Is Alcohol A Stimulant Or Depressant And Is it Really So Dangerous?

Drinking Alcohol Can Make You Feel Good Now. But It Could Hurt You Later On
Learn Why You're Drinking Too Much in Online Therapy


Is alcohol a stimulant or depressant? There has always been some confusion as to how one should classify alcohol, as it appears to be both a stimulant and a depressant. But the biggest confusion is in the widespread refusal to classify it as a drug. It's a chemical that targets the brain. It's addictive. In families with a long history of alcohol use, the children can be said to be alcohol prone.

Stimulating Alcohol

There are party drinkers, weekend drinkers, and one glass of wine or beer per night drinkers. Most who regularly or irregularly engage in small amounts of alcohol, state that they do so because it's both relaxing and helps them socialize better. A few drinks can stimulate elation, excitement and energy, which gives it the appearance of a stimulant.


Stimulants tend to influence dopamine or norepinephrine, neurotransmitters that award brain stimuli by giving feelings of pleasure, and is often evidenced through increased sexual arousal and impulsiveness. This is why there are a number of things you might find yourself doing under the influence of alcohol, that you wouldn't even consider while sober.

The Downside of Alcohol

One or two drinks can be relaxing. They can help you lose your inhibitions in a social setting. Instead of moping in a corner, you might suddenly become the life of the party, but as the evening wears on, you begin to feel your energy start to lag, your words to slur, and your thoughts to become disconnected.

Drinking Alcohol Can Make You Feel Good Now. But It Could Hurt You Later On
Learn Why You're Drinking Too Much in Online Therapy


Exactly what happened? Studies have found that mood is affected directly by the blood alcohol content (BAC). As blood alcohol ratio increases, so do the feelings of elation, excitement and extroversion. Once the BAC begins to decrease, vigor declines, replaced by fatigue, confusion, and depression.

Alcohol slows down the GABA receptors in the brain, which is largely responsible for the feeling of relaxation we receive when drinking. This slowing down affects the central nervous system, causing delayed reactions and dissociation. Passing out and blackouts are the by-products of large-scale drinking. Some researchers believe that the purpose of GABA is to control the fear or anxieties experienced when neurons are over-excited.

When GABA receptors were first isolated, they did respond to alcohol, but only in large quantities. It took ten years of study to isolate the Delta subunit and how it might differ from other types of GABA receptors. It was discovered that the Delta subunit did respond to alcohol, even in small quantities.

The Delta receptors were concentrated in the hippocampus, the prefrontal cortex, and the cerebellum, areas of the brain that affect memory, planning, and coordinated movement. Furthermore, tests showed that mice who were given valium developed a tolerance for both valium and alcohol, indicating that both drugs work at the same receptor.

Is Alcohol a Stimulant or Depressant and How Dangerous is It?

Used in small, controlled amounts, alcohol could be said to have some medicinal values as it can relieve stress and anxieties. However, binge drinking and large-scale alcohol consumption are just as dangerous for your health as any drug taken in quantity. Binge drinking can result in alcohol poisoning, blackouts, and risky behavior. Long term drinking affects your blood sugar, produces addiction, and can contribute to heart disease and diabetes, as well as cause memory loss.

Alcohol withdrawal is painful. It can cause physical symptoms such as "the shakes", tremors, headaches and stomach aches, and cramps and fever. It can cause hallucinations. If you are struggling with alcoholism, seek help. A therapist can walk you through the hard times that build up to the good times of alcohol-free relations with family and friends.


Find out more answers about alcohol, a stimulant or depressant, as well as advice on how to stop the addiction and get professional help. You can talk to a qualified therapist at BetterHelp at any time!

Previous Article

Masturbation Therapy For People Addicted To The Habit

Next Article

How Do I Choose A Good Substance Abuse Therapist?
For Additional Help & Support With Your Concerns
Speak with a Licensed Counselor Today
The information on this page is not intended to be a substitution for diagnosis, treatment, or informed professional advice. You should not take any action or avoid taking any action without consulting with a qualified mental health professional. For more information, please read our terms of use.