Is alcohol a stimulant?

What are stimulants and depressants? 

For many people alcohol consumption is a normal part of life. But if you are an alcohol drinker, do you really know what it does to your body and mind? This post will be exploring whether alcohol is a stimulant.

People associate stimulants with positive feelings and depressants with negative feelings. That means it is often assumed that stimulants increase good feelings and depressants make you feel bad. But the response to stimulants and depressants has a much broader impact as they affect the central nervous system.

The central nervous system comprises the brain and spinal cord. It controls the functions of your body and mind. The central nervous system is linked to the nerves that are throughout your body. This is the peripheral nervous system. These two systems work together.

Stimulants can be mild, such as caffeine, or stronger such as prescription amphetamines or illicit drugs. These substances speed up how the central nervous system functions.

Depressants do not necessarily make someone feel depressed. “Depressant” refers to the way the central nervous system slows down and the function of it is “depressed”. Depressants can impact your concentration and coordination. And physiologically they slow down your heart rate and decrease your blood pressure.

So to summarise this, substances increase central nervous system activity and depressants slow down it’s processes. To be classified as a stimulant or depressant, the effects produced must be the dominant ones produced by the substance.

Is alcohol a stimulant or depressant?

Alcohol acts a as stimulant during the early stages of consumption. It triggers the heart rate to speed up and increases energy while lowering inhibitions. BUT as alcohol continues to be consumed, the initial stimulant effects decline. The depressant effects begin to take hold. When alcohol is continually consumed, dopamine production is suppressed while GABA increases – and GABA reduces the nerve activity in the brain. When nerve activity is reduced, the heart rate and blood pressure lowers.

Scientifically alcohol is classified as a depressant because it is the depressant effects which are dominant. Alcohol slows down brain function. However, it does have stimulant effects, particularly in the early stages of consumption.

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