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Is alcohol a depressant or a stimulant? Unravel the truth behind this raging debate

Is alcohol a depressant or a stimulant? Unravel the truth behind this raging debate

August 30, 2021

Is alcohol a depressant or a stimulant? Unravel the truth behind this raging debate

Alcohol Addiction Drug Addiction

Whether Alcohol is a depressant or a stimulant is a perpetual debate. People consume alcohol for a myriad of reasons ranging from pacifying their agitated minds to experience a high, enjoy life, feel relaxed and reduce social inhibition. Alcohol has this sedative characteristic loved by all. Many people drink alcohol to overcome emotional stress, trauma, numb overwhelming emotional pain, and to sleep well.

But the truth is, alcohol can be very harmful and may result in dire consequences when consumed for long. It is one of the most ominous substances people abuse with debilitating outcome.

Alcohol is a depressant that has the ability to impair motor skills and cognitive skills if used for prolonged period of time. It is an inducer of stress and anxiety when a person develops an alcohol tolerance level after prolonged usage. Alcohol may stimulate or perk you up initially, but later it adversely affects the central nervous symptoms and disturbs the brain chemistry.

What are depressants and how they affect brain function?

Depressant drugs include hypnotic, sedatives and tranquilizers. All of these affect the central nervous system by slowing down its activity. However these drugs do not make a person depressed. For example sedatives and hypnotic drugs are used to induce sleep or other sleep related disorder while tranquilizers are administered to treat anxiety, relieve muscle spam, acute stress and panic attacks. The depressants upsurge the level of neurotransmitter GABA (Gamma Aminobutyric Acid) which alleviate the activity of central nervous system and brain.

Why is alcohol termed as a harmful depressant?

Alcohol can affect brain function in numerous ways and the extent of damage and severity of addiction depends on the amount, duration and frequency of intake. Alcohol binds to the GABA receptor, which is a neurotransmitter that is responsible for decreasing the activity of central nervous system. It induces sedation, a feeling of calmness, reduced heart rate and slows down breathing. Alcohol also suppresses glutamate, which results in impaired brain function and memory loss. Not only that, alcohol also makes the brain to release a happy neurotransmitter called dopamine which gives a feeling of reward and pleasure—the primary reason why people are drawn towards alcohol, ending up becoming addicts. With protracted consumption of alcohol, a person develops tolerance level, which impairs alertness, vision, judgment, concentration, reaction time and senses.

What are the negative effects of alcohol and certain other depressants?

Apart from alcohol, some other depressants like Valium, Xanax, Ativan, Halcion,  Librium and Klonopin are also very harmful. These drugs are prescribed to treat anxiety, sleep disorder, seizure etc. However, the problem begins when these prescribed medications are abused along with alcohol by people. This leads to serious consequences involving short and long-term effects.

Some of the side-effects of depressants drugs include:

  • Fatigue
  • Slower heart rate
  • Light headedness
  • Low blood pressure
  • Depression
  • Slurred speech
  • Unconsciousness
  • Slow breathing
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Impaired motor skills
  • Seizure
  • Death

The emotional negative side-effects of depressants include:

  • Risky behavior such as getting involved in gambling or crime
  • Unusual sexual drive or libido
  • Strained relationship with family and friends
  • Lack of focus and interest
  • Not productive at work place
  • Loose ability to take responsibility
  • Unable to perform daily chores
  • Involved in risky behavior such as driving while drunk
  • Self-harm or suicidal thoughts
  • Overwhelming emotions

How mood disorder is linked to alcohol 

People grappling with mood disorder or other mental illnesses such as anxiety disorder, depression, bipolar disorder or post traumatic stress disorder often develop alcohol use disorder to numb their symptoms. They use alcohol to assuage the symptoms, thus leading to a condition called dual diagnosis.

People also abuse prescribed medication with alcohol or might stop taking medicines altogether to abuse alcohol. In both cases, it wreaks havoc in one’s life.

Get help for alcohol abuse

Battling with substance abuse like alcohol is not easy. However, seeking treatment early on one can reclaim a healthy life. We, at California Behavioral Health Care deal with drug and alcohol addiction along with co-occurring disorders. If you are looking for alcohol addiction treatment centers, drug addiction treatment centers or detox centers in California, reach out to us on our 24/7 toll free number 866-225-6101 for immediate assistance. We are focused on providing personalized care and customized treatment programs to our patients.

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