Is Alcohol a Depressant?
Drinking profoundly alters an individual’s mood, behavior, and neuropsychological functioning. For many people, alcohol consumption is a means of relaxation; however, the effects of alcohol can actually induce anxiety and increase stress. Alcohol is classified as a Central Nervous System depressant, meaning that it slows down vital functions. This results in impairment such as slurred speech, unsteady movement, disturbed perceptions, and an inability to react quickly. Mentally, alcohol reduces an individual’s ability to think rationally and distorts judgment.
Alcohol encompasses both stimulating and sedative effects. Although clinically categorized as a depressant, the amount of alcohol consumed and a person’s individual reaction determines the type of effect he or she will experience. Most people drink for the initial stimulant effect, to “loosen up” and reduce social inhibitions. However, if a person consumes more than the body can handle or has a higher tolerance, he or she will then begin to experience alcohol’s sedating effects such as cognitive impairment.
Some researchers believe that people who don’t respond to alcohol’s sedative effects as much as others are at a heightened risk of developing an alcohol use disorder. They drink more to compensate for the fact that they don’t immediately feel anything, increasing their chances of experiencing the negative side effects. Alcohol overdose, or alcohol poisoning, can cause even more severe depressant effects, including: inability to feel pain, toxicity, unconsciousness, and possibly even death. These reactions additionally depend on how much an individual consumes and how quickly.
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How Depressants Effect the Mind and Body
Alcohol impacts the brain in a variety of ways. The substance binds to receptors for gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which is a neurotransmitter responsible for producing feelings of calmness and sedation, as well as the suppression of breathing and heart rate. Alcohol also inhibits glutamate, resulting in memory loss and other impaired brain functionality. In addition to effecting GABA and glutamine, alcohol releases dopamine – the neurotransmitter chemical responsible for pleasure. This causes people to drink even more in an attempt to increase those feel good feelings that dopamine produces.
However, as more alcohol is consumed, more depressant effects will develop. As an individual continues drinking and more alcohol enters the system, it impairs judgement, vision, and alertness; dulls the senses; affects concentration; and slows down reaction time.
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Side Effects of Alcohol and Other Depressants
In addition to alcohol, there are many other depressant drugs. Sometimes referred to as “downers,” these are medications that are regularly prescribed to reduce symptoms of anxiety, panic, and sleep disorders due to their tranquilizing effects. The most common depressants include:
Abusing depressant medications and alcohol can result in both short-term and long-term effects, some of which can be irreversible. While many people use depressants because of the relaxing effects that these substances temporarily create, the severity of the negative effects far outweigh any positive associations. Side effects of depressant abuse include:
- Low blood pressure
- Slowed heart rate
- Slurred speech
- Impaired motor skills
- Slowed breathing
- Low blood pressure
There are a number of non-physical effects of depressant abuse as well. Many depressant abusers experience problems with finances, employment, friends, and family. Additionally, the effects that alcohol induces can easily put others at risk and in danger, such as driving under the influence, participating unprotected sex, and engaging in physical altercations.
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Finding Treatment for Alcohol and Depressants
If you or someone you know is struggling with an addiction to alcohol or another depressant, know that you are not alone and that there are treatment options available. Treatment facilities across the country are waiting to provide you or your loved one with the best possible care so that you can reclaim your life without substance abuse. Contact a treatment expert today, and get started on your journey to recovery.
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