Is Alcohol a Drug?


Alcohol is widely accepted as a normal part of life. With drug use illegal but alcohol legal for those over 21 years old in the United States, many argue that alcohol is not a drug. The reality is that alcohol interacts with the body just like any other drug and has serious ramifications when abused.

Defintion of Alcohol

Alcoholic beverages are drinks made through a process of fermentation that are either ethyl alcohol or ethanol products. All alcohol is made via the same process regardless of its "proof" or alcohol content. The yeast in the process feeds on the sugars and carbohydrates excreting the alcohol and carbon dioxide by-product.


Alcohol is classified as a depressant with the ability to damage the body and the brain. The primary function of depressant drugs is to relax muscles and clam nerves. To do so, it must directly affect the blood flow in the muscles and nerves throughout the central nervous system.

Cardiovascualr Effects

Alcohol has a very specific effect on the cardiovascular system. It causes vasodilation of the small blood vessels under the skin. It increases the heart rate, which can lead to dizziness, headache and trembles. A person can fall into a state of hypothermia because of alcohol consumption because as the blood vessels widen, heat is lost and the body's temperature can drop significantly. The opening of the blood vessels is why a person sweats and appears flush when intoxicated.

Cerebral Effects

The effects of alcohol on the brain lead to motor problems in coordination, balance and vision. Alcohol saturates the cerebellum, the part of the brain which helps a person with fine motor skills, reflexes and vision. Alcohol also lowers inhibitions, alters judgment and reasoning ability by affecting the cerebral cortex. The limbic system is suppressed, creating memory loss and high states of emotional arousal when intoxicated. The entire central nervous system is depressed by alcohol consumption.

Digestive Effects

While everyone knows about the person who drinks until they throw up, few understand why. Alcohol leads to an increase in acid levels in the stomach. The result of this is an irritation not only in the stomach but also in the intestines. This irritation is why people throw up or have diarrhea after drinking alcohol.

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