.

Long-term chronic use is also associated with a range of respiratory side effects for people who smoke weed, and hallucination and psychosis risk also tend to go up with long-term chronic use.

Some Signs You May Be Addicted to Marijuana 

Some Signs You May Be Addicted to Marijuana

We’ve talked a bit about how weed works in your brain and body, and about the side effects of weed use, both short and long-term.

But, we haven’t talked about what searching out weed and drugs like weed can say about where you are right now mentally, or why seeing out weed and other depressants, stimulants, and hallucinogenic drugs may be a sign of an underlying addiction.

To be clear, if you are dealing with an addiction our goal isn’t to shame or to make you feel bad for being in that position.

But it can be easy to miss that you’re dealing with an addiction or have developed an unhealthy dependence on a drug. Recognizing the signs of addiction can help you reclaim your life and get back to a healthier place.

Here are some common signs of addiction that may help you recognize when/if you’re dealing with an addiction:

  • You feel irritable between doses
  • You don’t feel like yourself when you aren’t high
  • You worry about how you’re going to get more/that you will run out of weed before you get more.
  • You feel defensive or angry when other people ask about your weed use, or notice symptoms coming from your weed use.
  • You’ve noticed that the side effects you get from weed are getting worse, or that you aren’t getting the same satisfaction you used to get, and that hasn’t changed how much weed you consume, or you’ve started consuming more.


The good news is that weed doesn’t normally cause a severe chemical dependence the way some other drugs do, though it can if you’ve used the drug long enough. That means that once you’ve recognized that you have an addiction, you have one less hurdle to overcoming that addiction.

Addiction Treatment Options: Here’s How To Get the Help You Need

Getting help for an addiction, any addiction, can feel difficult, overwhelming, and shameful. We’re here to tell you that it’s not shameful. In fact, asking for help with an addiction is a sign of immense strength and personal growth.

At the same time, it’s okay to ask for help or to ask for additional resources to help you deal with your addiction and to overcome it.

One good resource for overcoming addiction is your primary care doctor. They should be familiar with local resources, know how to refer you to treatment centers if a referral is needed, and can offer a range of options for support overcoming addiction.

If you’re looking for a more comprehensive resource, or need additional assistance overcoming your addiction and identifying the causes of addiction, you may want to go to a drug addiction treatment center that specializes in helping people in your situation.

Treatment centers help take care of everyday needs and concerns and make it easier to focus on your recovery and learn new coping strategies that will help you recover and avoid relapsing in the future.

Are you committed to overcoming a weed addiction? BasePoint can help. Contact us to learn more about our programs, the intake process, and to get answers to your questions and concerns so you can recover with confidence.

BasePoint Academy Can Give your Teen the Support They Deserve

Getting addiction treatment can be challenging, especially when it comes to getting addiction treatment for teenagers addicted to using marijuana.

One of the best ways to help teenagers get over an addiction and back to their normal lives, and normal selves, is to work with BasePoint treatment center to get teen-focused care in a controlled environment where they can’t just seek out the drugs from another source.

At BasePoint, we can help teens identify the causes of their addiction utilizing a free mental health assessment, Then we make helpful adjustments in their lives and schedules, and provide a safe and healing place for them to process their emotions and the pressures that might have led to their addiction in the first place. We accept many major insurance providers such as Aetna, Cigna, and Carelon Behavioral Health. We also offer many payment options such as sliding scale fees, which are meant to factor the income of our patients into the cost of treatment. Our goal is to make teen addiction and mental health treatment more accessible to those who need it.

If you’re worried about your teen’s marijuana use or mental health, don’t hesitate to reach out. Our evidence-based programs are designed to support teens through recovery and help them build a healthier, brighter future. Contact BasePoint Academy today to learn more about how we can help your teen thrive.


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[1] Barrett, F. et al. National Library of Medicine. (2018, March 1). “Hallucinations” Following Acute Cannabis Dosing: A Case Report and Comparison to Other Hallucinogenic Drugs. Cannabis Cannabinoid Res. 2018;3(1):85-93.  Retrieved from on 2022, August 18.

[2] Julia, N. CFAH. (2022, June 28). Is CBD a Depressant or Stimulant?. Retrieved from on 2022, August 22.

[3] Rossi G., Beck M. National Library of Medicine. (2020, September 8). A Little Dab Will Do: A Case of Cannabis-Induced Psychosis. Retrieved from on 2022, August 22.