Is Alcohol a Drug and relapse

Is Alcohol a Drug?


Alcohol may be the world’s most socially acceptable drug. A drug is something that alters one’s mindset and can form an addiction. If you or a loved one struggle with saying no to alcohol, you know that drinking can quickly turn into an addiction.

Alcohol behaves like a drug, but if you ask a group for a drug list, they rarely include it.

What is a Drug?

A drug is any substance you take into your body that changes your physiological and psychological outlook and doesn’t provide nutritional benefits. Usually, drugs are created from plants, processed plants (alcohol falls into this category), or chemicals.

There are both short and long-term outcomes from using a drug regularly. Many people use drugs as medicines to help them manage physical or mental issues.

If you have no control over your actions or feel that the drug is changing your personality, addiction may become an issue.

What is Drug Addiction?

Addiction is chronic behavior characterized by continual drug use despite the harmful consequences. Medical sources consider drug addiction both a mental illness and a complex brain disorder.

Addiction is a disorder that affects your brain’s reward system. The more you take the drug, the less effective it becomes. This is called tolerance, and those who habitually use or abuse alcohol have a high tolerance for the substance.

Some other symptoms of drug addiction include:

  • The amount of the substance taken grows over time
  • Unsuccessful effort to cut down or control the use of the substance
  • A lot of time and effort is used to obtain the substance
  • Cravings and urges
  • Recurrent abuse of the substance results in adverse effects in work or home life
  • Activities that were once enjoyed are given up instead of the substance
  • The addict may put themselves in harmful situations to get the substance to which they’re addicted
  • There is severe withdrawal when the substance leaves the system

Alcohol is a Depressant

A paraphrased definition of a drug is a substance that has physiological effects and is not nutritional but merely supplemental. The technical description of alcohol is a Central Nervous System depressant, which means it depresses the healthy function of vital processes and neural activity.

Alcohol also has many stimulant effects, like mood improvement, overconfidence, and talkativeness.

However, when you ingest more alcohol than your body can handle, your system is flooded with gamma-aminobutyric acid or GABA, an inhibitory neurotransmitter. An influx of GABA results in slurred speech, sleepiness, coordination impairment, and lowered inhibitions.

Studies have also shown that those who enjoy alcohol’s stimulating effects are usually more susceptible to alcoholismalcohol addiction.

If you drink way too much in one sitting, it could even be fatal. Binge drinking is a severe problem that can end in coma or death. When you have a large amount of alcohol in your blood, it can lead to severe outcomes, like cyanosis, unconsciousness, seizures, or death.

In the long-term, your health could be adversely affected by the depressive qualities of alcohol.

Long-term Health Effects of Alcohol

If alcohol’s short-term effects weren’t alarming enough, the long-term effects are equally as devastating. Some of the possible outcomes of terminal drinking may be:

  • Loss of grey and white matter in the brain
  • Loss of cognition
  • Loss of memory
  • Alcohol hepatitis
  • Liver fibrosis
  • High blood pressure
  • Cardiomyopathy

Alcohol is harmful to many internal organs and can wreak havoc on your pancreas, liver, and digestive system. Here are some of the ways alcohol affects your internal body systems.


Abuse of alcohol and long-term drinking can result in ulcers as the stomach lining is slowly worn down, and the production of acid increases. Thiamine deficiency is commonly associated with terminal drinking, and alcohol may inhibit the breakdown, transportation, excretion, and use of other nutrients as well.


An overabundance of alcohol in your system can impel the pancreas to produce harmful substances, leading to pancreatitis, which occurs when digestive enzymes start to digest the pancreas.


One of the most severe outcomes of chronic alcohol abuse is liver disease. Your liver acts as a filtration system for your body. When it is overwhelmed by alcohol – a highly toxic substance – it could lead to severe health problems like cirrhosis, alcoholic hepatitis, and even liver cancer.

Central Nervous System

A deficiency of thiamine (or vitamin B1) is linked to heavy alcohol use. People who regularly over-imbibe can develop Wernicke–Korsakoff syndrome, which causes memory issues. They also can have problems with cognitive function, mood changes, personality changes, and depression.

These aren’t the only body systems that are adversely affected by chronic overindulgence of alcohol. Your bones, cardiovascular system, and reproductive system also feel the brunt of alcoholism.

Alcohol Withdrawal is Tough

It’s not just during active alcohol consumption that your body suffers; withdrawal symptoms from alcohol can be quite severe as well.

When you put down your glass, you can start to feel the signs and symptoms of alcohol withdrawal in as little as six hours. These can include anxiety, vomiting, shakiness, insomnia, and sweating.

Symptoms range from mild to severe, depending on your physique, how long you’ve been drinking, and how much alcohol was in your system before cessation.

The most severe withdrawal symptoms include hallucinations and even seizures. There is another condition called alcohol kindling, in which a person addicted to alcohol quits and relapses a few times, with withdrawal symptoms worsening each time the alcoholic stops drinking.

Medically assisted therapy can be a huge help in situations of severe alcoholism and extreme withdrawal. With medication-assisted therapy treatment, you are cared for by a group of medical professionals and given medication to lessen your withdrawal symptoms. MAT can have you on your way to a sober life more quickly and successfully than other treatment options.

The Final Word

Alcohol is a drug that is habit-forming, detrimental to both body and mind, and perception-altering. If you or a loved one has had addiction issues because of a drug like alcohol, there’s hope.

Contact the professionals at Right Path Addiction Treatment Centers to begin your journey to a healthier, happier you.

Written by Sergey Zhitar, MD Medical Director

Native of Moldova, Dr. Zhitar is Board Certified in Addiction Medicine as well as Internal Medicine and completed his training at UPMC Shadyside, Pittsburgh, PA in 2000.


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