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What Makes Marijuana a ‘Psychoactive’ Substance?
• Psychoactive substance – any substance that acts to alter a user’s brain function
• Cannabis contains chemicals called cannabinoids that act on the human brain
• The most common psychoactive substances include coffee, tobacco and alcohol
• Psychoactive substances are split into 3 categories: stimulants, depressants and hallucinogens
• Marijuana doesn’t fit into any of the 3 groups
• The psychoactive effects of marijuana last for only a few hours after intake
TruthOnPot.com – Marijuana is frequently referred to as a ‘psychoactive’ substance, but what does this really mean?
‘Psychoactive’ – A Definition
The term ‘psychoactive’ refers to any substance that acts to alter its user’s brain function. Cannabis fits into this category of substances because cannabinoids – the active ingredients found in cannabis – cross the blood-brain barrier after being ingested and act on various parts of the human brain.
For those who’ve never set foot in a biology class, the concept of foreign particles acting on the brain to change the way you think may seem like a terrifying thought, at first. However, one only has to consider the incredible number of everyday substances that fall under the category of psychoactive substances to understand how common such a concept is.
Coffee, cigarettes, beer and sleeping pills all contain psychoactive substances – chemicals that travel through the blood stream to the brain in order to elicit their desired effects.
Marijuana: Stimulant, Depressant or Hallucinogen?
Indeed, the class of substances considered to be ‘psychoactive’ is incredibly large. Scientists have further divided psychoactive substances into 3 groups according to their effects:
• Stimulants (examples: coffee, tobacco, amphetamine)
• Depressants (examples: opioids, barbiturates, alcohol)
• Hallucinogens (examples: psilocybin, LSD, nitrous oxide)
Marijuana is an interesting drug because it doesn’t really fit into any of the 3 categories. Although it does exhibit some mild hallucinogenic effects, it is also thought to be a mild stimulant with effects that mimic that of a depressant. As a result, marijuana tends to be left out of the traditional categories of psychoactive substances.
The Psychoactive Effects of Marijuana
Marijuana exhibits a wide range of psychoactive effects in its user, perhaps due to how widespread the endocannabinoid system is within the human body. The following are just some of the psychoactive effects of marijuana:
• Altered perception
• Change in mood
• Altered sense of time and space
• Impaired memory (high doses)
• Paranoia/Anxiety (high doses)
• Auditory/visual illusions (high doses)
• Hallucinations (very high doses)
The various effects of marijuana are ultimately a result of how cannabinoids interact with different parts of the brain. Luckily, these interactions are only temporary and will last for no more than a few hours (depending on the method of ingestion).