bottle of liquor on the porch.

Is Alcohol a Depressant? Can Alcohol Work As Stimulant?

In my last post, I talked about having to discuss the dangers of alcohol abuse with my kids. Because I am a teacher, I know that children understand much more than we give them credit for, so I was scared to share my story, but it worked out fine. Well, I’m going to discuss some of the effects of alcohol as a depressant in this post.

Is alcohol a stimulant or depressant?

Alcohol can serve as both a stimulant and a depressant in the human body. The effect alcohol will have on you usually depends on the volume of alcohol consumed and your unique individual reaction. Initially, it might have a stimulant effect, but if you have a higher tolerance or consume more than your body can conveniently process, you will start experiencing its depressant and sedating effects. The rate at which you drink can also affect the effect you experience. Rapid drinking more easily increases its stimulant effects while drinking slowly; on the other hand, and it can increase its sedative effects.

Does alcohol increase heart rate? Rapid heart rate after drinking has been known as a side effect of alcohol. Althought, it is possible that while drinking alcohol your heart rate is significantly decreased. This, in addition to suppressing breathing, is part of its depressant effects on the central nervous system.

So, you might be wondering why you can feel your heart racing when you take copious amounts of alcohol. The reason for the increase in heart rate after consuming alcohol is still being researched, but decreased heart rate is a longterm effect of alcohol as a depressant.

Is alcohol a depressant?

Alcohol is categorized as a Central Nervous System depressant. This means that it slows down neural activity and brain function by enhancing the effects of the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA).

Is alcohol a stimulant?

Alcohol can also reduce social inhibitions by loosening a person up. So, alcohol can initially have a stimulant effect like talkativeness, euphoria, energy, and wakefulness. Although, alcohol is a depressant that suppresses breathing and heart rate, it is also a stimulant.

Is alcohol an antidepressant?

Clinically, alcohol is classified as a depressant, and this does not mean that it causes depression. Instead, its function as a depressant refers to its ability to suppress the activities of the central nervous system. Antidepressants are drugs for treating clinical depression, PTSD, and OCD. There’s no evidence to support that alcohol works as an antidepressant.

Alcohol and dopamine activity

Another effect that alcohol has on the body is its interaction with dopamine. Dopamine serves as a neurotransmitter by carrying signals between brain cells and communicating information throughout the body. The chemical messenger dopamine also affects feelings of pleasure, pain, and moods. When alcohol is consumed, the brain’s reward centers are flooded with dopamine, which produces euphoric feelings. Subsequently, the brain will adapt the dopamine levels so that the same quantity of alcohol does not produce as much dopamine.

Alcohol and GABA

The gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptors are responsible for producing feelings of sedation and calmness. Alcohol binds to these receptors and mimic their effects on the brain.

How Does Alcohol Work?

We have already discussed the alcohol mechanism of action by which it binds to GABA receptors and increases feelings of calmness and sedation, how it works as a depressant of the central nervous system by reducing the heart rate and breathing, and also that it floods the body with dopamine, which increases pleasure and reward. Alcohol further inhibits glutamate, which results in impaired brain functions and loss of memory.

Alcohol as a depressant further affects alertness, vision, concentration, compromises the senses and your ability to make decisions and reduces reaction time.

Apart from the above-listed effects of alcohol as a depressant, there are also long and short term effects of alcohol consumption. The effects of alcohol are death, unconsciousness, nausea, depression, seizures, vomiting, impaired motor skills, dizziness, low blood pressure.