As the most commonly abused illicit (and legal) substance on the market, weed, also known as cannabis or marijuana, makes up a class of its very own in terms of the types of effects a weed “high” brings. Weed has been classified as both a depressant and a hallucinogen, though not everyone considers this drug a hallucinogen in terms of its actual effects.
How is weed a hallucinogenic has to do with the actual definition of hallucinogen and the interactions these types of drugs have within the brain and body.
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Psychedelic Hallucinogens & Their Effects
Weed belongs to the psychedelic class of hallucinogens, which are best know for their ability to alter cognition and sensory perception. According to Bryn Mawr College, some of the most commonly used psychedelics include:
Psychedelic hallucinogen effects result from how these drugs interact with the brain’s serotonin system. Effects can vary depending on the drug type as well as on each drug’s mechanism of action.
When ingested users may experience one or more of the following effects:
- Changes in time perception
- Enhanced sensory perception
- Shifting mood states
- Fleeting thought processes
- Altered state of consciousness
THC, the active ingredient in cannabis or weed accounts for the drug’s hallucinogenic effects. The human brain also produces THC via the endocannabinoid system, which runs throughout the the brain and central nervous system.
The endocannabinoid system runs through the cerebellum, hippocampus and cerebral cortex, areas of the brain that regulate sensory perceptions, movement, coordination and emotions.
When ingested, the THC compound in weed stimulates the endocannabinoid receptor sites throughout the body. In turn, users experience the following effects:
- Enhanced sensory perception
- Time perception slows down
- Heightens awareness
- Raises consciousness
Is Weed a Hallucinogen?
While weed doesn’t produce the type of full-blown hallucinations as mescaline or peyote, it does alter a person’s cognitive processes while distorting sensory perception. These effects fall well within the definition of hallucinogen.
When ingested in large enough doses, weed’s effect can produce actual hallucinations as the drug overstimulates the brain’s endocannabinoid system. In these respects, the answer to the question is weed a hallucinogenic is yes.
Like most other hallucinogen drugs, chronic or long-term cannabis abuse places users at considerable risk of developing psychiatric disorders, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. This is especially true for people with a genetic predisposition for mental illness.
Psychiatric conditions commonly associated with long-term cannabis abuse include:
- Depression disorders
- Anxiety-based disorders
- Other forms of substance abuse and addiction
Over time, weed can cause widespread brain deterioration, leaving behind learning and memory problems and even a decline in a person’s overall IQ.
The characteristics that account for how is weed a hallucinogenic also bring into question the overall risks that come with chronic drug use, namely abuse and addiction. As weed can affect different people in different ways, the potential for abuse and addiction can vary from person to person.