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Is Weed a Depressant, a Stimulant or Something Else Entirely?

My body says depressant, but my mind says stimulant

Weed can make you feel all sorts of ways: Hungry, anxious, energized, and of course, completely committed to living on your couch while you subsist on the Dorito crumbs you dropped on your bare thigh. A hearty smoke sesh may even make you feel drained and out of sorts one day, and then beefed up and motivated the next. So then, is marijuana a depressant, a stimulant or something else entirely

Let’s take a closer look.

What Is a Depressant?

Depressants are a class of drugs (think Xanax, heroin and even alcohol) that slow down neural signaling, making you feel more relaxed and less inhibited — i.e., more likely to ruin a family function by telling your aunt how evil she is. They can also weaken your concentration and physical coordination. But despite being deemed “depressants,” they don’t necessarily make you feel depressed. Just the opposite, actually — depressants tend to produce feelings of euphoria and calmness, a result of them binding to receptors in your brain that block bothersome emotions like anxiety, stress and fear.

Is Marijuana a Depressant?

Because weed affects people in so many different ways — and because it comes in many different forms — it can act as both a depressant and a stimulant (a substance that speeds up the body’s systems). Sometimes this happens simultaneously — for instance, your body could feel like Jell-O, but your mind could be racing as if you’d just done a colossal line of cocaine. Other times, a weed strain associated with depressive effects like relaxation, sleepiness and short-term memory loss could also cause elevated mood, a racing heartbeat, anxiety and paranoia on a different day. 

According to Nick Tennant, founder of Precision Extraction Solutions cannabis distillation experts, weed doesn’t fit neatly into either category because its effects depend on things like dosage, cannabinoid and terpene type, how the cannabinoids are metabolized, your emotional state and even your genetic susceptibility to massive bong rips. For instance, CBD is more associated with relaxation than THC. And when taken as an edible, THC is converted by your liver into 11-Hydroxy-THC, which produces a more intense psychoactive experience than smoked weed. There’s also your particular endocannabinoid system, which may react to certain cannabinoids in its own special way.

With more research, Tennant says we should someday be able to isolate more cannabinoids and even design individualized weed-consumption plans to narrow down the effects depending on what you want to feel like. 

Will Marijuana Make Me Depressed?

It can exacerbate depression if you’re already dealing with it, but weed itself won’t automatically make you depressed. That said, its depressive effects can contribute to a lifestyle lacking in motivation, which could snowball into something worse. (And if you take antidepressants, you may want to read our guide on combining them with weed.)

What Are the Best Weed Strains for Depression?

You’ll have to do some experimenting, because as Tennant explained above, everyone reacts to weed differently. However, CBD-heavy strains like Harlequin and Cannatonic are known for brightening up your life without making you fall in love with your couch. Sativa-dominant strains like Jack Herer are also known by smokers to provide motivation when you don’t have any. And if you have non-stop thoughts keeping you up at night, an indica like Blackberry Kush may help lull you to sleep.

Lastly, if you’re just getting started, don’t overdo it — more THC isn’t always better.

Now, hey, can I have one of those Dorito crumbs?