Alcohol is a central part of many cultures. It’s used for ceremonies, rituals and socializing. In some parts of the world, it’s even considered a delicacy! Although many people enjoy alcohol, it’s not without risks. The United States has a high rate of alcohol use disorders (AUDs), which are alcohol use problems that are serious and persistent.
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The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that about 2 million people die every year due to Alcoholism. If you or someone you love is struggling with an AUD, you’re not alone.
In this article, we’ll explore whether alcohol is a drug. We’ll review the risks of drinking, the symptoms of an AUD, and what you can do if you think someone you know might have one.
What is Alcohol Use Disorder?
Drinking alcohol can affect your mental and physical health. Although heavy drinking is common, it can become a problem when you regularly drink to excess. Alcohol use disorder (AUD) is a pattern of drinking that’s harmful to your health. It’s characterized by a strong desire to drink, a continued desire to drink even after you’ve had enough to cause harm, and an inability to stop drinking despite the negative consequences.
There are five subtypes of AUD: alcohol abuse, alcohol dependence, alcohol-induced mood disorder, alcohol-related problem, and alcohol-use disorder, or a combination of these subtypes.
Is Alcohol a Drug?
There have been many questions regarding the relationship between alcohol and drugs over the years. Is alcohol a drug? Many people wonder if alcohol is a drug because of the social impact, the cultural acceptability, or the legality of the substance.
In short, is alcohol a drug? The answer is yes and no. Yes, in the broad sense that it’s a depressant drug. But no, in the narrowest sense that it’s not an illicit drug.
Alcohol is a depressant drug because it slows down your central nervous system (CNS). The main impact of this is that it makes you feel more relaxed and sleepy. Other drugs, like marijuana, have a similar effect on the nervous system. So, while alcohol and drugs are often used interchangeably, they’re not the same. Drugs are illegal and alcohol is not, though people often mix their use.
How to Help a Friend Who Has an AUD
Alcohol can have a significant impact on your life. If you or someone you love is struggling with an AUD, don’t hesitate to reach out for help. It can be scary to talk about, but it’s worth it.
There are many resources that can help you or your loved ones get the support you need. In addition to talking to a doctor or counselor, you can:
- Visit an alcohol treatment center
- Join a self-help or support group
- Check out online self-help programs
- Get a copy of my book, “How to Help a Loved One with an Alcohol Use Disorder”
Alcohol and Your Mind
The power of alcohol to affect your mind is well documented. However, many don’t realize that it can also affect your brain. Alcohol affects your brain in three main ways: it affects your memory, your mood and your cravings. Impaired memory is common among people who have AUDs. It can make it difficult to recall information correctly, even information that you think you’ve mastered. In addition, it can make it difficult for you to learn new things.
Alcohol affects your mood by altering your hormones and neurotransmitters. It does this by affecting the pleasure centers in your brain. These include the nucleus accumbens and the frontal cortex, which are crucial for reward processing and motivation. Alcohol also changes your brain chemistry through a process called epigenetics. This means that alcohol is not only affecting your memory, mood, and cravings, but also changing the way your brain works.
Alcohol and Your Body
Drinking alcohol regularly can affect your health in many ways. It can affect your liver, your heart, and your stomach, among other things. Your liver is particularly vulnerable to the effects of alcohol. It’s the main organ responsible for metabolizing, or breaking down, drugs and toxins.
When you consume alcohol, your liver has to work much harder to process it. This can lead to damage, which can develop into a disease called chronic hepatitis.
Your heart is also at risk of being affected by alcohol. The heart has to work harder to supply blood to your tissues, which can cause it to weaken and sometimes stop working. Finally, alcohol can also lead to copper deficiency, a condition that affects your reproductive system.
The Long-Term Effects of Alcohol
Many people wonder about the long-term effects of drinking alcohol. The short answer is that we don’t know. We don’t know how long-term alcohol use affects your mind or your body. It’s possible that, like tobacco and other drugs, alcohol can have permanent damage that shows up years after you stop drinking.
What we do know is that, over the short term, alcohol affects nearly all parts of the body. It affects your brain, your memory, your mood, your liver, and your heart. These are all systems in your body, so any damage that happens is going to have a big impact on your health. The only part of your body that doesn’t have a long-term effect on is your skin. But there are many other parts of your body that are quite literal long-term effects of alcohol!
Asheville Recovery Center Is Here For You
Drinking alcohol in moderation can be a fun part of many cultures. It can even have health benefits, particularly for your heart and liver. However, alcohol is not a drug. It’s a depressant, which means that too much alcohol can lead to a dangerous level of intoxication. People who have an alcohol use disorder often have trouble controlling their drinking. They may go on binges, which can seriously damage their health and even lead to death.
Fortunately, there are ways to prevent alcohol addiction and help those who are already struggling. If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, it is important to get treatment. At Asheville Recovery Center treatment specialists utilize a 12-step program and practice holistic rehabilitation.
Services at the center include:
Partial Hospitalization Program – At Asheville Recovery Center we offer a partial hospitalization program for clients who need post-residential treatment as well as for clients who need primary treatment but are unable to enroll in inpatient programs. Our PHP track offers a variety of therapeutic services and benefits to individuals in early recovery from substance addiction.
Outpatient Rehabilitation – During intensive outpatient treatment (IOP), clients live at home or in a sober living residence while completing an addiction treatment program. IOP is a place where clients can process their experiences in twelve-step fellowships and support one another in those individual journeys.
Addiction is difficult to overcome alone. If you feel that you or a loved one is struggling with substance abuse, our specialists are on standby and ready to help. Call and speak with an addiction expert today.