Is Alcohol a Depressant?

People drink alcohol because they want to feel happy. Most people don’t realize that one cup of alcohol or one glass of beer will have the opposite effect on their body than they think.

Alcohol depresses the central nervous system. It is a depressant for brain activity. The more you know about how alcohol affects the brain, the easier it is to understand why, for many people, alcohol abuse becomes a disease that haunts them.

How Does Alcohol Travel to the Brain?

Alcohol eventually affects your brain. But it doesn’t do so right away. When you drink a glass of beer, whiskey, or wine, the first place the alcohol goes is to your stomach. From your stomach, your body will absorb around 20% of the alcohol through capillaries into the bloodstream.

The remaining alcohol travels to your small intestines. Here, 80% of the alcohol finds its way into your bloodstream through capillaries. It travels and affects different parts of your body, including your brain. This is why, if a person drinks a lot of alcohol in short secession, they don’t feel the effects immediately. However, you usually start to feel the impact of alcohol about 10 minutes after taking your first drink.

If you have food in your belly, especially if you had a meal with high-fat content, your sphincter may be closed tight. This is because it takes a long time for your body to digest fat. This can drastically slow down your body’s alcohol absorption and make it take longer for the alcohol to reach your brain.

What Happens Once the Alcohol Reaches Your Brain?

Once the alcohol hits your brain, several chemical changes start to happen. Your brain makes your body feel good by releasing serotonin and dopamine. Your body starts to release GABA. This chemical tells your body to slow down. Glutamate, the chemical that tells your body to speed up, is produced at a slower rate.

The combination of these chemical changes cause physical side effects. That is why when a person drinks a lot of alcohol, their speech becomes slurred. Since everything is slowing down, people lose the ability to process information quickly. Reflexes are drastically diminished.

If a person drinks too much, it can affect their breathing. Alcohol can be poisonous. Because of all of the effects mentioned above, it is referred to as a depressant.

Does Alcohol Make People Depressed?

Alcohol affects your brain and mood. But you might wonder, does it cause anxiety, or can it cause a person to become depressed? There is a lot of evidence pointing to the fact that there is a link between alcohol use and mood disorders. If someone abuses alcohol for a long time, their body produces less serotonin.

A reduction in serotonin production, combined with other alcohol-related chemical imbalances, could lead to mood disorders. But this is a cumulative process that happens over many months or years. One night of binge drinking is going to affect your neurotransmitters negatively. But if you sleep it off, the next day, you should be back to normal.

Does Depression Cause Alcohol Addiction?

Researchers agree that people with alcohol use disorder have a higher risk of mood disorders. But what is not clearly known is what comes first, the disorder or the depression. For many people, depression predates alcohol abuse. For others, it seems to be triggered by alcohol abuse. Research suggests that individuals who have alcohol dependence are:

• Six times more likely to have bipolar disorder
• Four times more likely to have depression
• Four times more likely to have general anxiety disorder

Should You Drink When You Are Sad?

Some people who feel sad think they must reach for a drink to self-medicate. But this can be very dangerous. When people self-medicate using alcohol, they put themselves at risk of developing a psychological dependency on alcohol. With time, the joy they get or the sense of pleasure they get from drinking dissipates. Eventually, physical addiction takes root, and life feels off if they don’t drink.

Are you concerned that you or someone you love is dealing with alcohol addiction? Would you like help to break free from the grips of alcohol and learn how to deal with life stresses without alcohol? We can help. Contact our counselors today by dialing 833-846-5669.