Alcohol consumption has been built into the foundation of social events and our society as a whole. Drinking has become so mainstream that misconceptions about alcohol use are often developed through advertisements, movies, and celebrity endorsements that don’t showcase the truth about the effects of alcohol. While images often depict high-energy social events, the truth is, alcohol has the opposite effect on your mind and body.
Alcohol: Stimulant or Depressant?
Before you can know what to expect from moderate to heavy drinking, it’s essential to understand what alcohol is not. In low doses, alcohol may provide short jolts of energy, but alcohol is not a stimulant.
Alcohol consumption slows brain activity and creates problems with memory and the ability to think clearly. Alcohol is a depressant, and the body reacts very differently to stimulants versus depressants.
What is a Depressant?
Being classified as a depressant means alcohol depresses the central nervous system.1 While the substance doesn’t directly cause depression, the connection between alcohol consumption and mental health is complicated.
Approximately 40% of those with an alcohol use disorder experience a comorbid depressive disorder.2 While drug and mental health experts debate whether alcoholism causes depression or vice versa, it’s more important to ensure affected individuals receive dual-diagnosis treatment. A personalized treatment plan will independently address both disorders simultaneously.
Effects of a depressant include:
- Slows down the central nervous system by reducing heart rate
- Slows down the central nervous system by lowering blood pressure
- Causes problem with body movements and memory
- Can slow breathing
- Headaches or dizziness
- Confusion or poor concentration
People often confuse alcohol as a stimulant because alcohol can increase heart rate when consumed in smaller amounts and cause rapid breathing. Having just a little alcohol also ignites a feeling of confidence or can cause people to be irritable or easily aggravated.
What is a Stimulant?
The effects of a small amount of alcohol may mirror a stimulant, which can create misconceptions about alcohol use. A stimulant increases your heart rate and breathing, making the user feel more awake and alert.3 While alcohol first presents as a stimulant, the underlying effects are in line with a depressant.
Stimulants can create a feeling of energy, but over time can create anxiety, headaches, over-stimulation, aggression, and paranoia. Long-term use of these drugs, also known as “uppers,” can create significant mental and physical consequences.
Effects of a stimulant include:
- Increased heart rate
- Constricted blood vessels
- Increase in body temperature
- Decreased sleep and appetite
- Erratic behavior
- Teeth clenching
Top 5 Misconceptions About Alcohol Use
To understand the drastic effects alcohol can have on your mental and physical health, you need to know the truth about drinking, intoxication, and finding an alcohol treatment center in Scottsdale, Arizona.
1. Individuals who binge drink are challenged with alcohol use disorder.
The truth to this common misconception is that 90% of binge drinkers are not dependent on alcohol.4 For men, binge drinking is having five or more drinks in about two hours, whereas for women it is classified as four drinks in two hours.
2. Alcohol affects everyone the same way.
Not only do physical characteristics, like weight and metabolism, play into how you’ll be affected by alcohol, but unique factors, like previous drinking habits, also contribute to how alcohol affects a person.
3. Those who battle alcohol use disorder drink alcohol every day.
Recognizing when you or a loved one has developed a dependency on alcohol relies less on the frequency of drinking and more on what alcohol affects in your life. If you pull away from loved ones, hobbies, work, and social events you once enjoyed, reliance on alcohol may be developing.
4. Building a tolerance to alcohol means you should drink more.
When your body develops a tolerance to alcohol, it means you are physically changed by alcohol. More drinking means more damage to your organs, and the health risks only grow with more consumption.
5. Beer is less intoxicating than wine or hard liquor.
While “one drink” of beer, wine, and liquor may look different in terms of ounces, they have very similar effects on the body. A 12-ounce beer, a 5-ounce glass of wine, and a 1.5-ounce shot of liquor have roughly the same amount of alcohol.
Misconceptions About Alcohol Use Are Harmful
These common misconceptions about alcohol use can put your mental and physical health in jeopardy. Understanding why alcohol acts as a depressant and recognizing when drinking coincides with feelings of depression will help you reduce the risks of falling victim to alcohol use disorder.
Best Alcohol Treatment in Arizona
When drinking becomes more than an occasional social event, it may be time to connect with a specialist who can develop a personal treatment plan for your needs. The counselors and health experts at Desert Cove Recovery will support you with the truth about alcohol and help you build positive coping skills, and stop relying on alcohol.