Is alcohol considered a drug? Explaining its addictiveness and its effect on your body.
Alcohol is a significant part of culture and society. Champagne is associated with celebrations and pairs with weddings, graduations and birthdays. Wine is given as gifts and opened after a long day to relax. Binge drinking is practiced in college settings as well as at bars and clubs all over the world — despite the well-documented risks.
Alcohol is socially acceptable and even encouraged in society. In 2020, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration found that half of Americans aged 12 and over used alcohol in the past month.
Is alcohol a drug?
Yes, alcohol is a drug. It’s classified as a depressant, which means alcohol slows down your brain and bodily functions as its consumed.
According to Addiction Center, some of the effects of depressants are delayed reaction time, poor coordination, slurred speech, lessened inhibitions, cognitive impairments and distorted perception or judgment.
It also has some stimulant effects, Addiction Center says, especially if consumed in small quantities. Stimulants are defined as drugs that produce an abundance of dopamine and can have effects like euphoria, talkativeness, energy, difficulty sleeping and increased pulse and blood pressure.
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Is alcohol addictive?
Alcohol is an addictive substance. According to a survey by SAMHSA, over 40% of alcohol users in the United States are classified as binge drinkers and 28% of those binge drinkers are classified as heavy drinkers. In 2019, over 14 million people ages 12 or above had an alcohol use disorder.
Why is alcohol addictive?
Alcohol is addictive because of its effect on the brain — euphoria, reduced anxiety and reduced inhibition. Whether individuals are drinking to cope with stress or during social situations, habit can to turn into addiction. According to the National Institutes of Health, the body becomes addicted to alcohol in one of three stages: binge and intoxication, negative affect and withdrawal or preoccupation.
During the binge and intoxication stage, the rewarding effects coupled with the repeated activation of the basal ganglia — which helps form habits and routine behaviors — can trigger a repeated urge to drink in settings with or reminiscent of alcohol.
Withdrawal symptoms, like pain, sleeplessness, anxiety or irritability, occur when a person who is addicted stops drinking. According to the NIH, this stage is where someone stops drinking to feel the “high” of alcohol, drinking rather to escape the “low” of the withdrawal.
The preoccupation stage refers to when a person becomes preoccupied with consuming alcohol next. In this stage, the prefrontal cortex is compromised.
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