It is a common mistake to think of alcohol as different from other drugs. Alcohol is a very powerful and toxic substance that causes more suffering, disease and death than any other drug on the planet. If it were to be discovered now and somehow filtered into the public domain it would certainly be a class A banned substance.
Alcohol (ethanol) acts as a drug affecting the central nervous system. Its behavioural effects stem from its influence on the brain and not on the muscles or senses themselves. It is a depressant, and depending on dose, can be a mild tranquiliser or a general anaesthetic. It supresses particular brain functions. At very low doses it can appear to be a stimulant by supressing cartain inhibitory brain functions.
Alcohol has a double effect on the chemistry of the brain. At first it is a depressant that reduces activity in the central nervous system. This effect lasts a relatively short time, up to two hours after the last drink. This strong effect may be perceived as stimulation; however, the effect is the result of certain inhibitors in the brain coretx being supressed. This explains why alcohol is seen as a social lubricant, a source of courage or a booster of confidence. It aslo explains why people who are highly intoxicated will exhibit extremes of behaviour.
A weaker effect is an agitation of the central nervous system that lasts for up to six times as long as the depressive effect. The "morning after" hangover and shakiness are due to this agitation. This unpleasant state can be temporarily relievd by more drinking and a vicious circle may be set in motion leading to physical and emotional dependency.
The next blog will be all about drug addiction. Recreational drugs are becoming evermore accessible and rife within groups of young adults, causing a ripple effect of mental health and social issues.