How Alcohol Affects Our Brain Chemistry
The brain relies on a delicate balance of chemicals and processes. Alcohol is a depressant, which means it can disrupt that balance, affecting our thoughts, feelings and actions and sometimes our long-term mental health. This is partly down to neurotransmitters, which are chemicals that help to transmit signals from one nerve in the brain to another.
For example, the relaxed feeling we can experience if we have a drink is due to the chemical changes alcohol has caused in the brain. A drink can make some people feel more confident and less anxious, as the alcohol begins to suppress the part of the brain associated with inhibition.
As we drink more, the impact on our brain function increases. And regardless of the mood were in, with increasing alcohol consumption, its possible that negative emotions will take over, leading to a negative impact on mental health. Alcohol can be linked to aggression and some people report becoming angry, aggressive, anxious or depressed when they drink.
Signs And Symptoms Of Depression
To be diagnosed with major depressive disorder or another depressive disorder, people typically need to display symptoms almost every day for at least 2 weeks. The symptoms are severe enough that they cause significant stress and impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.5 While the specific types of depressive disorders can look a bit different, they tend to share common symptoms that include:1,5,6
- A persistent low mood, feelings of sadness, and/or feeling anxious or empty.
- Feeling hopeless or pessimistic.
- Feeling excessively or inappropriately guilty, worthless, or helpless.
- Losing interest or pleasure in activities or hobbies you once enjoyed.
- A lack of energy or fatigue.
- Moving or talking more slowly than usual.
- Difficulty thinking, remembering, or making decisions.
- Changes in sleep, such as trouble falling or staying asleep or sleeping more than usual .
- Changes in appetite with significant weight loss or weight gain .
- Having thoughts of self-harm, death, or suicide, or making suicidal attempts.
- Aches, pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems that arent easily explainable and do not improve with treatment.
Effects Of Ethanol On Neurons In Neuronal Networks
Other drugs with depressant properties may also exert relatively selective network effects, including the oldest known and most widely used CNS depressant drugethanol. The depressant effects of ethanol have been known since antiquity as characterized by Shakespeare in the play Othello, I would not put a thief in my mouth to steal my brains. How does ethanol steal your brains? Many studies have evaluated the mechanisms of action of ethanol, and two main hypotheses have emerged: enhancement of GABA-mediated inhibition and blockade of glutamate excitatory effects on NMDA receptors.74,75 However, the dose issue with ethanol is a critical problem, especially with in vitro studies.20,21 These mechanisms have been determined mostly from in vitro studies where network issues cannot be adequately addressed. However, selectivity of effect may occur only when these neurons are embedded in a neuronal network. If the cells are isolated from the network, certain potentially important influences that confer the selectivity of drug action may be lost. Thus, ethanol has been widely reported to exert different effects on GABAA receptor function, depending on the brain site and even the cell type within the site.19,7678
John C.M. Brust, in, 2007
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Can Prescription Cns Depressant Use Lead To Addiction And Substance Use Disorder
Yes, use or misuse of prescription CNS depressants can lead to problem use, known as a substance use disorder , which takes the form of addiction in severe cases. Long-term use of prescription CNS depressants, even as prescribed by a doctor, can cause some people to develop a tolerance, which means that they need higher and/or more frequent doses of the drug to get the desired effects. A SUD develops when continued use of the drug leads to negative consequences such as health problems or failure to meet responsibilities at work, school, or home, but despite all that the drug use continues.
Those who have become addicted to a prescription CNS depressant and stop using the drug abruptly may experience a withdrawal. Withdrawal symptoms-which can begin as early as a few hours after the drug was last takeninclude:
- increased heart rate, blood pressure, and temperature with sweating
- severe cravings
People addicted to prescription CNS depressants should not attempt to stop taking them on their own. Withdrawal symptoms from these drugs can be severe andin the case of certain medications-potentially lifethreatening.
Can I Take Xanax To Counteract The Effects Of Cocaine
Xanax and cocaine are both dangerous drugs on their own. But, when taken together, they limit the power of the other. This reaction causes people to take more of one or both drugs.
The polydrug use of Xanax and cocaine increase the feelings of sadness and irritability. As a result, people are at a higher risk of suicide. Overdose is another severe risk of polydrug use.
When people combine these drugs, they dont notice when the cocaine has their heart racing. They dont notice because the Xanax has them feeling relaxed. On the other hand, they may not notice their body slowing down from the Xanax. However, they dont realize it because cocaine has them feeling alert and energetic.
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Is Alcohol A Depressant
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How Do People Use And Misuse Prescription Cns Depressants
Most prescription CNS depressants come in pill, capsule, or liquid form, which a person takes by mouth. Misuse of prescription CNS depressants means:
- taking medicine in a way or dose other than prescribed
- taking someone else’s medicine
- taking medicine for the effect it causes to get high
When misusing a prescription CNS depressant, a person can swallow the medicine in its normal form or can crush pills or open capsules.
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Take Our Am I An Alcoholic Self
Take our free, 5-minute Am I an Alcoholic? self-assessment below if you think you or someone you love might be struggling with an alcohol use disorder . The evaluation consists of 11 yes or no questions that are intended to be used as an informational tool to assess the severity and probability of an AUD. The test is free, confidential, and no personal information is needed to receive the result.
How To Seek Help For Depressant Abuse
If you or someone you know is currently struggling with depressant abuse or addiction, now is the time to look for help. And if you recognize you have a problem with drug abuse, youve already completed the first step towards recovery.
Because of the withdrawal symptoms, one can experience trying to get off of depressants and other drugs, people seeking treatment should check in to a rehab facility to detox. Rehab facilities will monitor detoxification and help ease the transitionary period.
Pinnacle Treatment Centers is ready to welcome anyone looking to travel the road to recovery. Our specialties include drug addiction and alcohol use disorders, meaning we are well-equipped to manage depressant abuse. Dont hesitate to reach out and start your recovery as soon as possible.
If you are in need of medical or behavioral health treatment, please contact a qualified health professional directly, and if you are in need of emergency help, please go to your nearest emergency room or dial 911.
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Side Effects Contraindications And Precautions
Opioid agonists are potent central nervous and respiratory system depressants. Vigilant monitoring of vital signs is mandatory whenever these drugs are used. Use of opioid agonists is contraindicated in victims of injury and multiple trauma the drugs should be used with care in any person with compromised respiratory function. If opioids are available in the emergency drug kit, the opioid antagonist naloxone should also be available. Opioid analgesics should be administered through an IV route to victims suspected of having AMI. Opioids should not be included in the emergency drug kit unless the doctor and staff members are trained in both IV drug administration and ACLS.
Is Alcohol A Depressant And What Does That Mean
Is alcohol a depressant? The simple answer is yes, but what does that mean?
Alcohol depresses the central nervous system, meaning it effectively lessens how responsive your brain is. It can make you feel relaxed and at ease, but it can also come with slurred speech, unsteady movement, and inaccurate perceptions. Its also common for those under the influence of alcohol to react slowly.
However, when people use alcohol, they often experience stimulating effects, especially with the first drink. A glass of wine at dinner can make you feel more at ease when sharing a meal with distant relatives, while a mixed drink can encourage you to speak to strangers at the bar. Alcohols initial stimulating effects are why it is often found in social situations and at many celebrations.
Alcohols sedative effects usually appear after many drinks have been consumed, and the more glasses that have been emptied, the more severe the effects of alcohol are. If your central nervous system is depressed too much through binge drinking or long-term alcoholism, it can lead to respiratory failure, coma, or even death.
What makes alcohol consumption so dangerous is that everyone has different limits, and everyone experiences the effects of alcohol differently. Some may drink regularly without developing an addiction, while others may develop an alcohol use disorder when they first begin to drink.
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Using Hightech Tools To Assess Alcoholic Brain Damage
Researchers studying the effects of alcohol use on the brain are aided by advanced technology such as magnetic resonance imaging , diffusion tensor imaging , positron emission tomography , and electrophysiological brain mapping. These tools are providing valuable insight into how alcohol affects the brains structure and function.
Longterm heavy drinking may lead to shrinking of the brain and deficiencies in the fibers that carry information between brain cells . MRI and DTI are being used together to assess the brains of patients when they first stop chronic heavy drinking and again after long periods of sobriety, to monitor for possible relapse to drinking .
Memory formation and retrieval are highly influenced by factors such as attention and motivation . Studies using MRI are helping scientists to determine how memory and attention improve with long-time abstinence from alcohol, as well as what changes take place when a patient begins drinking again. The goal of these studies is to determine which alcoholinduced effects on the brain are permanent and which ones can be reversed with abstinence.
Another hightech tool, electroencephalography , records the brains electrical signals . Small electrodes are placed on the scalp to detect this electrical activity, which then is magnified and graphed as brain waves . These brain waves show realtime activity as it happens in the brain.
The P3 component is reduced in alcoholics compared with control subjects.
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And 10 Other Questions Related To Mixing Substances
Many people use depressants to come down from a stimulant high and vice versa. People may also be seeking a certain high. For instance, the polydrug use of heroin and cocaine produces an intense and long-lasting high. However, these and other drugs are fatal drug combinations.
But, fatal drug combinations can happen by accident. Subsequently, those taking medication for pain, depression, or anxiety need to be careful. For example, many people like to have a drink or two after a long day. But, if they also take benzos for anxiety, it can increase the effects of benzos.
Polydrug use minimizes the side effects of either drug. This use creates the feeling of not being as intoxicated as they are. Stimulants motivate the user to continue partying. They also hide the fact that the CNS system is slowing down. At the same time, depressants might hide a dangerously high heart rate.
For example, if a stimulant is taken with alcohol, it can lead the user to drink more. The bodys response to alcohol is to induce unconsciousness, but stimulants stop that from happening. Therefore, a person can drink more before passing out. If other depressants are taken, it can lead to coma or death.
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Weed As A Hallucinogen
Weed is perhaps most often stereotyped for its hallucinogenic effects. While hallucinations are possible, they happen rarely and dont occur in all users. But the symptoms of weed, such as time distortion, are also part of a hallucination.
Hallucinogens are substances that alter your perception of reality, either through changes in your sensory perception or visual or auditory hallucinations.
Keep in mind that hallucinations and paranoia, which is associated with stimulants, are different things. While hallucinations are false perceptions of objects, events, or senses, paranoia involves a false idea thats usually accompanied by suspicion.
For example, a hallucination might make you see the person walking in front of you as an animal. Paranoia, on the other hand, might make you think the person has been following you in order to harm you.
In addition to hallucinations, hallucinogens can also cause:
- altered sense of time or space
- loss of control over motor skills
- increased heart rate
- dry mouth
- detachment from self or environment
Weed can have all of these additional effects, which is why many people and organizations classify it as a hallucinogen.
Over time, using hallucinogens can lead to speech problems, memory loss, anxiety, and depression. In rare cases, people may be left with psychosis, flashbacks, or a condition called hallucinogen persisting perception disorder.
Why Are Men And Women Different
Because of several physiological reasons, a woman will feel the effects of alcohol more than a man, even if they are the same size. There is also increasing evidence that women are more susceptible to alcohol’s damaging effects than are men. Below are explanations of why men and women process alcohol differently.
Ability to dilute alcohol
Women have less body water . This means that a man’s body will automatically dilute the alcohol more than a woman’s body, even if the two people weigh the same amount.
Ability to metabolize alcohol
Women have less dehydrogenase, a liver enzyme that breaks down alcohol, than men. So a woman’s body will break down alcohol more slowly than a man’s.
Premenstrual hormonal changes cause intoxication to set in faster during the days right before a woman gets her period. Birth control pills or other medication with estrogen will slow down the rate at which alcohol is eliminated from the body.
Women are more susceptible to long-term alcohol-induced damage.
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The Effects Of Combining Alcohol With Other Depressants
Although many people use alcohol or other depressants for their relaxing qualities, the negative effects can far outweigh the temporary feelings of calm. Abusing depressants and alcohol can result in both short-term and long-term health consequences, and some are irreversible.
Some of the side effects of abusing depressants and alcohol together include:
- Low blood pressure
- Impaired coordination and motor skills
- Slowed heart rate
These physical effects can easily put others at risk, particularly if an intoxicated person gets behind the wheel, operates machinery or engages in other risky behaviors. However, there are also many non-physical effects that stem from depressant abuse. For example, many people who misuse depressants have problems with finances, employment and relationships with friends or family.
How Does Alcohol Influence Your Physical Health
Any amount of alcohol can affect your bodys health and wellness, and the risk starts from the moment you take a sip. An estimated 95,000 people die from alcohol-related causes annually, with more than half of those deaths due to health effects like heart or liver disease from drinking too much over time.5,6
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What Kind Of Substance Is Alcohol
Alcohol is classified as a depressant because it slows down the central nervous system, causing a decrease in motor coordination, reaction time and intellectual performance. At high doses, the respiratory system slows down drastically and can cause a coma or death.
It is particularly dangerous to mix alcohol with other depressants, such as GHB, Rohypnol, Ketamine, tranquilizers or sleeping pills. Combining depressants multiplies the effects of both drugs and can lead to memory loss, coma or death.
Alcohol And Depressants Are A Dangerous Combination As These Substances Can Increase The Risk Of Dangerous Side Effects And Lead To An Overdose
Jonathan Strum graduated from the University of Nebraska Omaha with a… read more
Dr. Sheehy completed his BS in Molecular Biology at the University of Idaho and went on to complete his Doctor of Pharmacy at… read more
- Alcohol is a potentially dangerous depressant that should not be mixed with other depressants.
- Depressants are used to treat many conditions, including insomnia, epilepsy, anxiety and pain.
- Mixing multiple depressants increases the risk of side effects and overdose.
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Does Alcohol Cause Depression
Since alcohol is categorized as a depressant and alters brain chemicals that regulate mood, some may wonder if alcohol causes depression. Professionals have studied the connection between alcohol and mood disorders and have discovered many interesting interactions. Drinking too much can deplete a person of neurotransmitters associated with feeling content but, the brain normally recovers after a night of drinking. Heavy use of alcohol over time can lead to permanent changes in the brain, resulting in depression or another mood disorder.
A review of studies from 2015 shows that, compared to people without alcohol dependence, those who were dependent had a higher risk of developing a mental health problem. People with alcoholism are 4 times more likely to become depressed, more than 6 times at risk for bipolar disorder, and more than 4 times at risk for generalized anxiety disorder.