Is alcohol a stimulant? Alcohol is known primarily as a depressant than a stimulant because it slows your body down through your nervous system and your brain functionality. Stimulants and depressants do two different things to the body. A stimulant increases your blood pressure and heart rate and gives you more energy. And if you overload your body with stimulants, it will make you jittery and give your body the shakes.
Is alcohol a stimulant? Photo credit: iStock-Liudmila Chernetska
Depressants slow down your heart rate and blood pressure and it can help you feel more relaxed and sometimes sedate you. The initial doses of alcohol can give you a little bit of a stimulant effect by exciting and activating that happy hormone. And this can make you feel energized and stimulated.
The effect of alcohol varies by individual and are influenced by certain factors such as weight, sex, activity level, weight, alcohol tolerance and the dose of alcohol consumed.
After the initial stimulant effects of alcohol, it slows down your nervous system by decreasing your blood pressure, heart rate and mental clarity. When you ingest large amounts of alcohol it will slow your reaction time, disoriented, or sedated. It can also lead to mental fogginess, drowsiness, and a lack of coordination.
Once your blood alcohol levels exceed 0.2 mg/l the depressant effects on your respiratory system can become so prominent it can lead to a coma or imminent death. The stimulant effect of alcohol happens when your blood alcohol levels reach 0.05 mg/l or higher.
“Alcohol is known primarily as a depressant than a stimulant because it slows your body down through your nervous system and your brain functionality.” Celebrity Fitness & Nutrition Expert Obi Obadike
The Bottom Line is alcohol has depressant and stimulant effects. When you first ingest alcohol, it stimulates you and over time it acts as a depressant. Some of the depressant effects are drowsiness, slower reaction times, disorientation. Some of the stimulant effects are an increase in heart rate and blood pressure. How alcohol affects you depends on your alcohol tolerance, your bodyweight, sex, and your body chemistry.
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- Abrahao KP, Salinas AG, Lovinger DM. Alcohol and the Brain: Neuronal Molecular Targets, Synapses, and Circuits. Neuron. 2017 Dec 20;96(6):1223-1238. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2017.10.032. PMID: 29268093; PMCID: PMC6566861.
- Hendler RA, Ramchandani VA, Gilman J, Hommer DW. Stimulant and sedative effects of alcohol. Curr Top Behav Neurosci. 2013;13:489-509. doi: 10.1007/7854_2011_135. PMID: 21560041.
- CDC- https://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/faqs.htm