Is alcohol a stimulant? Alcohol is so common in our society, but a lot of people aren’t sure exactly how it works. What exactly is it about alcohol that makes us feel intoxicated?
People become drunk after drinking alcohol because it affects how the brain functions. However, many people believe alcohol is a stimulant because it can increase your heart rate and sometimes give you more energy. But that isn’t the entire picture.
Although alcohol can have some side effects that stimulate the body, it is primarily a depressant. This means that it slows down the function of the brain and other systems of the body. Alcohol can affect everyone differently. It depends largely on your body chemistry, how much alcohol you’ve drank, and whether or not you have developed a tolerance to alcohol.
Stimulant or Depressant
A depressant is a substance that slows you down. It will slow down the function of your brain, and slow down the function of other bodily systems. A stimulant does the exact opposite.
Stimulants are responsible for speeding up brain and body function. These substances can give you more energy or increase your heart rate and blood pressure. If you’ve taken too much of a stimulant substance, you may experience trouble sleeping, become jittery, and even act more impulsively.
Depressants, because they slow down the nervous system and the rest of the body, usually have the effect of relaxing people who use them. In extreme cases, a user may become completely sedated by using depressants.
Depressant substances are used in treating anxiety and insomnia. Benzodiazepines and opioids are two of the more powerful classes of antidepressants. They can be effective in treating various medical conditions, but people who are prescribed these drugs need to be careful. The substances are habit-forming by nature, and it’s easy for people to become addicted.
Not all substances can be clearly defined as a stimulant or depressant. Alcohol, for example, can have some stimulant effects on the body despite the fact that is largely considered a depressant. Nicotine falls into this “hybrid” category as well. Nicotine is the opposite of alcohol. It is largely considered a stimulant, but can have some depressant effects in users, such as relaxation.
Alcohol As A Stimulant
As alcohol is used over time, users can start to develop a psychological and chemical dependence on the substance. As this happens, the initial sip of alcohol can trigger a release of dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is one of the chemicals in the brain responsible for happiness or euphoria. When someone addicted to alcohol takes that first sip, a dopamine release is triggered, and the nervous system is stimulated. As a result, there are times when someone may feel more energized when drinking alcohol.
Alcohol can also cause an increase in blood pressure or heart rate. It can also make people behave more aggressively. These mental and physical effects are typical of stimulant substances.
The stimulant effects of alcohol occur early on when a person is drinking. According to experts, stimulant effects of alcohol occur when a person’s blood alcohol content (BAC) is around .05%. However, these stimulant effects are replaced by depressant effects as a person’s BAC reaches .08%, which is the legal limit in most areas throughout the United States.
The effects of drinking alcohol, much like other substances, vary from person to person. No two people are affected the same way by alcohol, and it depends on a wide variety of factors. Sex, weight, amount of alcohol ingested, body chemistry, and your tolerance are all factors that can determine how your body will be affected by alcohol.
Because of the individual nature of alcohol consumption, it can be hard to say exactly how many drinks it would take to bring someone to the BAC levels mentioned above. To determine how many drinks it would take for someone to reach those levels, there are several BAC calculators you can visit online.
Alcohol As A Depressant
By now, you may still be asking yourself “is alcohol a stimulant”? It can be confusing, especially because there is medical proof of the stimulant effects of alcohol. However, it is mostly a depressant.
You read above how the stimulant effects of alcohol kick in at a BAC of .05%, but go away at a BAC of .08%. That .03% difference in BAC is a very small window. The stimulant effects of the substance are very short-lived before the depressant effects begin to take hold.
Once the depressant effects of the substance start to take hold, a person’s blood pressure and heart rate start to decrease. Central nervous system function begins to slow down and, as a result, a person’s mental clarity begins to decrease as well.
At this point of alcohol consumption, a person may appear dizzy or disoriented. They may also appear to move slower and have slow reaction times. When someone drinks high doses of alcohol, the dopamine production in their brain can start to be suppressed. This can cause users of alcohol to experience feelings of sadness and even depression.
High doses of alcohol can make the depressant effects of the substance really dangerous. These depressant effects start when the BAC reaches .08%. They can become severely dangerous, even deadly, when a person’s BAC reaches .2%. At this level, the depressant effects of alcohol can cause a coma, or possibly even death.
Is Alcohol A Stimulant?
After covering the effects of alcohol on the body, we hope we’ve shed some light on the question “Is alcohol a stimulant?”.
The answer? Kind of.
People will experience stimulant effects when drinking alcohol, but they will be quickly replaced by depressant effects. This hybrid nature of alcohol might make it difficult to classify for some, but as you read above, alcohol only has stimulant effects for a very short period of time.
The way alcohol affects you is also largely dependent on several individual factors. Some people may experience more stimulant effects, while others may experience more of the depressant effects of alcohol. It’s believed by experts that individuals who experience more of the stimulant effects of the substance are at higher risk of alcohol abuse.
If you, or anyone you know, start to form a dependence on alcohol it’s important to seek help. Contact Just Believe today for resources on where you can start the recovery journey.