Alcohol is a legal, controlled substance that lowers anxiety and inhibitions. With habitual use, a person builds up tolerance to alcohol and meaning that each time they use alcohol they must consume more to achieve the effects.

Other Names:


How Does It Affect Your System?

Alcohol is a central nervous system (CNS) depressant and it slows down mental and bodily processes. With the first drink of alcohol, users may experience a decrease in feelings of anxiety or stress. With excessive or prolonged use, users may experience “black outs” gaps in memory or even death.

What Are The Symptoms & Risk

Alcohol is a legal drug, but one that carries a significant risk of addiction. Some of the most common physical, psychological, and behavioral signs and symptoms of alcohol abuse are:

Poor coordination
Slurred speech
Impaired thinking
Memory impairment
Having a desire to stop or decrease drinking but being unable to do so
Diverting energy from work, family, and social life in order to drink
Being secretive about the extent of the alcohol abuse in order to protect it
Engaging in risky behavior, such as drunk driving
Being in denial about the extent of the alcohol abuse problem
Becoming distressed at the prospect of not having access to alcohol
Feeling powerless to control one’s level of alcohol use
Declining to engage in social activities or hobbies that used to be of interest
Using alcohol in high-risk situations, such as while swimming or driving
Devoting significant time and resources to drinking
Developing a tolerance for alcohol (i.e., needing more alcohol over time to match the feelings from earlier use)
Experiencing cravings for alcohol when not drinking
Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when not drinking (e.g., cravings, sweating, shaking, and nausea)
Facing problems at work, home, or school because of alcohol use
In reaction to the discomfort associated with withdrawal, having to drink to feel better
Continuing to use alcohol even when it is leading to social, physical, relationship, and personal problems

When a person who regularly abuses alcohol stops drinking or significantly reduces the amount of intake, withdrawal symptoms will emerge. Such symptoms can begin as soon as two hours after the last drink and continue for weeks. Symptoms can include shaking, anxiety, and the desire for a drink. Delirium tremens (DTs), a severe withdrawal symptom, can include confusion, fever, and rapid heartbeat. There is a general advisement that alcohol withdrawal should occur under the care of a doctor specialized in addiction treatment, as some withdrawal symptoms can be life-threatening.

Have more questions? We'd love to help!