Is Alcohol a Stimulant or a Depressant?

Is Alcohol a Stimulant or a Depressant

Alcohol is a very commonly used drug typically used to help increase energy levels, feel more confident, or simply have more fun. Alcohol may produce these types of feelings temporarily, but depression is also often associated with alcohol use. So, is alcohol a stimulant or a depressant? Here is to know the real effects of alcohol. 

Is Alcohol a Stimulant or a Depressant?

Alcohol can be found in just about any grocery store, at most parties, events, or celebrations but is alcohol a stimulant or depressant? Simply put, stimulants are drugs that give you energy while depressants calm the body down. Alcohol has the ability to do both of these things. It can be confusing to understand, but alcohol is a depressant drug. 

What is a Stimulant?

Stimulants are a type of drug that speeds up the way the body functions. They can cause the user to feel more awake, alert, confident, and energetic. While these might sound like pleasant feelings, stimulants can be highly damaging and lead to destructive abuse and addiction. 

Common stimulants include: 

  • Nicotine 
  • Caffeine 
  • Cocaine 
  • Amphetamines 

Other common effects of stimulants can include euphoria, increased heart rate, and blood pressure. Taking stimulants can also increase feelings of anxiety or nausea and when abused can lead to an overdose, coma, and death. 

What is a Depressant?

The effects of depressants are quite the opposite of those of stimulants. While stimulants increase the chemical messages from the brain to the body, depressants slow the body down. Despite the name, depressants do not necessarily cause you to become depressed. They work by slowing down the central nervous system causing feelings of relaxation with less inhibition. Depressants also have a high risk of being abused and can cause harm to the user. They can affect the user’s coordination and ability to react to certain unexpected situations. 

Alcohol and benzodiazepines such as Xanax or Klonopin are some of the most commonly used depressant drugs. While many depressants are legally prescribed drugs, they are often obtained illegally and abused. Depressant abuse can be highly dangerous and lead to addiction. 

What Makes Alcohol a Depressant?

Alcohol can enhance your mood, cause you to feel happier and more confident, and maybe even more energetic, but despite these effects, it is classified as a central nervous system depressant. Like with other central nervous system depressants, it works by altering the level of GABA in the brain, producing a calming effect. 

This is why many people use alcohol as a way to relax or unwind. When too much alcohol has been consumed, it can slow down the brain function so much that it causes slurred speech, unstable coordination, slowed reaction time, poor judgment, and can lead to black-out episodes, coma, or death.

While many people believe they use alcohol to reduce stress and anxiety, it actually increases these feelings. Ever wonder why you have felt shakiness, anxiety, or depression during a hangover? Alcohol alters the chemicals in the brain and can cause an off-balance, creating uncomfortable feelings of anxiety or extreme sadness. 

Depressant Effects of Alcohol

There are several factors that can contribute to the effects a person might feel from alcohol. This includes the weight and size of the user, the amount of alcohol consumed, or other drugs involved. But a person consuming alcohol is likely to experience several depressant effects from the drug.

These effects include:

  • Slowed breathing
  • Reduced inhibition
  • Reduced anxiety 
  • Loss of coordination 
  • Reduced arousal or feelings of physical pain 

Alcohol is typically used to cause positive effects, but it can also worsen negative feelings and increase symptoms of depression. Alcohol should only ever be used in moderation and while in a safe environment.

Stimulant Effects of Alcohol

Alcohol is often confused with being a stimulant because of the temporary spirit-lifting mood it creates. It can produce a euphoric feeling similar to a stimulant, but it is only temporary. These stimulant effects of alcohol include:

  • Enhanced mood
  • Increased energy
  • Higher confidence 
  • Increased heart rate 

When large amounts of alcohol are taken at one time, however, it can become sedative quickly. The stimulant effects of alcohol are only ever temporary and should always be consumed carefully and responsibly.

How to Stop Using Stimulants or Depressants

Alcohol or substance abuse can cause serious problems within a person’s life. Whether it is a stimulant or depressant addiction, there are several risks involved with this disorder. Stopping the use of a stimulant or depressant abuse or addiction can be dangerous and lead to further health complications. Fortunately, there are several treatment options including detox centers, addiction rehab centers, substance use counseling, and several others. A medical or mental health professional can help guide you to the best treatment option for stopping the use of stimulants or depressants. 

Find Treatment for Alcohol Abuse in California

Alcohol abuse can lead to damaging life consequences and should be treated before it is too late. If you or a loved one are struggling with alcohol abuse or alcohol addiction, help is available. Contact Golden Road Recovery today (877-372-0536) to learn more about the best treatment options available in California. 

Citations

Alcohol and Drug Foundation. “What are Stimulants?” https://adf.org.au/drug-facts/stimulants/

Reviewed 10, November 2021 

Alcohol and Drug Foundation. “What are Depressants?” 

https://adf.org.au/drug-facts/depressants/ Reviewed 10, November 2021