Alcohol as a Drug: Everything You Need to Know

HHRC-Man drinking whisky

Most of the characteristics and traits that are often observed or experienced with many substances are shared by alcohol. Despite this, most individuals do not consider alcohol a drug because of its legal position and broad acceptability. Many nations, communities, and customs have tolerated alcohol. Drinking is also common in many social situations, rituals, and celebrations.

While alcohol is commonly used for recreational purposes, it has been identified as a significant risk factor for chronic health issues and one of the leading causes of avoidable deaths in the United States.

When considering the implications of alcohol intake, we return to the most frequently asked questions regarding alcohol, such as “Why is alcohol classified as a drug?”

Alcohol as a Drug: What Is It?

Alcohol, or alcoholic beverage, is a type of drink that produces a psychoactive effect when consumed. It comes in various forms, including beer, wine, and liquor. Alcohol is produced when yeast ferments the carbohydrates in various foods. Wine, for example, is made from sugary grapes, while beer is made from malted barley, which includes a form of sugar called maltose. Cider is manufactured from apples or other fruits that contain natural sugars. In contrast, vodka begins with potatoes or another plant-based product before being distilled to remove the ethanol content solely.

Alcohol as a Drug: Its Ingredients

The mixture of carbohydrates, yeast, and other components initiates a chemical reaction resulting in ethanol production. When we ingest ethanol, it alters the way our brain and body work.

The quantity of ethanol in various alcoholic beverages varies. The harsher the symptoms, the higher the alcohol concentration. Certain beverages will produce more severe symptoms than others.

The amount of alcohol consumed has little effect on addiction. It can happen whether you drink beer or something more substantial like whiskey. The primary question, however, is whether alcohol is a drug.

Is Alcohol a Depressant and Considered a Drug?

Alcohol is a Central Nervous System depressant, and so, it can be considered a controlled drug. The reason is that the inhibitory neurotransmitter, gamma-aminobutyric, or GABA, is being produced in more significant quantities. This reduces brain function and neural activity and further affects various critical systems in the body. When people consume more alcohol than their bodies can handle, they experience depressant effects. The following are some of the depressing effects that alcohol can have on your health:

  • Delayed reaction time
  • Impaired cognition
  • Garbled speech
  • Unsteady walk
  • Inadequate coordination or a lack of motor skills
  • Skewed perceptions
  • Reduced inhibitions
  • Distorted judgment
  • Sedation

Although alcohol is officially classed as a depressive, it has also been shown to have stimulating effects depending on the amount and pace of consumption. These stimulatory effects are frequently sought by those who consume alcohol. In small amounts, alcohol is more likely to provide stimulatory effects. Alcohol has the following stimulatory effects:

  • Talkativeness
  • Over-confidence
  • Mood enhancements
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Accelerated heart rate
  • Euphoria

When a person takes more alcohol, significantly more than the body can process, the drinker is more likely to feel alcohol’s depressive effects. The amount of beer, wine, or liquor consumed can significantly impact whether the consumer feels depression or stimulant effects.

A study by Behavioral Neurobiology and Alcohol Addiction found that people who experience a more robust stimulant response to alcohol consumption have a higher chance of developing an alcohol-related disorder. People who aren’t at risk of alcohol dependence will experience a more robust sedative response. Although many factors can influence the likelihood of an individual developing an alcohol dependence disorder, such factors as genetics, environment and family history may all play a part in alcoholism.

Alcohol Addiction: How Is Alcohol Used as a Drug

Alcoholism is a chronic condition characterized by uncontrollable alcohol desire and obsessive or difficult-to-control drinking, regardless of negative personal or professional repercussions. In the United States, alcohol is the most often used addictive drug. According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD), about 17.6 million persons in the United States suffer from alcohol use disorders or chronic alcohol misuse.

Alcohol addiction is a problem both psychologically and physically. It stimulates the release of endorphins and dopamine, leading to euphoric sensations such as pleasure. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse & Alcoholism has found that different genetic factors influence how alcohol consumption affects brain function. The study found that certain people’s brains respond more strongly to alcohol than others. This makes them more likely to develop an alcohol-related disorder.

People who drink alcohol don’t realize that alcohol can cause brain chemistry and function changes. When an individual drinks alcohol frequently, their brain’s reward and pleasure centers are overloaded. This can lead to a desire to revert to previous drinking habits. Situations like this become a significant factor in alcohol dependence.

As many alcoholics or recovering alcoholics would attest, it is difficult to quit drinking. This makes relapse much more likely when someone attempts to stop drinking. It is even possible for recreational alcohol use to turn into abuse or dependence quickly.

Alcohol addiction is psychologically dangerous. Alcohol is usually used to cope with stress, anxiety, or other unpleasant emotions and feelings, which can become a coping mechanism that is difficult to break. Because alcoholism becomes a learned behavior, it can affect one’s thoughts or beliefs. Many treatment centers offer psychotherapy, which can help people find the motivation and hope they need to start their recovery.

What Does Alcohol Show Up As on a Drug Test

The detection window for alcohol in urine is relatively tiny – generally up to 12 hours. However, alcohol byproducts such as ethyl glucuronide (EtG) can be identified in a person’s urine up to 80 hours after their last drink. Other lab tests may be performed on the urine to look for ethyl sulfate (EtS). EtS is a sort of metabolic molecule, or metabolite, that indicates the presence of alcohol in the body.

These tests are frequently more accurate than typical urine tests and have a wider detection window. For these reasons, courts frequently use them to enforce probationary rules.

Alcohol as a Drug: Withdrawal from It

When someone with an alcohol use problem abruptly stops drinking or drastically reduces their use, they suffer alcohol withdrawal syndrome (AWS), often known as withdrawal. Alcohol withdrawal symptoms range from psychological to physical and may include, vomiting and anxiety.

Due to discomfort and health dangers, quitting alcohol on your own, or going “cold turkey,” is strongly discouraged. It is usually better to detox in a medically assisted, inpatient detox center with 24/7 medical assistance, therapeutic support, and inpatient therapy.

Key Takeaway

Alcohol is a psychoactive chemical with addictive characteristics used for ages in various cultures. In today’s time, alcohol is used as a gateway drug and it has become a significant cause of disease with consequential social and economic effects. Regarding how it affects the mind, it is best regarded as a substance that impairs one’s capacity to think logically and distorts one’s judgment. That is why it is essential to regulate alcohol intake and avoid depending on it.

Regain Control from Your Alcohol Dependence Today

If you’ve ever suffered an addiction from alcohol as a drug or seen someone you care about struggle with alcoholism, you know firsthand how powerful alcohol is as a drug. Reaching out for help may appear complicated, yet, there is light at the end of the tunnel. Several inpatient and outpatient rehab centers in Nashville, TN, are available to assist you or a loved one in overcoming their alcohol addiction and beginning the path to recovery.

If you’re looking to get help, then Haven House Recovery is the perfect choice for you. Our rehab centers in Santa Rosa Beach, FL, are one of the leading treatment facilities with effective 12-step Christian-based programs. Trying to stop on your own is risky, with a significant probability of recurrence owing to the different unpleasant effects. Instead, contact us today to learn about treatment alternatives that can lead to a life free of addiction.