Alcohol use is common. In fact, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, data show that within a given year, 69.5% of U.S. adults consume alcohol, and 54.9% drink within the course of a month. While alcohol consumption is common, that doesn’t mean that alcohol use is always harmless. For some people, alcohol misuse can become a problem, leading to addiction and the need for alcohol rehab. Given that alcohol can lead to the development of an addiction, some people ask, “Is alcohol considered a drug?” Learn the answer, as well as information about medication assisted treatment for alcohol use, below.
What Is Alcohol?
Before diving into what makes alcohol a drug, it’s helpful to understand what alcohol is. Most alcoholic beverages contain ethanol and water, and some sweet liquors may contain a large amount of sugar as well. Most of the alcohol in common beverages contains ethanol, which is produced as a result of the fermentation of carbohydrates with yeast.
As experts from Harvard University explain, ethanol is the active ingredient in alcohol. It’s a simple molecule that has mood-altering effects, as well as impacts on concentration and coordination.
What Does Alcohol Do To The Brain
Part of what makes alcohol a drug is the fact that it exerts specific effects on the brain. Over the short-term, alcohol creates negative consequences in areas of the brain responsible for speech, judgment, coordination, and memory. When consumed in large quantities, alcohol’s effects on the brain can lead to unsteady gait, slurred speech, and difficulty with decision-making.
Also related to alcohol’s effects on the brain is the effect it has on the central nervous system. Alcohol elevates levels of a brain chemical called GABA, which slows activity in the nervous system. This can lead to feelings of relaxation or calm when under the influence of alcohol.
Alcohol Content Of Various Alcoholic Beverages
When considering the answer to, “Is alcohol considered a drug?” it is helpful to understand that different types of alcoholic beverages have varying contents of alcohol. The chart below depicts the percentage of ethanol in various types of alcoholic beverages:
Is Alcohol Considered A Drug?
A “drug” is generally defined as any substance that has an effect on the body and influences cognition, senses, or motor functioning. Based upon this definition, alcohol is classified as a drug. Alcohol acts on the body by influencing GABA within the nervous system, which in turn affects thinking, sensations, and motor functioning.
So, what is alcohol classified as? Based upon its effects on GABA, alcohol is labeled as a central nervous system depressant. This means that it slows activity in the nervous system.