Is Alcohol A Depressant?

Alcohol has many depressant effects on your central nervous system and is classified as a depressant by health professionals.

Alcohol has many depressant effects on your central nervous system and is classified as a depressant by health professionals. However, it also has some stimulant effects, especially when consumed in small amounts.

Knowing how alcohol affects your brain, especially in different amounts, can help you avoid unwanted effects when drinking alcohol.

Effects Of Alcohol

Alcohol’s effects on the body are multi-layered. The effects tend to vary depending on the amount of alcohol consumed. A single glass of wine may lead to more stimulant effects, while several glasses of wine can cause primarily depressant effects.

Depressant Effects

Alcohol is primarily a central nervous system depressant, primarily affecting your spinal cord and brain activity. It reduces glutamate levels in your brain, a neurotransmitter that increases brain activity and energy.

Alcohol shares some effects with depressant drugs like benzodiazepines and opioids. After drinking alcohol, you can easily experience the depressant side effects of a slowed CNS. Common side effects include:

  • impairment
  • drowsiness
  • slurred speech
  • slowed reaction times

In severe cases, slowed brain function due to alcohol can lead to memory loss, respiratory failure, and even death. These can be signs of alcohol poisoning, a serious condition often caused by binge drinking.

Alcohol’s depressant effects can make certain mood disorders worse. Alcohol can make symptoms of depression worse, and interact negatively with antidepressant drugs.

Stimulant Effects

Moderate alcohol consumption affects dopamine receptors in your brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that controls motivation, reward, and your motor system. Other substances that interact with dopamine include opioids, nicotine, and cocaine.

Stimulant side effects of alcohol include:

  • increased heart rate
  • ​increased blood pressure
  • aggression
  • impulsive behavior

Alcohol’s interactions with dopamine make it a likely target of substance abuse.

When you drink alcohol over time, the rush of dopamine causes your brain to produce less of the chemical on its own. People with an alcohol use disorder are more likely to have this form of alcohol dependency.

Long-Term Depressant Effects Of Alcohol

Long-term alcohol consumption can lead to long-term health problems. The risk of health problems is generally lower if people drink responsibly, but no amount of alcohol is risk-free.

Alcohol use disorder (AUD) is a mental health condition characterized by an inability to stop drinking alcohol. Symptoms of AUD include drinking despite continued health problems, giving up other activities to drink, and withdrawal symptoms when you try to stop drinking.

Alcohol can permanently change your brain chemistry and structure. People with AUD often suffer from co-occurring disorders like depression. Heavy drinking over long periods of time is also linked to Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, a severe degenerative brain disorder.

Alcohol Addiction Treatment

Alcohol use disorder is a serious health problem affecting millions of Americans. People may struggle to reach out or accept the possibility of treatment. Calling a confidential hotline can refer people to the resources they need.

Checking into a treatment center is an intensive, effective way of treating alcohol use disorder. Treatment often starts with an alcohol detox program, a medically assisted process where alcohol is flushed out of your system. Treatment options after detox vary from patient to patient.

To learn more about our high-quality treatment programs for you or your loved one, please contact Northeast Addictions Treatment Center today.

Written by
Northeast Addition Editorial Team

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This page does not provide medical advice.

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