This is a question raised, as well as misunderstood, by many people. If you ask most people to name a list of drugs that come to the top of their mind, usually alcohol is left entirely off the list. While alcohol may not be as widely known as other harder, street drugs, it is technically defined as a depressant and alcohol is considered a drug.

What Is The Definition of A Drug?

When we look at the definition of what a drug is as defined by Webster’s Dictionary, it is referred to as: “something, often an illegal substance that causes addiction, habituation, or a marked change in consciousness.” When approached by pure definition, alcohol clearly fits the bill of a drug in all classifications.

Comparisons To Other Drugs

Alcohol, just as other known drugs, is an intoxicant. It is one of the most common substances abused across America and it leads to addiction over time, just as with any other drug usage. Not to mention, should a heavy drinker or binge drinker stop ingesting alcohol, they will experience withdrawal symptoms that can be deadly.

This is a well-known component of other drugs and their withdrawal side effects. Just as with other known drugs, a person can also overdose and die from alcohol if too much is consumed in a short period of time.

Lastly, someone who has become addicted to alcohol usually may need assistance with detoxing and will need to enter alcohol treatment to help recover from it. This is a process most people only associate with other drugs, but not everyone realizes that addiction treatment centers specialize in alcohol treatment programs for this very reason.

What Are Some Types of Drugs?

  • Depressants (example: Alcohol)
  • Stimulants (example: Cocaine)
  • Hallucinogens (example: LSD)
  • Opiates (example: Vicodin)

How Is Alcohol Made?

Ethyl alcohol, otherwise known as ethanol, is the ingredient found in beer, wine and liquor that contains what causes the intoxicating effects felt by drinking these substances.  The process of fermentation from yeasts and sugars is what creates alcohol.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “A standard drink equals 0.6 ounces of pure ethanol, or 12 ounces of beer; 8 ounces of malt liquor; 5 ounces of wine; or 1.5 ounces (a “shot”) of 80-proof distilled spirits or liquor (e.g., gin, rum, vodka, or whiskey).”

How Does Alcohol Affect the Body?

Alcohol absorbs into the bloodstream through the stomach and small intestine then it makes it’s way to the brain as it affects the central nervous system. According to the University of California Santa Barbara, “Approximately 20% of alcohol is absorbed through the stomach and most of the remaining 80% is absorbed through the small intestine.”

Once alcohol hits the brain, it interrupts the part of the brain that controls consciousness, heart rate and our breathing patterns. This can cause slower reaction times and loss of coordination.

As the body starts to try to metabolize alcohol through the liver, the liver becomes unable to keep up as it can only process so much at a time. When a person is drinking steadily or heavily, this creates a high blood alcohol concentration in the body that in effect makes a person feel drunk.

The depressant effects of alcohol can completely overwhelm the body and its defense system causing people to be unable to think or move clearly.

Short-term Effects of Alcohol

  • Impaired judgment
  • Loss of inhibition
  • Slurring speech
  • Loss of balance
  • Blackout
  • Alcohol poisoning
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Delirium Tremens (DTs)

Long-term Effects of Alcohol

  • Depression
  • Brain damage
  • Stroke
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Liver Disease
  • Sexually Related Disorders
  • Cancer

Getting Help

Alcoholism is something that affects millions and can be devastating to a person’s life and family. Alcohol is a dangerous drug and should be treated with care. If you or someone you know is struggling with alcohol substance abuse, help is available. Contact us today to learn more about alcohol treatment options and receive the support you need to get on the path to recovery.

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By – Carly Benson
With over 11 years of recovery under her belt from alcohol and cocaine, Carly Benson has become a faithful believer in miracles, a writer and a person living a mindfully alcohol-free lifestyle. Read more
Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.