Wednesday, July 17, 2024

Why Is Alcohol A Depressant

Does Depression Drive People To Drink

Why is alcohol considered a depressant but it seems like drinking makes me happy?

Not every person with depressive disorder drinks at all, much less is an alcoholic. However, individuals suffering from depression who are not in active treatment are more likely than the general population to be alcoholics. This tells us two things. One, depression and alcohol abuse are connected. Two, by treating the depressive disorder, it is easier for the individual to avoid falling into the trap of alcoholism.

To understand how alcoholism and depression play off of each other, one must understand what the mood disorder is. Perhaps the best way to understand this disorder is to look at its symptoms.

Do Depressants Have Links With Depression

Despite their name, depressant drugs dont necessarily make you depressed. But some can trigger depression as a side effect.

Benzodiazepines, for example, can alter mood and trigger depression, especially if you take them for an extended period of time. The risk of depression is greater for older people and those with a history of depression.

Drinking booze is about the worst thing you can do to solve any problem, but is particularly bad for depression. Alcohol use and depression are commonly and undeniably intertwined, says Dr. Paul R. Linde, a psychiatric consultant with Ria Health, an online addiction treatment program.

Many people drink alcohol to self-medicate underlying depression. Since alcohol is a mood depressant, this only deepens that depression. Others didnt suffer from depression until they began to drink heavily.

How Does Alcohol Affect Your Mental Health

The relationship between alcohol and mental health is complex. Alcohol can negatively affect your mood and mental wellbeing, your mental state can affect your use of alcohol and it may be that other factors affect both your drinking behaviour and your mental health and wellbeing.

Anxiety and depression are more common in heavy drinkers and heavy drinking is more common in those with anxiety and depression. Alcohol is a major risk factor for suicide ideation, suicide attempt and complete suicide. Over a third of people who have completed suicides in Aotearoa New Zealand had also consumed alcohol.

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Excess Drinking Puts You Under Chronic Stress

Alcohol dependence prevents you from learning coping skills that will allow you to deal with negative emotions in a healthy way. Instead of facing your problems, you will just keep on turning to alcohol.

This does not solve anything, however. It will only add to your stress. Chronic stress is a contributing factor to depression and other mental health issues.10

The Effects Can Be Wildly Varying For Everyone

Is Alcohol a Depressant?

Do note that the depressant effects can be different for everyone. You might feel giddy and alert after one beer while your friend is sulky and incoherent on the same amount of alcohol.

The main things that affect how someones body handles alcohol include their:

  • Age
  • Mood swings
  • Hangover symptoms when not drinking

If youve noticed these signs in either yourself or a loved one, it may be a good idea to go to rehabilitation so you can get sober.

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Alcohols Effects On The Body

Alcohol has both stimulant and sedative effects. Although it is clinically categorized as a depressant, the amount of alcohol consumed and the persons individual reaction determines the type of effect he or she will experience.

Most people drink for the initial stimulant effect that allows them to loosen up in social situations. However, if they consume more than their body can handle, they will immediately experience alcohols sedating effects, including cognitive impairment.

On the other hand, some individuals drink for alcohols sedative effects. For them, it reduces their anxiety and relaxes them. Some studies suggest that most people drink alcohol to experience stimulation and the associated positive effects, but after developing dependence or addiction, switch to drinking primarily to experience the sedative effects.

One interesting pattern is that people who drink more slowly are more likely to feel the sedative effects, while those who drink large amounts of alcohol rapidly are likely to feel the stimulation effects.

Some researchers suggest that people who dont respond to alcohols sedative effects are at heightened risk of developing alcohol use disorder. This is because they drink more in order to compensate for the fact that they dont immediately feel anything. This also exposes them to negative side effects such as alcohol overdose and alcohol poisoning.

Are Stimulants Or Depressants More Dangerous

Both stimulants and depressants are dangerous for different reasons.


  • Ramp up systems in the body, basically forcing the body into overdrive.
  • Over time, having an increased heart rate and higher blood pressure can cause put unnecessary strain on the body.
  • Overdose on stimulants can cause arrhythmias, heart attacks and other problems by overworking the organs and causing seizures and heart attacks


  • Slow the bodys processes down in some cases to the point that respiration and cardiac activity cease.
  • During an overdose, the bodys automatic processes, like breathing, and heart rate, start to slow down and eventually stop altogether. For obvious reasons, this is extremely dangerous and often deadly.

Combining stimulants and depressants is dangerous. While some users mix uppers and downers thinking it balances the negative effects of each, it actually increases the risks of both.

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Is Alcohol A Stimulant Or Depressant

As a physician on the Monument platform, one question many of my patients have is if alcohol is a stimulant or a depressant. While alcohol may replicate a stimulant in the short term, alcohol is officially considered a depressant.

The human body is incredibly complex, and oftentimes its initial response to substances and circumstances may not fully represent their long-term effects. The physiological response to alcohol can be especially misunderstood. Understanding that alcohol is actually a depressant can help illuminate the long-term effects of alcohol on the body and the benefits of sobriety or alcohol moderation.

So Is Alcohol A Depressant

Why Does a Destructive Drug Like Alcohol Get a Pass?

Yes. And heres what that means.

Depressant drugs slow down your brain activity. People take them as a sleep aid, and use them to ease muscle spasms and prevent seizures.

Examples include:

  • benzodiazepines like Valium
  • sedative-hypnotic drugs like Ambien

Like depressants, alcohol use can impair motor skills and cognitive functioning. Some people also consume it to reduce anxiety.

Alcohol is a unique drug that perks you up when you start drinking, and brings you down later. Ever had a night of drinking that started out laughing and joking with friends and ends with you alone in a corner muttering into your glass?

Then you already know about the rollercoaster effect alcohol can have on your brain. We looked at how depressants work and the way alcohol relates to that drug .

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When Is Alcohol A Depressant

At higher doses, alcohol acts as a depressant. In fact, the depressant effects of alcohol on the brain are well known. When consumed in large quantities, alcohol can cause a person to feel sluggish and uncoordinated. It can also affect a persons ability to think clearly and make good decisions. Additionally, alcohol can impact a persons mood, making them feel sad or angry. In extreme cases, alcohol can even lead to blackouts, where a person will lose all memory of what happened while they were intoxicated.

It reduces activity in the central nervous system, causing the person to slow down and become relaxed. Therefore, it increases reaction time and decreases intelligence.

At the highest doses, alcohol causes what is commonly called alcohol poisoning. The drinker experiences nausea, vomiting, dizziness, and clamminess. At even higher doses, alcohol can slow breathing to the point of unconsciousness or death.

Its important to know that the effects of alcohol depend on the dose. That is, the more you drink, the greater the effects of alcohol will be. Additionally, everyone reacts to alcohol differently. Some people may be more susceptible to the negative effects of alcohol than others.

Is Alcohol Causing My Depression

The classification depressant doesnt mean alcohol causes depression. It describes alcohols slowing effects on the central nervous system.

However, alcohol and depression are closely linked.

  • Alcoholics are 3.7 times more likely to experience a major depressive disorder than non-alcoholics.
  • Having preexisting depression is known to put people at risk of developing a problematic relationship with alcohol.
  • Neither disease has one singular cause, but the triggers leading to both diseases are similar like certain genes, trauma and social isolation.

Labeling alcohol as the cause of depression is an oversimplification of complex diseases. But, alcohol will never make depression better.

Problem drinking makes depression worse. You are stuck in a negative cycle of depression and drinking until both diseases are properly treated.

There is good news, though. Getting sober will make it easier to address your depression, and addressing your depression will in turn help you stay sober. It will also prevent life-threatening consequences of alcohol like alcohol liver damage and wet brain.

JourneyPure helps people from across the country tackle both of these problems at the same time at our alcohol rehabs that take insurance.

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Mixing Cns Depressants With Alcohol

Because benzodiazepines specifically act on GABA receptors the way that alcohol does, this drug is often recommended as a medication-assisted therapy to manage alcohol withdrawal, which can cause seizures and anxiety among other uncomfortable and potentially lethal side effects. However, mixing alcohol and benzodiazepines means that the person will become more intoxicated more quickly this can lead to physical harm from falling after losing balance, becoming the victim of a crime like assault or rape, and overdose.

Since barbiturates are not as widely prescribed as benzodiazepines, this combination occurs less often. The Global Information Network about Drugs reports that there are, on average, 3,000 deaths every year involving barbiturate overdoses about 42 percent of those are believed to be suicides, and the rest involve accidental poisoning from mixing alcohol with barbiturates or other CNS depressants with these medications.

Alcohol Can Make Mental Health Conditions Worse

Alcohol and Depression

If you experience mental health issues, you might find you use alcohol to temporarily feel better. Drinking alcohol is sometimes used to cope, or as a coping strategy. You can find yourself gradually drinking more alcohol, more often.

However, because of how it changes your brain chemistry, alcohol can contribute to and worsen symptoms of depression, anxiety, stress, mood disorders, suicidality, self-harm and psychosis. Also, because it removes inhibitions and increases recklessness, it can also put you more at risk of harming yourself, your whnau and others around you.

Alcohol can also interact with any medication you are taking for mental health or other conditions. It may be important not to drink alcohol at all, or to limit your intake if you are taking certain medicines. Check the instructions you were given when your medicines were prescribed, or ask your doctor or pharmacist if you are not sure. If you have a mental health condition and you use alcohol as a coping strategy, talk about it with your healthcare provider.

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How Does Alcohol Affect Behavior

Alcohol eases inhibitions. It makes people more talkative and reduces self-control.

As both a stimulant and depressant, alcohol makes people more careless. It interferes with how the brain works and makes it more difficult to think clearly and coordinate physical actions. This is one of the reasons why driving while intoxicated is so dangerous.

Alcohol makes people more likely to take risks while at the same time slowing their reflexes and coordination. It also causes many people to act more aggressively.

People who have AUD are prone to mental and behavioral changes, including:

  • Inability to set limits on alcohol consumption
  • Inability to quit drinking, even if they want to
  • Cravings

What Causes Depression And Alcohol Use Disorder

Its not clear which comes first: depression or alcohol misuse. Each persons experience is different, but having one of the conditions increases the risk for the other.

For example, a person with frequent episodes of severe depression may turn to drinking to self-medicate. That can worsen alcohol misuse. People who frequently drink are more likely to experience episodes of depression, and they may drink more in an attempt to feel better.

Some elements that may contribute to one or both of these conditions include:

  • Genetics. People with a family history of either condition may have a higher risk. Research suggests a genetic predisposition may make you more likely to experience depression or alcohol use disorder.
  • Personality. Its believed that people with a negative outlook on life may be more likely to develop either condition. Likewise, people who experience low self-esteem or difficulty with social situations may be more likely to develop depression or an alcohol use disorder.
  • Personal history. People who have experienced abuse, trauma, and relationship problems may be more likely to be depressed or misuse alcohol.

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How Alcohol Affects Your Physical Health

Not only can alcohol affect your mental health, prolonged use can also lead to physical health problems.

When you drink alcohol, especially if you drink a lot of it, the immediate concern would be sustaining an injury while your reaction time is lowered. With enough drinking, your life could even be in danger, particularly if you get behind the wheel of a car.

The most dangerous aspect of drinking alcohol is the fact that the most common effects to your health dont occur right away and arent always easy to identify. Those who drink alcohol and develop a dependency are likely to experience health challenges their entire lives.

Those who are dependent on alcohol are more at risk of developing:

  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Cancer, including throat, mouth, and esophagus cancers
  • Thinning bones

Other, more common problems that can develop quickly include diarrhea, muscle cramps, and fatigue.

As mental and physical health do not exist separately, it is also common for those who suffer from a chronic medical condition to feel depressed, which can lead to a more serious depression diagnosis. It can be a vicious cycle where you developed a condition due to your alcohol dependence, then that resulted in feelings of depression, which encourages you to drink further to numb the pain.

Drinking Alcohol With A Mood Disorder

Is Alcohol a Drug?

People with mood disorders such as depression and anxiety are more likely to develop a dependence to alcohol or become alcoholic. Someone who is sad may drink heavily as a way of self-medicating, but this is dangerous and increases the risk of developing an addiction. In addition, studies have shown that patients with co-occurring disorders have more difficulty when going through substance abuse treatment.

Alcohol can also impair the effectiveness of some antidepressants or worsen the medications side effects. Some effects of drinking Alcohol while on antidepressant medication include:

  • Increased feelings of depression or anxiety
  • Rise in blood pressure
  • Extreme sleepiness

Patients may even stop taking antidepressants in order to drink, which can lead to withdrawal effects from the prescription medication. A person should never stop taking antidepressant medication without first consulting their doctor.

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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. There are treatment facilities across the country that can provide you or your loved one care. Contact a treatment provider today.

  • Foundation for a Drug-Free World. . What is Alcohol? Retrieved on 18th December 2018 from
  • Gowin, Joshua. . Your Brain on Alcohol. Retrieved on 18th December 2018 from
  • Heshmet, Shahram. . Why Do People Drink? Retrieved on 18th December 2018 from
  • National Institute on Drug Abuse. . Prescription CNS Depressants. Retrieved on 18th December 2018 from
  • Web MD. . Alcohol and Depression. Retrieved on 18th December 2018 from

Reviewed by Certified Addiction Professional: April 24, 2019

Theresa Parisi

The Effects Of Alcohol

Alcohol, particularly in the early stages of consumption acts as a stimulant on the central nervous system. It triggers an increase in dopamine levels. This speeds up the heart and respiration rate, and can increase energy and confidence, lower inhibitions, and improve mood.

However, with continued drinking of alcohol these initial stimulant effects decline and sedative or depressant affects begin to emerge. This is because continued consumption of alcohol can suppress dopamine production while enhancing the effects of GABA. As noted above, GABA reduces or inhibits nerve activity in the brain. Reduced nerve activity can decrease mental acuity, and lower blood pressure, and heart rate. This can result in slurred speech, sluggishness, disorientation, and slower reaction times . Many people who have ingested large amounts of alcohol in one session may even seem sleepy, disoriented, or sedated.

While these are the general effects of drinking alcohol, these can vary greatly from person to person. Effects are influenced by a number of factors, which include body chemistry, sex, weight, alcohol tolerance, and the amount of alcohol consumed. Consultation with a qualified mental health professional can help identify how alcohol affects each individual person .

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How Can I Stop Using Stimulants Or Depressants

Although stimulant and depressant drugs have opposite effects, both are physically and mentally addicting. And, long-term substance abuse can cause permanent damage to the brain.

If youve tried to stop in the past, but ended up drinking or using, thats clear sign you need professional help.

Here are the top local places to turn to: doctors follow rigorous sourcing guidelines and cite only trustworthy sources of information, including peer-reviewed journals, count records, academic organizations, highly regarded nonprofit organizations, government reports and their own expertise with decades in the fields and their own personal recovery.

  • Chung, T., & Martin, C. S. . Subjective stimulant and sedative effects of alcohol during early drinking experiences predict alcohol involvement in treated adolescents. Journal of studies on alcohol and drugs, 70, 660667.

    Pettinati, H., & Dundon, W. . Comorbid Depression and Alcohol Dependence. Psychiatric Times, 28.

    . Drug Fact Sheet: Depression. Drug Enforcement Administration.

    . Drug Fact Sheet: Stimulants. Drug Enforcement Administration.

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