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Learn | 10.06.2022

Is Cannabis A Psychedelic?

What kind of substance is cannabis, and do its effects fall under the umbrella of psychedelics?

As cannabis use continues to spread, we’re starting to pick up new words and terminology about the plant and its effects.

For example, I would have never been able to tell you what a cannabinoid was before Canada legalized recreational cannabis, when I began learning the proper terms for this special plant.

One particular term that might be new to you is “psychoactive.” A formal description of cannabis would define it as a psychoactive substance. More specifically, the cannabinoid delta-9 THC is the main psychoactive cannabinoid found in cannabis.

And then there are psychedelic drugs. If you’ve ever wondered what the differences are between psychoactive and psychedelic substances and what separates them, we’ve got your answer. Furthermore, do the effects of cannabis mean it’s a psychedelic drug? Read on to learn more.

What Is A Psychedelic Substance?

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Photo courtesy of InsideCreativeHouse / Adobe Stock

For starters, a psychedelic substance will create hallucinations and intoxication.

However, there are two deciding factors of whether a substance is a psychedelic or not. The first factor is rather easy to understand and is based on the effects it provides.

While cannabis does produce mild hallucinations, a psychedelic is defined as a substance that produces vivid and surreal hallucinations. Based on that, we can better understand that cannabis isn’t much of a psychedelic because it’s not really a hallucinatory drug.

On the other hand, psychedelic substances cause hallucinations and bend your sense of time and reality. These drugs may also spiritually enlighten you and introduce you to levels of consciousness and awareness you never thought were possible.

The most popular psychedelic drugs to experience these hallucinations are;

  • Psilocybin Mushrooms
  • Acid
  • LSD
  • DMT/Ayahuasca
  • MDMA
  • Ketamine
  • Peyote

Finally, the last deciding factor of whether a substance is psychedelic or not is rather scientific. When drugs produce molecules that bind with serotonin receptors (5-HT2A receptors), then it’s psychedelic.

All of the substances listed above bind with these receptors, but cannabis does not. Instead, the primary cannabinoid in cannabisTHC, binds with the CB1 and CB2 receptors of the brain.

While this does cause impairment and hallucinations, it’s simply not enough to deem cannabis as psychedelic. So, if weed isn’t psychedelic, what kind of substance is it?

What Is A Psychoactive Substance?

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Photo by cottonbro / Pexels

Psychoactive is a broad term used to describe substances that alter your mind and impact your mental processes.

This means cannabis is a psychoactive drug, but so are all other substances that affect your mental functions, aka psychedelics.

The main takeaway from this term is that a psychoactive substance means it can create hallucinations and lead to intoxication. On the other hand, a psychedelic substance will cause these effects.

Simply put, all psychedelic drugs are psychoactive, but not all psychoactive drugs are psychedelic.

The best example we could use is cannabis, a psychoactive drug that may cause hallucinations and intoxication but not so intense compared to the psychedelic drugs we listed above.

And because cannabis does not bind to serotonin receptors but CB1 and CB2 receptors instead, it’s not psychedelic but does fall under the umbrella of psychoactive substances.

Final Thoughts

Simply put, all psychedelic drugs are psychoactive, but not all psychoactive drugs are psychedelic.

The best example we could use is cannabis, a psychoactive drug that may cause hallucinations and intoxication but not so intense compared to the psychedelic drugs we listed above.

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