Is Alcohol a Drug?

Published by Raffa Bari | Last updated: 3rd May 2022

Question: Is alcohol a drug?

Simple Answer: Yes

The more complicated answer to this question is that alcohol is officially classified as a central nervous system depressant. Drugs that are categorised as depressants such as alcohol also include weed, as it also causes a similar effect on your body and brain.

A depressant causes a slower reaction speed and slower brain functions which can lead to the relaxing effects that can sometimes counteract the effects of anxiety.

So while drinking large quantities of alcohol may allow a person to talk to strangers at a party, it also reduces their inhibitions and makes it much more difficult to make safe and timely decisions.

This is why it is so dangerous to drive under the influence of alcohol or any drugs, as you are not able to react quickly enough or take dangers as seriously as you should.

Effects of Alcohol

Alcohol and Drugs

After drinking large quantities of alcohol, you can easily experience a depressive episode which can involve:

  • Compromised cognitive functions
  • Impaired motor functions including: Walking, fine movements, balance and bladder control.
  • Slurred or disorganised speech
  • Distorted perceptions of both time and distances which can result in the danger of trying to walk long distances without realising the amount of time it could take.
  • Lessened inhibitions such as: Drunk dialling someone at odd hours of the night, picking a fight with friends or strangers, committing petty crimes such as public urination or attempting the drive home.
  • Falling asleep in public places or being close to a sedated state, leaving those you are drinking with you try and get you home.

It is not uncommon for some people to drink specifically for the results listed above. For example, those struggling with severe anxiety may use the effects in order to try and live a normal life, or someone with chronic insomnia may drink themselves to sleep.

Like any other chronic condition, mental health issue or physical health issue, there is no simple answer. While alcohol is a drug, it is not one that can treat your or anyone else’s mental health issues. Any benefits that come from the depressive effects alcohol has on your brain will be temporary at best. In the end, all alcohol will do is cause more damage and create a dependency on drinking in order to do day to day tasks.

Alcohol is not the answer. Instead, it is a plaster covering a wound that will become infected if not properly treated.

Short Term Stimulus

While alcohol is technically classified as a depressant, it does also share some traits with stimulant drugs. A commonly known stimulant drug includes cocaine, and a stimulant does the opposite of a depressant.

In smaller quantities, alcohol can be used as a stimulant resulting in:

  • Being more sociable and talkative
  • Overconfident causing people to often miss social cues
  • Improved moved and desire to be sound people and to go out and have fun
  • Excitement/euphoria

It can, however, also result in:

  • An increased heart rate that can make existing conditions worse
  • Increased blood pressure which can be dangerous for those with already high blood pressure.

Again the positive effects can be perceived as helpful for those suffering from depression or bipolar disorders as a way to elevate their mood. But self-medication through alcohol will not help in the long run.

It is also a very delicate balance as too much can result in depressive qualities taking effect. It can also make existing depression worse through comparison and reliance.

In the UK, it is very easy to develop a dependence on alcohol due to the large drinking culture we have over here. Most public events have drinking encouraged, and for someone who may already struggle, then any encouragement to drink will be enough.


How Do You Become Addicted To Alcohol?

There is no universal amount of alcohol that can turn a drinking habit into an addiction.

It is a unique situation for each person, one that can be determined by a number of factors.

For example, some people are genetically more likely to develop an addiction due to a hereditary dopamine deficiency passed down the family line.

Addictions are formed when your brain is introduced to a stimulant that produces dopamine, the feel-good chemical that allows you to experience pleasure. This dopamine production is the rush that many feel when they drink alcohol. However, over time the brain becomes used to the elevated levels of dopamine. Therefore, it will require more and more alcohol in order to produce the same rush/ drunkenness.

This is when a higher tolerance is developed, something many people use as a way to dismiss the amount they drink due to how it doesn’t affect them until they have more than the average person.

Eventually, a person’s brain will believe that it needs alcohol to produce any dopamine at all and will essentially panic if it does not get the alcohol it craves, resulting in withdrawal symptoms.

If a person has a genetic dopamine deficiency, they can begin this process much more easily.

The same goes for someone who is using alcohol as a way to self medicate in order to cope with an undiagnosed mental illness such as depression, anxiety or PTSD.

There is also the issue of people being introduced to alcohol from a young age and never having a healthy relationship with substance abuse due to a lack of boundaries.

For more information on how addictions can be formed, please see the NHS official addiction page.


The Dangers Of Alcohol

The formation of addiction isn’t the only danger associated with excessive drinking

You are also putting yourself at risk for the following:

  • Memory loss
  • Liver damage/failure
  • High blood pressure
  • Increased risk of brain damage leading to dementia later in life
  • Alcoholic Hepatitis
  • Stroke
  • Increased risk of certain cancers, including cancers of the  throat, mouth, breast and liver

Just because alcohol is a legal drug, it doesn’t mean that it is safe. Like anything else, it needs to be consumed in moderation that is safe for you and your lifestyle or not at all.

Suppose you are concerned about your or someone you know’s alcohol consumption. In that case, you can find more information about treatment options for alcohol addiction by calling 01923 369 161 or emailing

Frequent Questions

Essentially, the difference between inpatient and outpatient treatment is that with inpatient treatment you live within the treatment facility for the duration of your treatment. This is quite simply why inpatient treatment is so much more effective as you will not have access to drugs or alcohol at our facility. With outpatient treatment you will be retuning home after attending each treatment at a local centre, which means that relapse rates can be quite high with outpatient programmes.

Medically assisted detox is a course of physical addiction treatment by which withdrawal symptoms are monitored and managed by trained professionals. Cassiobury Court administer this treatment at our rehabilitation centres detox clinic. During your treatment, any alcohol withdrawal and/or substance abuse withdrawal symptoms that you present with will be carefully managed with medication. The medication that you receive during this treatment will also depend on what addiction it is that you are overcoming.

Here at Cassiobury Court we want to make sure that our rehabilitation centres are a far cry from the sort of cold, uncaring places that you will see in movies. Our residential rehabs will provide you with a warm, private, ensuite room for you to enjoy during your stay. Furthermore, you will have three home cooked meals provided for you each day, all cooked by our nutritional specialist chefs. Finally, we also have recreational and entertainment suites/areas for you to relax and unwind when you are not engaged with one of our state-of-the-art treatments

Raffa Bari

Raffa Bari - Author Last updated: 3rd May 2022

CQC Registered Manager

Raffa manages the day to day caring services here at Cassiobury Court. Dedicated to the treatment and well being of our visitors she is an outstanding mental health coach registered with BAAT (British Association of Art Therapists). Raffa has outstanding experience in managing rehabs across the country and is vastly experienced at helping people recover from drug and alcohol addictions.