Is alcohol a depressant?
3rd November 2021

SITTING down of an the evening with a nice glass of wine or a pint of beer can be a great end to a stressful day.

But does having a drink actually impact our mood and is alcohol a depressant?

Official guidance states that men and women should not drink more than 14 units of alcohol each week on a regular basis.

The NHS states that you should spread your alcohol consumption over three or more days if you regularly drink up to the limit.

A small glass of wine is 1.5 units and a pint of beer comes in at 2 units – but this all depends of the strength of the alcohol you are drinking.

The higher the ABV (alcohol by volume) the stronger your drink will be and the higher unit count it is likely to have.

Dr Harriet Bradley, medical director at the digital healthcare provider Livi, said that not drinking booze has an abundant of health benefits

These, she says, include improved sleep, better hydration, reduced acid reflux and weight loss.

Is alcohol a depressant?

Dr Bradley said that while alcohol may temporarily boost your mood, ultimately, it’s a depressant which, over time, can make you more vulnerable to depression and anxiety.

She explained: "Stopping drinking can help stabilise your mood, although it might take a few months to feel the full benefit. 

"Excessive alcohol consumption over a lengthy period of time can lead to brain damage and may increase your risk of developing dementia.

"Alcohol reduces the volume of the brain’s white matter that transmits signals around the brain, in turn this can negatively affect the way the brain functions."

When we have a drink, the relaxed feeling we usually experience is due to the chemical changes booze has on the brain.

For some it can make them feel more confident and less anxious as it starts to take over parts of the brain that are usually associated with inhibition.

This is why for some people, having a drink can make them feel strong and powerful.

As we drink more the impact on our brain function increases and even if we're in a good mood negative emotions can take over.


Drinkaware states: "Alcohol can be linked to aggression and some people report becoming angry, aggressive, anxious or depressed when they drink."

The experts warned that while drinking can reduce feelings of anxiety, over time it's likely you will need more and more booze to be able to relax.

This means that overtime you will need more booze to get that same initial feeling you had, which could lead to alcohol dependence.

Dr Bradley said that if you are struggling with booze then you should arrange to speak to your GP who will be able to give you further support.

Dr Bradley added: "Remember, admitting you have a problem with alcohol isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength.

"However you choose to approach it, the benefits of reducing your alcohol intake on your health and relationships will be significant."

You can take this quiz if you're worried that you might have a drink problem.

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