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Is Alcohol a Depressant?

The term “depressant” can be confusing for some people. The word’s similarity to “depression” may be to blame a bit. But, when we refer to kinds of depressants, it’s about the substances’ effect on the body. Today, we’ll talk about the common kind of depressants, alcohol, and what makes this type of substance unhealthy.

Alcohol is considered a depressant because it slows down brain functioning. You may see this show up in slurred speech or impaired judgment when you’re drinking. Lower inhibitions can lead to risk-taking behavior. Other potential physical harm from this type of depressant can come from nausea, dizziness, and vomiting. Treatment of the physical dependence on the substance should be preceded by a safe medical withdrawal. Dual diagnosis treatment is beneficial for people whose alcohol use is accompanied by depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress, or some other form of mental health disorder.

What is alcohol?

Alcohol is a drug that comes in many forms of beer, wine, and liquor. You can find it in thousands of products, and they all share one thing in common. The kind of alcohol consumed in beverages is known as ethyl alcohol. It’s also known as ethanol. It’s created during the process of fermentation.

The amount of alcohol varies in products. These levels appear as a percentage on a product’s label. Every beverage containing alcohol that’s sold in stores must show this percentage to let buyers know what they’re getting. Beer is on the low end of alcohol content, while spirits like whiskey and vodka contain much higher levels.

  • Beer: 2-6% alcohol
  • Wine 8–20% alcohol
  • Whiskey, Vodka: 40–50% alcohol


Is alcohol  a depressant?

We can look at some of alcohol’s common effects to answer the question. These should sound familiar. Drinking can cause slurred speech. It may affect our movement and balance. It changes the way we perceive what’s in the environment around us. It even slows down our reactions. These are some of the clues about why it’s considered a depressant.

Even if someone becomes more active or more social when they drink, the alcohol itself is still working as a depressant. Social drinkers may say it “takes off the edge” or reduces their anxiety. They see alcohol as a stimulant. That may be how it feels on the first drink or two. But, drinking more than the body can handle is what makes the depressant effect appear.

What is a depressant?

A depressant slows down brain functioning, unlike stimulants which increase alertness, attention, and energy. Depressants work by slowing down communication between the body and the brain. While they don’t make you depressed, they can help you feel relaxed and less inhibited. They affect both concentration and coordination. They even slow down your reaction to unexpected situations.

Alcohol is only one type of depressant commonly marketed for legal consumption. Benzodiazepines (Benzos) are another. Medications that are depressants are controlled substances with accepted medical uses. Outside of alcohol and prescription pills, depressants can also come in the form of syrups and injectable liquids.

Why are depressants unhealthy for you?

Long-term use of depressants can create a physical dependence on them. Tolerance also increases, and a psychological dependence on the drug can add to the problem. The list of other physical effects on the body is worth mentioning, too.

Earlier we mentioned issues like slurred speech and loss of motor coordination from drinking too much. The depressant quality of alcohol can also lead to headaches, weakness, and blurred vision. Nausea, dizziness, and vomiting can appear during episodes of heavy drinking. Low blood pressure may also become a problem. Impulsive behavior from a lack of inhibitions can create life-threatening situations, too. For people with mental health concerns, drinking heavily can be followed by acts of self-harm.

What are some alcohol and depressant treatment options?

Treatment for use of depressants should start with a medical withdrawal. Attempting withdrawal on your own can be dangerous. A residential treatment program offering components for the physical addiction and any mental health concerns can be valuable. The connection between mental health and substance use is very common. Resources are available to help you begin taking steps in recovering from a drinking problem that’s been worsened by depression or anxiety. This is known as dual diagnosis treatment.

Any treatment plan should include the next steps beyond a residential program. These steps can help a person protect their sobriety through additional therapy sessions, intensive outpatient services, sober living options, and other continuing care resources. Virtual services can be another way to access valuable care if you’re not ready to be in shared public spaces yet.


Origins Behavioral Healthcare is a well-known care provider offering a range of treatment programs targeting the recovery from substance use, mental health issues, and beyond. Our primary mission is to provide a clear path to a life of healing and restoration. We offer renowned clinical care for addiction and have the compassion and professional expertise to guide you toward lasting sobriety. For information on our programs, call us today: 561-841-1296.

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If you or someone you love has a substance use or mental health disorder, Origins Behavioral HealthCare can help. We will work alongside you to provide the most comprehensive treatment available.