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Alcohol is a Depressant

young girl drinking alcohol - photo by Piotr Marcinski

Alcohol is not a Stimulant

It is a common mistake to think that alcohol is a stimulant- it isn’t. Alcohol is a depressant.

So why do people feel happy and relaxed when they drink?

The word depressant doesn’t mean that it causes people to feel depressed. A depressant means that it depresses the central nervous system.

When you drink, alcohol initially relaxes you and puts you at ease. It produces a feeling of pleasure. This feeling of pleasure or award is why it is so common to think that alcohol is a stimulant.

This is, however, exactly how depressants work. They help reduce anxiety and muscle tension. Depressants are often used for treating pain, insomnia, acute stress reactions, panic attacks, and seizure disorders.

Immediate Effects of Alcohol Use

Because a depressant slows you down and puts you at ease, it affects coordination and your reaction time. It takes longer for you to be aware of and to react when something happens around you. The ability to make split second decisions necessary for safe driving disappears. As the amount of alcohol in your body increases, your skills decrease.

Alcohol also affects your judgment. It makes you feel good and more confident. At the same time, alcohol makes you less alert, which can cause you to take chances while driving that you normally wouldn’t take. Since you are not always fully aware of your surroundings, you may not realize that you are speeding, running a red light, or that passing is not allowed.

In addition, alcohol has a negative effect on your vision. Relaxed pupils don’t constrict or dilate correctly. It makes it harder to detect contrasts between different colors and shades. You will also have trouble judging distances correctly. Your sensitivity to light, like oncoming headlights at night, is also affected.

Relaxed eye muscles can cause distorted or double vision.

This is what makes drinking and driving so dangerous.

Long-time Effects of Alcohol Use

Be aware that alcohol is extremely addictive, and when abused long-term it can eventually lead to symptoms of depression.

Long-time effects of alcohol abuse also include an increased risk of high blood pressure, stroke, and other heart-related diseases.

Liver conditions may lead to a greater difficulty in absorbing vitamins. Which, in turn, may result in a higher risk of developing eye conditions that will alter your vision and cause permanent damage. A vitamin B1 deficiency can lead to a disorder characterized by amnesia, apathy and disorientation.

Learn more about alcohol and impaired driving: Studies on Impaired Driving on U.S. Roads

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