• For 24/7 Treatment Help Call

    (800) 526-5053

  • Is Alcohol Considered A Stimulant Or A Depressant?

    Is Alcohol A Stimulant?

    Alcohol can have both stimulant and depressant effects, but alcohol is classified as a central nervous system depressant because it slows down brain functioning. The stimulant effects of alcohol last for only a short time before the depressant effects take over.

    Think about when someone drinks an excessive amount of alcohol. They slur their words and have slower reactions to things. The more alcohol you drink, the more the depressant effects go into action. 

    Stimulant Effects Of Alcohol

    While alcohol isn’t considered a stimulant, it does have some stimulant effects when first ingested that can include:

    • increased heart rate
    • increased energy
    • rapid breathing
    • lowered inhibitions
    • increased aggression

    Stimulant effects occur when blood alcohol concentration (BAC) approaches 0.05 mg/l, and are due to the brain releasing dopamine after the first drink. 

    Dopamine is known as the feel-good hormone because it makes people feel happy. It’s what brings on the buzz or euphoric feeling many people associate with a drink or two. But those effects are quickly replaced by the depressant effects of alcohol.

    Depressant Effects Of Alcohol

    Once the stimulating effects wear off, the depressant effects kick in. When alcohol is drunk in high enough doses, side effects like low blood pressure and low heart rate can occur. Reaction times become slower as brain function slows down and people may feel sleepy and disoriented. 

    This depressant effect occurs because higher doses of alcohol cause the brain to suppress the production of dopamine. This can cause people to feel sad, depressed, and fatigued.

    Depressant effects occur once BAC reaches 0.08 mg/l.

    What Makes Alcohol A Depressant?

    Alcohol affects the central nervous system (CNS) by amping up the effects of the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). 

    Increasing the activity of GABA decreases activity in the CNS, causing the sleepy, relaxed, sad, or sedative effects when someone drinks.

    It’s also what leads to slurred speech, altered perceptions, impaired decision-making skills, and reduced coordination.

    People who struggle with alcohol abuse can depress their central nervous system so much that it leads to respiratory failure, alcohol poisoning, coma, or death.

    If you or a loved one is struggling with alcohol use disorder (alcohol addiction), our substance abuse treatment programs can help. 

    To learn about our addiction treatment options, please contact us today.

    Written by Ark Behavioral Health Editorial Team
    ©2024 Ark National Holdings, LLC. | All Rights Reserved.
    This page does not provide medical advice.

    Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) - Alcohol Use and Your Health
    National Institutes of Health - Information about Alcohol
    National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus - Alcohol
    PubMed - Stimulant and sedative effects of alcohol

    Medically Reviewed by
    Manish Mishra, MBBS
    on August 15, 2022
    Questions About Treatment?

    Ark Behavioral Health offers 100% confidential substance abuse assessment and treatment placement tailored to your individual needs. Achieve long-term recovery.

    100% confidential. We respect your privacy.
    Prefer Texting?

    Our friendly support team is here to chat 24/7. Opt out any time.


    Our Facilities

    Premier Drug Rehab & Mental Health Care Facilities In Massachusetts & Ohio

    Bedrock Recovery

    Canton, MA

    • Medical detox
    • Inpatient & Residential Treatment
    • Primary Mental Health Care
    • Movie Theater & Fitness Center

    Learn More

    Northeast Addictions

    Quincy, MA

    • Day treatment program
    • Intensive Outpatient Program
    • Full-Day Group Therapy
    • Easy Access to Public Transit

    Learn More

    Spring Hill Recovery Center

    Ashby, MA

    • Residential Treatment
    • Gender-Specific Residencies
    • Outdoor Recreation
    • Expansive 70-Acre Campus

    Learn More

    Ohio Recovery Center

    Van Wert, OH

    • Medical Detox
    • Residential Treatment
    • Primary Mental Health Care
    • 55-Acre Campus

    Learn More

    For Immediate Treatment Help Call 800-526-5053