Is cannabis a psychedelic?


Although cannabis is not regarded as a psychedelic, some people have profound experiences when using cannabis that can seem psychedelic. We’re going to try and cover all the research out there on cannabis being related to psychedelics.

quarter ounce of cannabis buds on scale

What is a psychedelic?

First of all, I think it’s important to go over what exactly defines a psychedelic.

“Psychedelics are a class of drug whose primary action is to trigger psychedelic experiences via serotonin receptor agonism, causing thought and visual/auditory changes, and altered state of consciousness. Major psychedelic drugs include mescaline, LSD, psilocybin, and DMT.” –wiki

Many people who have taken psychedelics have reported a sense of ego dissolution, a connection with the subconscious, and a feeling of spiritual connection. Although some people may say that they have experienced psychedelic effects using cannabis, these drugs affect our bodies in different ways.

Tryptamine chemical compound
Tryptamine chemical compound – wiki

How psychedelics effect our bodies and brain

Both cannabis and psychedelics can produce mind-altering effects. But the way that they affect the body and the brain is very different. LSD(Lysergic acid diethylamide), DMT (Dimethyltryptamine), and psilocybin are all tryptamines. Tryptamines are a family of compounds structurally derived from tryptamine, which consists of a double ring structure and side chain. These are naturally occurring neurotransmitters and they produce serotonin and dopamine. Serotonin and dopamine are associated with the reward center in our brains, hence the uplifting effects.

Brain scan research has shown that psychedelics bind to the 5-HT2A serotonin receptor and activate a nerve growth factor called BDNF. This research has also shown that parts of the brain that normally operate independently start interacting with each other. Some recent psychedelic research has shown that a high level of activity in the DMN is associated with mental health disorders like depression and anxiety. We won’t get into that in this article but there has been some evidence to support that psychedelics may be beneficial for people suffering from some mental illnesses.

The most well-known effects of psychedelics are powerful visuals and hallucinations. Although some cannabis users say that they’ve had experiences of enhanced colours or music, for example, psychedelics are much more intense. Even when cannabis is taken in high doses it does not produce similar effects to psychedelics.

How cannabis effects our bodies and brain

Inside of cannabis, there are chemical compounds known as cannabinoids. There are 85 known cannabinoids, the most common being THC, and CBD. These cannabinoids bind to endocannabinoid receptors in our brains and body. There has been some research to show that cannabinoids interact with each other in different ways, for instance, CBD has been shown in some studies to even lessen the effects of THC.

Our bodies naturally produce cannabinoids too; some studies have shown that THC, in particular, can interfere with the bodies ability to produce these natural cannabinoids which can explain the psychoactive effects.

cannabinoid receptors found in the body and brain
cannabinoid receptors found in the body and brain

Is cannabis a psychedelic?

The short answer is; no.

Psychedelics affect our bodies in different ways than cannabis. Although people may have spiritual experiences or have slight visuals while using cannabis it cannot be considered psychedelic.

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