Is alcohol a drug? Most people do not think so because of the fact that it is a legally available substance. When thinking of drugs, the majority think about illegal varieties such as cocaine, heroin, ecstasy and cannabis. They may even think about prescription medication such as Valium or codeine. Very few associate alcohol with being a drug. However, the definition of a drug in the Oxford English Dictionary is ‘a medicine or other substance which has a physiological effect when ingested or otherwise introduced into the body’. In that case, alcohol most certainly is a drug.
Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant that affects almost every single cell in the body. It has both short- and long-term effects on the body. It is recommended that both men and women consume no more than fourteen units of alcohol per week, and these units should be spread out over the course of the week with a number of days kept alcohol-free.
However, recent reports have found that some individuals regularly drink much more than fourteen units every week, with some drinking their full week’s allowance in one drinking session. This can be extremely dangerous to health, but many cannot comprehend the risks because they just do not think of alcohol as being a drug.
As soon as a person consumes alcohol, it begins to have an effect on their body. Just one to two units can result in the blood vessels expanding, which is what makes people feel warm and happy. At this point, the heart rate begins to speed up as well.
The individual’s ability to make good decisions is affected after four to six units. People who have drunk this much often become reckless and take unnecessary risks. Feeling light-headed is common after this much alcohol, but this will depend on the individual’s tolerance. Those who drink more regularly may have built up an increased tolerance, meaning that it takes longer for them to feel the effects of alcohol.
In most people, reactions become much slower after eight to nine units of alcohol. Their speech may become slurred, and they may find focusing on objects in front of them a little bit more difficult. Some people see double.
Those who drink ten or more units of alcohol in one session will really feel the effects. This much alcohol is dangerous to health and could put the individual at risk of injury from an accident. Large quantities of alcohol affect co-ordination and could lead to alcohol poisoning.
With the liver needing approximately one hour to process a unit of alcohol from the body, it is easy to see how those who drink large quantities over a short-term period would be negatively affected.
Despite the short-term effects that most experience when consuming alcohol, the question of ‘is alcohol a drug?’ is still one that confuses many. The social acceptance of alcohol and the fact that almost every adult drinks it makes it difficult for many to understand that it is a toxic substance that is highly addictive and dangerous to health in large quantities.
Those who consume large amounts of alcohol in one session are known as binge drinkers. They may not drink every week, but when they do drink, they drink to get drunk. Nevertheless, there are others who drink alcohol regularly and over the course of a week, they are exceeding the recommended amount. Both are risking their long-term health. Alcohol affects the body’s responses over the short term, but long-term abuse of alcohol can lead to a host of mental and physical health issues. There is also the risk of alcohol addiction, which brings about even more problems to health and lifestyle.
Whether you are a binge drinker or a regular drinker, you are risking your health in many ways. The more alcohol a person consumes, the more tolerant he or she will become to its effects. Alcohol affects the brain in many ways. It interferes with its ability to communicate with other parts of the body, and over time, alcohol changes the way the brain functions. After a while, the individual may find it more and more difficult to control his or her alcohol consumption, and he or she may even begin to crave it.
Long-term alcohol abuse affects the heart, causing conditions such as high blood pressure, stroke, arrhythmias, and cardiomyopathy. As you might imagine, the liver tends to take the most stress when a person drinks more than he or she should. The liver is responsible for processing toxins from the body, but those who drink more than the liver can process are risking conditions such as fatty liver, alcoholic hepatitis, cirrhosis of the liver, and liver cancer.
It is not just cancer of the liver that alcoholics need to worry about; in fact, there are another six cancers that are directly linked to alcohol abuse: breast, mouth, throat, oesophagus, larynx, and bowel.
Regular alcohol consumption in large amounts may lead to addiction. While most people can drink alcohol in moderation, there are some for whom alcohol becomes a major problem. The Government is keen to stress that there is no safe limit of alcohol that can prevent against various diseases such as cancer and dementia, but sticking to the weekly guidelines will reduce the risk.
If you are still asking yourself ‘is alcohol a drug?’, then think about all the people around the world struggling with alcoholism. You will see that the answer is a resounding ‘yes’. Alcoholism is an illness caused by alcohol. Those affected become addicted to the alcohol and will continue to drink it even when it causes obvious harm to their lives and the lives of those closest to them.
The risk of addiction is present for everyone who drinks more than the recommended daily or weekly amounts. Nonetheless, some are more susceptible than others. Risk factors such as family history of addiction, mental health issues, and unresolved traumatic experiences can all make the possibility of addiction higher. So yes, alcohol is a drug and one that can have a devastating impact on the lives of those who develop an addiction to it.