Depressants are a class of drugs that affect the central nervous system by slowing down messages between the brain and the body. This can affect a person’s concentration, coordination, and reflexes.
In small doses, depressants can make a person feel relaxed and calm, but using too much or using them regularly can negatively affect their judgment and movement. When taken with other substances, such as alcohol or other depressants, the effects can be heightened. However, this combination can also increase the risk of overdose or death.
Alcohol, also known as ethanol, is a common example of a depressant. It is the main active ingredient in alcoholic beverages and can be found in beer, wine, and spirits.
The liver breaks down ethanol so that it can be processed and safely removed from the body. However, consuming excessive amounts of alcohol damages the liver, as well as the brain. In the long term, this can lead to a condition called cirrhosis.
There are government guidelines for alcohol consumption, recommending that:
However, we are all different, so alcohol consumption depends on other factors too (e.g. height and weight).
The government also issues guidelines on alcohol consumption for drivers. As alcohol makes drivers react slower, this limits their ability to drive properly. To determine if a driver is over the legal limit for alcohol consumption, police can use breath tests or blood tests.