Is Alcohol a Drug? - Riverwalk Recovery Center
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Is Alcohol a Drug?

Is Alcohol a Drug?

Alcohol’s Not A Drug…Or Is It?

Alcohol can’t be a drug, right? They sell drugs in drug stores. Some of them, you even need a prescription for. And then, there are the illegal drugs. The ones you score on the street. Because it isn’t like one of those, alcohol isn’t a drug. All you have to do is wait until your 21. Then, you can legally walk into a store. Then, you buy it. No questions asked. So, alcohol’s not a drug…or is it? In this blog, Riverwalk Recovery Center examines the following topics surrounding alcohol:
  • Explaining what exactly alcohol is
  • Considering why alcohol is a drug
  • Excessive alcohol use
  • Long-term effects of drinking alcohol
  • How to find help for alcohol use disorder

Explaining Exactly What Alcohol Is

Chemically, alcohol is known as ethanol. Its chemical symbol is C2H6O, or abbreviated as EtOH. History traces alcohol to China in about 7000 BC. Manufacturers produce alcohol through a process called fermentation. When alcohol ferments, the process turns sugars into energy. As a result, ethanol is produced.

Considering Why Alcohol Is A Drug

Research refers to alcohol as a psychoactive drug. Psychoactive drugs are those that produce effects in the mind. A psychoactive drug might change our mood. It might alter how we perceive what’s happening to us. Psychoactive drugs cause shifts in our consciousness. Alcohol causes these kinds of shifts. By this logic, alcohol is a drug.

Alcohol And The Brain

Evidence abounds to support the idea that alcohol is a drug. Alcohol interacts heavily with neurotransmitters in the brain. Neurotransmitters are chemical messages sent out by the brain. Neurotransmitters influence our attitudes, temperaments, movements, and more. When we drink, alcohol interferes with some of these messages. It speeds up some neurotransmitters while slowing others down. This kind of interference translates into how we experience altered consciousness. Being drunk is an altered state of consciousness. With it come feelings of euphoria and happiness. But, drunkenness also contributes to impulsivity and memory loss. With this documented evidence, we must agree with the literature. Alcohol most certainly is a drug.

Excessive Alcohol Use

Not everyone who drinks becomes addicted to alcohol. But, the more often a person abuses alcohol, the more likely they are to develop alcohol use disorder. Alcohol use disorder is one possible consequence of excessive alcohol use. Excessive alcohol use refers to 4 types of behaviors:
  • Binge drinking: On one occasion, consuming 4 or more drinks for women. For men, 5 or more. One occasion is defined as a 2-3 hour period.
  • Pregnant drinking
  • Heavy drinking: 8+ drinks in a week for women, 15+ drinks for men
  • Underage drinking: alcohol consumption by those under 21

Alcohol Use Disorder Defined

Binge drinking appears to have the strongest connection to developing alcohol use disorder (AUD). Note that this does not mean that binge drinking necessarily causes AUD. But, those who binge drink face the highest risk. Alcohol use disorder means that a person cannot stop drinking. They have become dependent on alcohol. Alcohol has become integral to how their brains and bodies operate. If a dependent person quits drinking, they succumb to withdrawal. Withdrawal is what happens when a dependent person stops taking whatever they have become dependent on. Ergo, withdrawal and dependence are two sides of the same coin.

Symptoms Of Alcohol Withdrawal

We’ve determined why alcohol is a drug. If you can withdraw from something, then it’s a drug. The symptoms of alcohol withdrawal manifest in a condition called alcohol withdrawal syndrome (AWS). Symptoms of AWS include:
  • Tremors in the hands
  • Sleep disturbances: difficulty falling or staying asleep
  • Anxiety
  • Upset stomach
  • Hallucinations: perceiving things that aren’t actually present

Long-Term Effects Of Drinking Alcohol

Alcohol is also a drug if it produces long-term negative effects. In addition to dependence and withdrawal, prolonged alcohol use causes numerous painful side effects. Alcohol can damage the brain, stomach, and heart. Blackouts and memory loss, both of which are brain problems, can occur. In the heart, alcohol can contribute to elevated blood pressure. It makes the heart weak and can also lead to heart attacks. Alcohol also impairs gut health. It can interfere with the stomach’s ability to digest food. Therefore, a person in this condition may suffer from abdominal pain, cramps, and diarrhea. The liver pays a heavy price for long-term alcohol use. It can become inflamed and eventually develop cirrhosis.

Yes, Alcohol Is A Drug

Alcohol is psychoactive. It produces an alteration of consciousness. Under its influence, we experience reality differently. We do not remember events correctly (if at all). Alcohol influences our emotions. It produces euphoria. We can also become addicted to it. Furthermore, prolonged use does not help our health flourish. Rather, long-term use causes much suffering. And that’s not including deaths. About 88,000 people die each year from excessive alcohol consumption.

How To Find Help For Alcohol Use Disorder

You asked whether alcohol was a drug. Alcohol is a drug. And people addicted to drugs need help at our Chattanooga alcohol treatment center. If you or someone you love struggles with alcohol addiction, call or contact Riverwalk Recovery Center today.
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