Alcohol is a depressant that affects the central nervous system (CNS). However, initially and in small doses, alcohol acts as a stimulant.
A large 2018 study indicated that
This article explores alcohol in more detail, the differences between stimulants and depressants, and alcohol use disorder. It also answers some common questions about alcohol.
The percentage of alcohol varies depending on the type of beverage. A standard beer
Effects on the body
Alcohol functions as a depressant. It works by slowing down brain activity. A person drinking alcohol may experience impaired judgment or slower reaction times. Drinking alcohol
When alcohol enters the body,
In the brain, alcohol
Excessive alcohol use can cause a number of health problems, including:
- liver disease
- elevated blood pressure
- sudden infant death syndrome
- aggressive behavior
- accidental injuries
- alcohol use disorder
- heart disease
- cognitive disorders
- fetal alcohol syndrome
Stimulants and depressants affect a person’s body in different ways.
Stimulants increase a person’s energy, alertness, and attention.
One of the most common types of stimulant drugs is amphetamines. Doctors may prescribe stimulants to individuals with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or narcolepsy. Other stimulants include caffeine, cocaine, and methamphetamine.
Individuals who overuse stimulants may experience:
Under the guidance of a medical professional, stimulants may be helpful for certain individuals. However, misuse of stimulants can have serious health consequences, including physical dependence and stimulant addiction, also known as stimulant use disorder.
Prescription depressants can help treat conditions such as:
Although depressants can help treat certain conditions, misusing these substances can cause side effects that may include:
- impaired coordination
- blurry vision
- speech problems
- low blood pressure
- nausea or vomiting
If a person takes depressants for a long time, they may develop physical dependence and substance use disorder.
Individuals with alcohol use disorder (AUD)
Certain people are more likely to develop AUD than others. This may include people:
- with a family history of AUD
- who began drinking earlier in life
- with mental health conditions such as depression
- who have a history of trauma
- who regularly binge drink or drink heavily
People who are living with AUD may deal with a wide array of symptoms, including:
- drinking more or longer than planned
- difficulty thinking about anything other than drinking
- neglecting work or hobbies to drink
- needing to drink more to achieve the same effect
- getting into dangerous situations after drinking
Long-term overuse of alcohol can cause physical and psychological dependence. People who are dependent on alcohol may experience withdrawal symptoms when they try to quit drinking. These symptoms may range from nausea and anxiety to seizures and hallucinations.
Heavy drinking can also lead to alcohol poisoning. Consuming too much alcohol too quickly can affect breathing, body temperature, and heart rate. In extreme cases, alcohol poisoning can cause brain damage or even death.
There are many effective
Certain medications may help. Naltrexone and acamprosate can both reduce heavy drinking and support abstinence. They may also reduce alcohol cravings for certain people.
Another medication, called disulfiram, causes negative symptoms such as nausea after consuming alcohol. These side effects may help discourage people with AUD from drinking.
Treatment for AUD can also include counseling. A therapist can help individuals with AUD develop coping skills to reduce stress and manage cravings.
People may develop an addiction to alcohol after using it to cope with stress or traumatic life events. Addressing emotional or mental health concerns can help people with AUD find ways to cope that do not involve alcohol.
A person should speak with a healthcare professional if they think they have AUD.
Below are some of the most common questions and answers about alcohol.
Can alcohol act as a stimulant?
Why does it feel good to be drunk?
What is the healthiest alcohol?
A person should speak with a doctor about healthy alcohol consumption.
Alcohol is a depressant that reduces the speed of brain activity. Research indicates that it can have negative effects even in low amounts. Furthermore, alcohol overuse can damage the body and may lead to AUD.
People who develop AUD continue to consume alcohol despite experiencing negative consequences. This condition can have a negative effect on health, relationships, and emotional well-being.
A person should speak with a healthcare professional to learn more about healthy alcohol use.