Alcohol is a psychoactive substance that affects physical health, mental stability, and well-being. Alcohol is a common substance in the United States and can be found at almost any social event or celebration.
More than 85.6 percent of adults (people over 18 years old) in the United States have consumed alcohol in their lifetime.
For the most part, alcohol is a CNS (central nervous system) depressant. But on the flipside, in smaller doses, alcohol does act as a stimulant.
This post explores alcohol and its effects in detail, in addition to differences between depressants and stimulants and AUD (alcohol use disorder).
Furthermore, the article will also shed light on some common concepts regarding:
- Stimulants – stimulants are known to speed up the activity in your CNS (central nervous system). What this does is make a person feel overly alert or energetic.
- Depressants – these are known to slow down the function in your central nervous system. These are also called downers.
- Stimulant and depressant effects of alcohol
- Alcohol use disorder and its treatment
If you or a loved one needs help with alcohol use disorder, please reach out to Indiana Center for Recovery at +1 (844) 650-0064. Our guidance counselors will walk you through the admission process and elaborate on our detox and residential treatment program.
Is Alcohol Harmful?
According to a massive scale study in 2018, drinking alcohol at any level is harmful. More than 140,000 deaths in the U.S. are attributed to over-alcohol consumption yearly.
Alcohol abuse also increases the risk of developing other related and co-related conditions, including depression. Plus, alcohol’s stimulant and depressant effects are also noteworthy for the overall health condition of alcoholics.
What Is a Stimulant?
Stimulant is a substance that perks up the activity in your CNS (central nervous system), the stimulants are also known as uppers. The uppers effectively make you more alert and overly energetic, making people confident in some cases.
These are also known to speed up the heart rate and blood pressure.
Some commonplace examples of stimulants include:
- Betel nut
As evidenced by the above list of stimulants, some are legal, while others are considered illicit substances.
What Is a Depressant?
As apparent by the terminology itself, depressants are substances that slow down your central nervous system function. Depressants can also be referred to as downers. People who consume a depressant might feel sleepy, relaxed, or even sedated.
Opposite to stimulants, depressants slow down the heart rate and lower blood pressure. Due to the term ‘depressants’ itself, many people think that depressants will make you depressed.
The depressants only refer to the fact or the effect that these substances have on your central nervous system and not how they will impact your mood.
A few examples of depressant substances include:
Almost all substances on this list are controlled or outright illegal for use.
Stimulants versus Depressants
Both depressants and stimulants are known to affect the human nervous system and brain function, however, in opposite manners.
While stimulants over-excite the brain activity and the nervous system, they also increase your blood pressure and heart rate while giving you extra energy.
In higher dosages, stimulants also cause insomnia and make you impulsive and jittery. Some mild stimulants include caffeine, while the stronger prescription examples include amphetamines or illegal drugs like cocaine. Conversely, depressants slow people down by decreasing blood pressure and heart rate. These can also make you feel overly relaxed, or on the extreme level, might also end up sedating a person.
Benzos (benzodiazepines) are depressant drugs that treat anxiety and insomnia. The prescription dosages of opiates are potent products of this category.
Alcohol: Stimulate or Depressant?
Many people believe alcohol is a stimulant. It is known to ramp up your confidence levels, make you excessively giddy, and provide a burst of energy.
To some extent, alcohol does indeed have some stimulant effects. It raises your heart rate while bringing along some other physical changes.
But all of these effects are temporary. Also, these are a result of your brain releasing more quantity of dopamine after your initial drink.
What is Dopamine?
Dopamine is the feel-good hormone known to make you feel good and happy, and it also works to diminish pain processing. Reflect on how you feel when you drink alcohol, most notably when you consume it in high doses. What happens is you begin slurring your words and experience slower reaction times.
Thus, while alcohol has stimulant effects, scientifically, it is classified as a depressant. People will likely feel the stimulant effects at a BAC of under 0.05mg/l. However, if you go over 0.08mg/l, the depressant effects will probably take over.
It is important to note that one must never mix alcohol with stimulants or other medications, including SSRIs. Combining the two can have devastatingly fatal results.
Effects of Alcohol as a Stimulant and a Depressant
The initial drinks or dosages stimulate the brain to release dopamine, also known as the happy hormone. This same hormone can cause you to feel energized and stimulated.
In addition, alcohol also increases a person’s heart rate, leading to amplified aggression in some individuals; both conditions are typical effects of stimulants.
Stimulant effects take over, especially when your BAC (blood alcohol concentration) reaches 0.05 mg/l. These effects get replaced by the overly depressant effects once the BAC reaches or crosses 0.08 mg/l.
0.08 mg/l is the level at which an individual is legally considered impaired for driving in most of the United States.
One of the more important things to note is that the effects of alcohol vary massively for each individual. Also, the results are influenced by a range of other related and nonrelated factors, and these include:
- Body chemistry
- Alcohol tolerance levels
- Dosage of alcohol intake
People also might experience amplified stimulating effects of alcohol, while others may end up experiencing more depressant effects of alcohol.
Most researchers hypothesize that people who experience more stimulating effects and lesser sedative effects can be at a higher risk for alcoholism.
While alcohol has some stimulant effects, particularly in low doses, alcohol is still a depressant.
Known Depressant Effects of Alcohol
After the initial stimulant effects of alcohol pass, alcohol slows down the central nervous system, which decreases your blood pressure, mental clarity, and heart rate.
Also, when people ingest large amounts of alcohol, they have slower reaction times and might end up feeling sleepy, sedated, and disoriented.
Additionally, the higher doses of alcohol work to suppress dopamine production, which makes a person feel listless or even sad.
Once again, the significant depressant effects of alcohol come about when a person’s BAC gets to be about 0.08 mg/l. Also, when the BAC levels reach 0.2 mg/l or higher, the depressant effects on the human repository system become overly powerful, causing coma or even death.
Alcohol Use Disorder
Individuals suffering from Alcohol use disorder (AUD) continue their consumption of alcohol despite facing the negative consequences.
While AUD cases might vary in severity, people seeking immediate and effective treatment stand a chance to recover completely.
Some people are more susceptible to developing AUD compared to others, and these people include:
- People who have a family history of Alcohol use disorder
- Who start drinking early in life
- People with depression and other mental health problems
- People with a history of trauma
- People who drink heaving or indulge in binge drinking sessions
The long-term over usage of the substance causes psychological and physical alcohol dependence. Individuals who are overly dependent on alcohol might experience withdrawal symptoms when they try and quit drinking.
Such symptoms range from anxiety to nausea, hallucinations, and even seizures. Binge or heavy drinking also often results in alcohol poisoning. Too much alcohol too quickly affects breathing, heart rate, and body temperature.
In more extreme cases, alcohol poisoning causes brain damage and death.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is alcohol a type of stimulant?
While alcohol has stimulant effects, it is classified as a depressant scientifically.
A person feels the stimulant effects at a BAC of 0.05mg/l. Going above 0.08mg/l, the depressant effects will likely take over.
Is alcohol a stimulant or inhibitor?
Alcohol is a Central Nervous System Depressant, as it slows down brain function and neural activity.
Is alcohol a stimulant like caffeine?
People believe alcohol is a stimulant that increases the heart rate and gives extra energy while decreasing inhibitions.
This is not the whole story, alcohol does present with initial stimulant effects, but mostly it is a depressant that slows your body down.
Treatment Options for Alcohol Use Disorder at the Indiana Center for Recovery
Alcohol addiction recovery is a hard path to tread, but with many levels of care and help available readily at the Indiana Center for Recovery, you will not be alone.
Medical professionals at our state-of-the-art facility offer holistic care for treating mild to severe cases of AUD. The first step of the procedure is diagnosis; while many patients’ diagnosis is straightforward, some present with other underlying conditions, including the likelihood of suffering from a mental health disorder.
Patients suffering from alcohol use disorder can admit to our inpatient and/or residential treatment programs for a full scope of treatment, recovery, and medical help.
For such patients, we offer a thorough dual-diagnosis treatment program.
Contact us today for a complete evaluation and admission to your custom treatment program.