Is Alcohol a Depressant or Stimulant?

One of the most common questions involving alcohol has always been, “is alcohol a depressant?”

The answer is yes. Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant that often does the opposite of what it is meant to.

Many people drink to boost their moods, but in reality, this depressant can negatively impact both your mental and physical health. It alters your moods, behaviors, and functioning.

While it may help you relax at the moment, the side effects of alcohol and the impending hangover may increase your anxiety and stress levels later.

Our Pathfinders programs can help you break the vicious cycle of abuse and health impairments.

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Why is Alcohol a Depressant?

The question “is alcohol a depressant or stimulant?” is one that makes sense. Alcohol is a tricky substance. Depending on the individual and the amount consumed, it can mimic the effects of both drug categories. It may feel like a stimulant when it boosts your mood or energy at the moment. But when the crash comes, it is clear that alcohol is a depressant. Alcohol slows down your brain and neurological activity. It does so through the enhancement of the effects of the GABA neurotransmitter in your brain.

Another way you can tell that alcohol is a depressant is how it impairs your reactions. Under the influence, you may experience speech slurs, unsteady movements, confusion or anger, and the inability to react to things as quickly as you usually would. In addition to physical impairments, alcohol impairs your mental health, too. It makes it harder for you to reason rationally, distorting your judgment. It also diminishes your inhibitions, making it easier to make poor choices that may lead to accidents, violence, impaired driving, or criminal activity.

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How Common is Alcoholism

Alcohol is the cause of some of the most common substance abuse disorders. Nearly 18 million American adults have an alcohol use disorder. Alcohol use disorders impact a wide variety of individuals across different ages, genders, and walks of life. Alcohol is normalized and readily available; one factor of many that make it easy to abuse. Think about the last time you attended an office or family party, celebratory dinner, or other social gatherings that did not involve alcohol at all.

Drinking alcohol is an activity that most American adults participate in, whether using it to celebrate or ease stress. This makes it difficult for addicts to understand why they became addicted when others didn’t. It also makes it easier to ignore. But pretending the problem does not exist will not make it go away. The best way to understand, address, and overcome any kind of addiction is to seek help from trained professionals. There is nothing wrong with needing some guidance on your journey to sobriety. Many individuals have found their entire lives changed after attending an addiction care program. You are not alone.

Understanding Alcohol Use Disorders

Many people mistakenly believe that addiction is about a lack of internal strength or willpower. This false belief is damaging. Addiction is a chronic disease that alters your brain chemistry. And it is a chronic disease that many of us are predisposed to since alcohol use disorders tend to run in families. This powerful depressant has barreled its way through families for many years. Living in an environment where alcohol abuse appears normal makes it very difficult to avoid as you age. Other social and environmental factors are common contributors, as well. High-stress careers, emotionally challenging relationships, and trauma are often linked to alcohol abuse.

Is alcohol a Depressant Pathfinders - Close up photo of a mans hand as it sits next toa shot glass full of wiskey.

Alcohol Use Disorders and Mental Health

Along with genetic predisposition, underlying mental health disorders are frequently linked to alcohol use disorders. Some of the most common mental health disorders that co-exist with substance abuse disorders include:

  • Generalized anxiety disorder
  • Panic disorder
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Depression
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Attention-deficit hyperactivity
  • Psychotic illness
  • Borderline personality disorder
  • Antisocial personality disorder
  • Schizophrenia

The difference with mental health disorders as a cause for substance abuse is that it does not always come first. Some people will develop an alcohol use disorder to cope with or drown out their mental health disorder. Others may begin by developing an alcohol use disorder and then experience a mental health disorder as a result of the stimulant’s effects. The overlap can lead to short and long-term impairments of both your mental and physical health. It can limit you in a variety of ways. The combination of a mental health disorder and substance use disorder is called a dual diagnosis. We can help you with this at Pathfinders.

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Alcohol Addiction Treatment Programs

At Pathfinders, we understand that each patient is unique. Each patient, addiction, and mental health disorder deserves a unique and personalized level of attention. To meet our patients various needs, we offer a variety of program settings, methods, and options to choose from. As far as program settings go, we will help you choose from the following options based on your addiction and needs:

  • Inpatient or residential care
  • Partial hospitalization programs
  • Intensive outpatient programs
  • Long-term rehab
  • Aftercare planning and services

Many patients will start with a medical detox and a more intensive program before moving into a more flexible one. This gives you the highest level of care, support, and guidance for the longest period of time. In each of our programs, we make use of a wide variety of research-based and proven therapeutic and holistic treatment methods to give you the most well-rounded program possible.

From withdrawal symptoms easing medical detoxes and various comprehensive therapies through support groups and recreational activities, we aim to help you address and improve your mental and physical health every step of the way. We will meet you where you are in your journey and help you move forward from there. You do not need to face your alcohol use disorder alone. With two convenient locations to choose from, we are right around the corner, and we are always ready to help.

Is alcohol a Depressant Pathfinders - A group of people sit in a circle as they discuss coping with triggers during the group therapy session at alcohol rehab.

Paying for Alcohol Addiction Treatments

Paying for addiction care is one of the primary reasons why so many people avoid it for as long as possible. But you can only ignore the problem for so long and your mental and physical health should come before everything else. At Pathfinders, we accept payments from most major health insurance providers. Many of our patients find that using health insurance eliminates this barrier.

Your addiction treatment program may be covered in full. If you are unsure of how much coverage you have available to you, call our addiction specialist. They will contact your health insurance provider and confirm your coverage. They will also outline alternatives if you do not have insurance. Do not let costs stand between you and a healthy, sober life. You deserve to get the care you need. It is time to start putting yourself first.

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Pathfinders’ Alcohol Rehab

We aim to provide you with the right care, at the right times, and through the right methods.

We are dedicated to developing, adjusting, and customizing our addiction care programs to achieve maximum efficiency.

We work to meet each of our patients unique needs to improve their lives and the lives of the people they love.

Call us today to see what a difference a helping hand can make in overcoming your substance abuse disorder.


  • 7580 E Gray Rd Suite 201 Scottsdale, AZ 85260
  • (877) 224-0761
  • Mon-Sun: 24x7
  • Mon-Fri: 8:00AM – 4:00PM

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