Most people drink alcohol to boost their mood and lift their spirits. Any alcohol-fueled party is sure to have a bunch of happy, spirited people dancing and singing to their heart’s content. You might think that this makes alcohol a stimulant – and it certainly seems to have stimulating effects – but alcohol is categorized as a depressant.
Many people improperly self-medicate with alcohol for anxiety and depression. However, drinking only worsens symptoms of mental illness. If you’re stuck in the cycle of self-medicating, reach out to the alcohol detox center in Florida.
If drinking makes people happy, why is alcohol a depressant?
Alcohol Is a Depressant
To answer why alcohol is a depressant, we first have to know what drinking does to your body and mind.
When you drink alcohol, it goes to your stomach. From there, your body’s capillaries absorb about 20% of it into the bloodstream. The other 80% moves into the small intestines and then gets absorbed into the blood by the capillaries once again. The alcohol goes into your veins and throughout the body, including your brain.
Note that your body’s alcohol absorption depends a lot on your height and diet. Taller and heavier people won’t feel the effects of alcohol as much. One reason is that the water in your bloodstream helps dilute alcohol. The taller you are, the more water your body has, and the more your body will dilute your drinks.
Second, food can shut the “door” to your small intestines known as the pyloric sphincter. If you just had a cheeseburger and fries, alcohol won’t affect you as much as someone drinking on an empty stomach. This is why people often tell others to eat if they’re drunk. Food helps lessen alcohol’s biological effects.
When the alcohol reaches your brain, it triggers “feel-good” hormones such as serotonin and dopamine. These positive effects are why many think of alcohol as a stimulant. They make you feel excited, happy, and energetic by lowering your inhibitions.
However, alcohol also depresses the central nervous system, releases the “slowdown” chemical called gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA), and inhibits the “speedup” chemical glutamate. GABA reduces pain and adrenaline and promotes sleepiness and relaxation.
GABA’s primary function is to inhibit neurotransmitter signals. Too much GABA slows down the brain’s response times, which is why those who have consumed too much often have delayed reactions, slurred speech, impaired judgment, and blackouts. Heavy drinking can cause long-term brain damage and conditions like alcoholic dementia.
The stimulating effects of alcohol disappear when it leaves the bloodstream. Those previously on an alcoholic “high” soon experience symptoms such as:
Based on these effects, alcohol is a depressant. A depressant is a drug that reduces arousal and stimulation by slowing down messages between the brain and body. By that definition, we can conclude that alcohol is indeed a depressant.
How Alcohol Interacts With Other Depressants
Alcohol isn’t the only kind of depressant. Many doctors prescribe benzodiazepines, also called benzos, for their soothing effects. Much like alcohol, taking benzos helps make people feel sleepy.
Unfortunately, mixing alcohol and benzos is a dangerous combination. Using two depressants at the same time can cause either substance to enhance the other. In other words, alcohol makes benzos more active and vice versa. Some dangerous side effects include creating a dependency on either drug, difficulty breathing, organ damage, reduced cognitive function, and risk of overdose. For those who mix alcohol and benzos, alcohol and benzo detox programs can reduce the dangers.
Similarly, combining alcohol and opiates is a horrible idea. You might feel a temporary high but suffer from side effects such as addiction, decreased blood pressure, alcohol poisoning, and respiratory problems. Plus, drinking alcohol and taking opiates often leads to “dose dumping” where users experience the drug’s full effects at once instead of overtime.
Overcome Alcoholism Today
Alcohol is a depressant that causes many issues. Too much drinking can lead to alcoholism – a deadly addiction that can ruin lives. If you or someone you know is suffering from alcoholism, don’t hesitate to get help. Contact Summit Detox today at 866.341.0638 and learn how we can help you overcome alcoholism.