In the US, over 85% of American adults say they’ve drunk alcohol at some point in their life. Drinking can be a fun way to relax, which is probably why so many people enjoy it. But without careful control over it, alcohol can quickly have a negative impact.
To understand exactly how alcohol has an impact on your life, you should find out a little about it. For example, do you know the answer to this question: is alcohol a stimulant or a depressant?
Even if you think you do, you might be surprised as to what the answer is. Read on to find out more about alcohol and its effects on someone.
What Is a Stimulant?
A stimulant is a substance that speeds up activity in your central nervous system; they’re also known as “uppers.” As a result, it can make you feel more alert and energetic, as well as confident in some cases. They also speed up your heart rate and increase your blood pressure.
Some examples of stimulants include caffeine, cocaine, amphetamines, nicotine, and betel nut. As you can see, some stimulants are legal while others are illicit substances.
What Is a Depressant?
As you might’ve guessed, depressants are substances that slow down activity in your central nervous system; they’re also known as “downers.” So when you ingest a depressant, you might feel relaxed and even sleepy and/or sedated. Depressants will slow down your heart rate and lower your blood pressure.
Based on the name, many people think that depressants make you feel depressed. However, that’s not necessarily true. “Depressant” refers to the effect that these substances have on your central nervous system, not how it’d impact your mood.
Examples of depressants include barbiturates, benzodiazepines, cannabis, ketamine, and heroin. Most of the substances on this list are either controlled ones or flat-out illegal to use.
So Is Alcohol a Stimulant or a Depressant?
You might’ve noticed that we haven’t put alcohol in either category above. First off, which one do you think alcohol is: a stimulant or a depressant?
Most people think that alcohol is a stimulant. After all, it ramps up your confidence, makes you giddy, and certainly gives you a burst of energy!
It’s true that alcohol has some stimulant effects. It does raise your heart rate, along with some other physical changes.
However, these effects are just temporary. Plus, they’re a result of your brain releasing more dopamine after your initial drink. Dopamine is also known as the feel-good hormone, as it can make you feel happy and also lessen pain processing.
Alcohol, is in fact, truly a depressant. Think about how you feel when you drink alcohol, especially in excess; you start slurring your words and you have slower reaction times.
As you can see, while alcohol does have some stimulant effects, it’s scientifically classified as a depressant. You’ll typically feel the stimulant effects at a BAC of under 0.05mg/l. But once you go over 0.08mg/l, the depressant effects will take over.
Do note that you should never mix stimulants (or other medications such as SSRIs) with alcohol. Doing so can have serious and even fatal results.
Depressant Effects of Alcohol
As we’ve already mentioned, depressants slow down your central nervous system, which can cause you to slur words and react slower to things. It also slows down your heart rate and decreases your blood pressure.
But what are the other depressant effects of alcohol? They include:
- Lowered inhibition
- Decrease in coordination
We said earlier that alcohol can help your brain produce more dopamine, but that’s only temporary. If you drink large amounts of alcohol, it can actually have the opposite effect and cause you to suppress dopamine production. As a result, you might feel:
You might already know of the dangers of alcohol poisoning. This can happen when you exceed a BAC level of 0.2 mg/l. In this case, the depressant effects of alcohol can be so extreme that you can slip into a coma or even die.
The Effects Can Be Wildly Varying for Everyone
Do note that the depressant effects (as well as the stimulant effects) can be different for everyone. You might feel giddy and alert after one beer while your friend is sulky and incoherent on the same amount of alcohol.
The main things that affect how someone’s body handles alcohol include their:
- Unique body chemistry
- Alcohol tolerance
On the note of body chemistry, what’s interesting to note is that researchers have come up with a theory. They think that those who experience more stimulant effects are more susceptible to alcoholism.
For some, they can drink casually, while for others, one drink can be all it takes to spiral into addiction.
Are you concerned that you or a loved one might be developing an alcohol dependence or addiction? Then watch out for these signs:
- Drinking in isolation
- Excessive excuses for drinking
- Mood swings
- Hangover symptoms when not drinking
If you’ve noticed these signs in either yourself or a loved one, it may be a good idea to go to rehabilitation so you can get sober.
Get Help for Alcohol Addiction Today
So is alcohol a stimulant or a depressant? As you can see from the article, alcohol might seem like a stimulant. However, according to science, it’s actually a depressant.
Regardless of whether alcohol is a stimulant or a depressant, one thing’s for sure: a dependence or addiction to this substance can have detrimental effects on your life.
If you or a loved one is struggling with alcohol addiction, then a trip to rehab can be beneficial. At Healthy Life Recovery, a drug and alcohol rehab center in San Diego, California, caring professionals can help you get on the road to recovery.
Are you ready to get help for alcohol addiction? Then get in touch with us now. We’re here to help you 24/7.