‘A drug is any substance which influences the emotions, thoughts or behaviour of a person when consumed’ (Van Zyl, 1994:120). According to Morojele (1997) alcohol and drug abuse is often defined in terms of:

  • Quantities consumed
  • Patterns of use
  • Significant problems affecting different life domains.

Alcohol Use and Alcohol Abuse. What is the difference?

Alcohol Use

When a person is using alcohol he/she drinks in moderation, ensures that the focus of the event is something other than the alcohol itself, and does not drink with the sole purpose of getting intoxicated. Many college students safely use alcohol as a way to enhance other social activities, such as watching a football game on TV, a poker night, or a casual evening with friends. It is possible to use alcohol safely and enjoy the positive benefits of the substance.

Alcohol Abuse

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), alcohol abuse is defined as a pattern of drinking that result in one or more of the following situations within a 12-month period.

  • Repeatedly neglecting your responsibilities at home, work, or school because of your drinking.
  • Using alcohol in situations where it’s physically dangerous
  • Experiencing repeated legal problems on account of your drinking.
  • Continuing to drink even though your alcohol use is causing problems in your relationships
  • Drinking as a way to relax or de-stress

Is Alcohol a Stimulant, a Depressant, or neither?

Initially it is a stimulant and then it becomes a depressant. You are, in effect, borrowing energy and then later on you feel like a deflated balloon devoid of energy and very tired.

Alcohol is a depressant, which means it slows the function of the central nervous system. Alcohol actually blocks some of the messages trying to get to the brain. This alters a person’s perceptions, emotions, movement, vision, and hearing.

More alcohol causes greater changes in the brain, resulting in intoxication. People who have overused alcohol may stagger, lose their coordination, and slur their speech. They will probably be confused and disoriented. Depending on the person, intoxication can make someone very friendly and talkative or very aggressive and angry.

Alcohol isn’t a stimulant, it’s a Depressant.

That’s why drinking too much often lead to impaired judgement, slurring of speech, a tendency to violent behaviour and loss of short-term memory. As alcohol also irritates the stomach, heavy drinking can cause sickness and nausea, and sometimes diarrhoea. Alcohol also has a dehydrating effect, which is the main reason why excessive drinking can lead to a hangover.

Long term heavy drinking changes the chemistry of the brain and there is a significant link between heavy drinking and suicide.

  • Aurora Alcohol and Drug Centre

The use and misuse of alcohol is one of the more controversial issues in our society, and often a source of conflict between generations and between sections of society.

For assistance with overcoming alcohol and drug addiction, you may contact the Aurora Alcohol and Drug Centre in Bloemfontein. Their services include: counselling, prevention, training and treatment.

Contact details: Aurora Alcohol & Drug Centre

Physical address: 15 Brompton Road, Naval View, Bloemfontein

Contact No:
T: +27(0) 51 447 4111



Further reading:

Services, U.H. (2011, May 26). University of Rochester. Retrieved August 27,2013, from Alcohol use, abuse and Dependency:

We use cookies to make interactions with our websites and services easy and meaningful, to better understand how they are used and to tailor advertising. You can read more and make your cookie choices here. By continuing to use this site you are giving us your consent to do this.