Is Alcohol a Drug?

Alcohol is called a depressant drug because it slows down your ability to think clearly and react on time. It does not matter whether the alcohol comes in beer, wine, or liquor. It is the amount of alcohol that you drink, not the type of drink, that affects you.

Most adults drink alcohol, spending about $12 Billion a year in retail stores, licensed restaurants, bars, and taverns. And most people who choose to drink do so responsibly and safely.

However, the abuse of alcohol cost is about $14.6 Billion in 2002, mainly in increased health care, law enforcement costs, and reduced productivity.

What is Low-Risk Drinking?

While there is no risk-free level of drinking, healthy people who choose to drink and who are of legal drinking age can minimize the risk of alcohol-related problems – such as health and social problems, injuries and alcohol dependence – by following the Low-Risk Drinking Guidelines, which state:

  • Drink no more than standard drinks on any day.
  • Limit weekly intake to 14 or fewer standard drinks for men and nine or fewer standard drinks for women.
  • Drink slowly to avoid intoxication, wait at least one hour between drinks, take alcohol with food and drink non-alcoholic beverages.

Some people should not use alcohol, or should drink less than indicated by the guidelines. People who are pregnant, who have certain medical conditions such as liver disease or mental illness, who have a family history of cancer or other risk factors for cancer, who are under legal or other restrictions on drinking, or who will be driving a vehicle or operating machinery, should avoid alcohol. If you belong to any of these groups or if you are concerned about how drinking may affect your health, check with your doctor.  The heart-health benefits of alcohol apply mainly to people over the age of 45. However, eating healthy, exercising and quitting smoking are better ways to improve your health than drinking.