Is Alcohol a Depressant or a Stimulant? Alcohol is a Depressant Facts. Is Alcohol a Stimulant or Depressant? Comparison Chart. Why is Alcohol a Depressant?

Is alcohol a depressant? Yes. Alcohol is categorized as a central nervous system depressant, exerting its effect by diminishing brain function and neural activity by potentiating the neurotransmitter GABA. Continue to read more to understand why alcohol is a depressant and its harmful effects.

Is Alcohol a Depressant Drug?

Is alcohol a depressant or stimulant? Stimulants excite the nervous system and may boost energy, while depressants slow down the nervous system and cause relaxation. Some substances, like alcohol, have both stimulant and depressant effects. Alcohol may have initial effects that mimic those of stimulants. However, it mainly slows the body down, making it a depressant.

Is alcohol a central nervous system depressant? Alcohol slows the heart rate and breathing and dulls reflexes and response time through interactions with the central nervous system (CNS). In other words, it depresses multiple systems in the body that rely on communication with the CNS to function correctly. As a result, alcohol can cause slurred speech, disturbed perceptions, distorted judgment, lessened inhibitions, and an inability to react quickly.

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Alcohol is a Depressant Substance

Alcohol is classified as a depressant drug because it depresses or slows down the central nervous system (CNS). It does so by inhibiting the functioning of neurotransmitters in the brain, leading to a decrease in brain activity and bodily functions. This depressant effect can result in various outcomes, including relaxation, impaired coordination, reduced inhibitions, and, at higher doses, sedation or unconsciousness.

Is alcohol a depresant? Yes. Excessive alcohol consumption can lead to severe CNS depression, sometimes resulting in alcohol poisoning, a life-threatening condition. While alcohol initially produces some stimulating effects, such as increased sociability and reduced anxiety, it ultimately acts as a depressant on the CNS, which is why it is categorized as such.


Alcohol Depressant Effects on the Body and Mind

As we’ve already mentioned, alcohol is a depressant which means that it affects and slows down the central nervous system (CNS), which can cause someone to slur words and react slower to things. It also slows down the heart rate and decreases blood pressure.

But what are the other depressant effects of alcohol? They include:

  • Lowered inhibition.
  • Disorientation.
  • Drowsiness.
  • Sedation.
  • Decrease in coordination.

Alcohol can help the brain produce more dopamine, but that’s only temporary. If someone drinks large amounts of alcohol, it can have the opposite effect and cause the person to suppress dopamine production.

As a result, the person might feel:

  • Lethargic.
  • Sad.
  • Hopeless.
  • Depressed.
  • Emotional.

You might already know of the dangers of alcohol poisoning. This can happen when you exceed a BAC (Blood/Breath Alcohol Concentration) level of 0.2 mg/l. In this case, the depressant effects of alcohol can be so extreme that you can slip into a coma or even die.

What are Depressants?

Do Depressants Make You Depressed?

Depressants do not necessarily make someone feel depressed. The term refers to the way a substance affects the central nervous system. Depressants slow down or depress the function of the CNS. They do this by enhancing the effects of the neurotransmitter GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid). GABA slows down messages between the brain and the body, producing a calming effect. Responses evoked by the production of this neurotransmitter can range from feeling calm and relaxed to extremes such as falling unconscious.

Depressants can also affect concentration, coordination, and the individual’s capacity to respond to situations. Physically, they can decrease the heart rate and lower blood pressure. A range of depressant substances include opiates, cannabis, tranquilizers, and sedatives. While all depressant substances can reduce central nervous system (CNS) activity, they differ in the extent to which they do so.

The milder effects of depressants make them helpful in managing conditions such as acute stress, anxiety, and insomnia, and they are prescribed for medicinal purposes. However, depressants can be addictive and life-threatening if misused or without medical advice or appropriate guidance.

Why is Alcohol a Depressant?

In addition to alcohol, there are many other depressant drugs. Sometimes referred to as “downers,” these drugs are regularly prescribed to reduce symptoms of panic, anxiety, and sleep disorders due to their tranquilizing effects. The most common depressants (prescription and illicit) include:

  • Heroin.
  • Xanax.
  • Valium.
  • Halcion.
  • Ativan.
  • Klonopin.
  • Librium.
  • GHB.
  • Certain inhalants.
  • Ketamine.
  • Benzodiazepines.

Side Effects of Alcohol and Other Depressants

Abusing depressant medications and alcohol can result in short-term and long-term effects, some of which can be irreversible. While many people use depressants because of the relaxing impacts that these substances temporarily produce, the severity of the adverse effects far outweighs any positive ones. 

Stimulants vs Depressants

Is Alcohol a Depressant or a Stimulant?

Alcohol is a depressant. It slows down the central nervous system, decreasing physical and mental functions rather than stimulating them. However, drinking alcohol also alters someone’s behavior, mood, and neuropsychological functioning. For most people, alcohol consumption is a way to relax; however, the effects of alcohol and hangovers can cause anxiety and increase stress.

The co-occurrence of alcohol and anxiety disorders is relatively prevalent. The research found that 20% of those with social anxiety have an alcohol misuse problem. Alcohol is considered a CNS depressant, which slows down neural activity and brain functioning. Alcohol does this by enhancing the effects of the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). If someone consumes too much alcohol too fast, they can depress the central nervous system to coma, respiratory failure, or death.

People who don’t respond to alcohol’s sedating effects as strongly as others may be at a heightened risk of developing alcoholism or alcohol use disorder. They drink more to compensate for not feeling anything immediately, increasing their chances of experiencing adverse side effects.

Alcohol poisoning, or alcohol overdose, can cause even more severe depressant effects, including an inability to feel pain, unconsciousness, slow and irregular breathing, cold, clammy, blue skin, and possibly even death. These reactions additionally depend on how much a person consumes and how quickly.

Side Effects of Abuse

Side Effects of Alcohol Depressant Abuse

There are several non-physical effects of depressant abuse as well. Many depressant abusers experience problems with employment, friends, finances, and family. Moreover, the effects that alcohol induces can quickly put others at risk and in danger. Activities such as driving under the influence (DUI), participating in unprotected sex, and engaging in physical altercations may occur.

Drinking too much can lead to respiratory failure, alcohol poisoning, coma, or death. If someone experiences an overdose, they may experience vomiting, mental confusion, unconsciousness, slow heart rate, bluish skin, low body temperature, and irregular breathing, among other symptoms.

  • Dizziness.
  • Low blood pressure.
  • Slowed heart rate.
  • Fatigue.
  • Light-headedness.
  • Slurred speech.
  • Vomiting.
  • Depression.
  • Unconsciousness.
  • Impaired motor skills.
  • Low blood pressure.
  • Slowed breathing.
  • Nausea.
  • Seizures.

Some long-term effects of alcohol misuse include:

  • Injuries.
  • Liver disease (such as alcoholic cirrhosis and alcoholic hepatitis).
  • Cardiovascular disease.
  • Chronic health conditions.
  • Anxiety.
  • Depression.

Prolonged alcohol consumption is also closely linked to cancer and suicide.

Is Alcohol a Stimulant or Depressant? Comparison Chart

Is alcohol stimulant or depressant? And why is alcohol classified as a depressant? Here’s a comparison table outlining some critical differences between the depressant and stimulant effects of alcohol:

AspectAlcohol as a DepressantAlcohol as a Stimulant
Impact on CNSSlows down the CNSDoes not stimulate CNS
Cognitive EffectsImpaired judgment, memory, and coordination.Improved alertness, concentration, and mental clarity.
Physical EffectsSlurred speech, relaxed muscles, reduced reflexes.Increased heart rate, restlessness, and heightened energy.
Emotional EffectsAlcohol may initially induce euphoria, followed by depression and mood swings.Alcohol can induce feelings of anxiety, irritability, and restlessness.
Intoxication LevelThe sedative effect leads to decreased alertness and consciousness.Alcohol may lead to increased sociability and talkativeness.
Long-Term EffectsRisk of addiction, organ damage, and health issues with chronic use.Risk of dependence, addiction, and health problems with excessive consumption.
Because alcohol is a depressant it will slow down the central nervous system. Still, the effects can vary depending on factors like dosage, individual tolerance, and the specific situation in which it is consumed. While it may initially produce feelings of euphoria and sociability, these are often followed by depressant effects as blood alcohol levels rise.

Why is Alcohol a Depressant When it Makes Me Happy?

Alcohol is a depressant or stimulant. However, while it may initially induce feelings of happiness or euphoria, especially in moderate amounts, these initial positive emotions are due to the release of neurotransmitters like dopamine and endorphins in the brain. This doesn’t change the fact that alcohol’s overall impact on the CNS slows neural activity and suppresses brain function.

As you consume more alcohol, its depressant effects become more pronounced, leading to a range of negative consequences such as impaired coordination, slurred speech, reduced judgment, and, in excessive amounts, the potential for depressive or sedative effects like sadness or lethargy. So, while alcohol can temporarily enhance positive emotions, it is fundamentally a depressant due to its CNS-depressing effects.

Alcohol as a Depressant and its Short-Term Effects

Alcohol is a stimulant or depressant that primarily slows down the central nervous system (CNS). Its short-term effects as a depressant include:

  • Relaxation: Alcohol can induce a sense of relaxation and reduced tension. It can temporarily relieve stress and anxiety, one reason some people may describe it as making them feel “calm” or “at ease.”
  • Euphoria: In moderate amounts, alcohol can stimulate the release of dopamine in the brain, leading to feelings of happiness and euphoria. This initial euphoric state is often associated with the “happy” feeling people experience when they first start drinking.
  • Sedation: Alcohol can cause drowsiness and sedation, making people sleepy or less alert. This is why some individuals use it as a sleep aid, but it can also impair one’s ability to stay awake and alert.
  • Impaired Coordination: Even at low to moderate doses, alcohol can impair motor skills and coordination. This can result in clumsiness, slurred speech, and reduced reflexes.
  • Disinhibition: Alcohol can lower inhibitions, leading to behavior that a person might not engage in when sober. This can sometimes lead to risky or impulsive actions.
  • Memory Impairment: Alcohol can impair short-term memory and lead to gaps in memory (blackouts) for events that occurred while under its influence.
  • Impaired Judgment: Alcohol can impair decision-making and judgment, potentially leading to risky behaviors or poor choices.
  • Mood Swings: As the initial euphoria wears off, alcohol can lead to mood swings, and some individuals may experience heightened emotions, including sadness or irritability.

Alcohol is a depressant. However, the effects of alcohol can vary widely from person to person and are influenced by factors such as the amount consumed, tolerance, individual physiology, and the presence of other substances or medications. Moreover, while alcohol may have short-term positive effects for some, it carries significant risks.

Finding Treatment for CNS Depressant Alcohol Adverse Effects

Finding treatment for adverse effects of CNS depressant alcohol use is crucial for individuals facing the consequences of alcohol abuse. Treatment options typically include:

  • Medical Detoxification: In cases of severe alcohol dependence, medical detoxification may be necessary. This supervised process helps individuals safely manage withdrawal symptoms and ensures their physical well-being during the initial stages of sobriety.
  • Behavioral Therapy: Various forms of behavioral therapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and motivational enhancement therapy (MET), effectively address alcohol abuse and its adverse effects. These therapies help individuals change unhealthy patterns of behavior and develop coping strategies.
  • Support Groups: Participation in support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) can provide valuable peer support and a sense of community for individuals in recovery. These groups offer a structured approach to maintaining sobriety and addressing the emotional aspects of alcohol dependence.
  • Medication-Assisted Treatment: In some cases, healthcare professionals may prescribe medications like naltrexone or acamprosate to assist with alcohol cravings and reduce the risk of relapse.
Is alcohol a depressant? Yes. Alcohol is depressant. It can lead to mood changes, including depressive symptoms, as its initial euphoric effects wear off.
Is alcohol a depressant? Yes. Alcohol is depressant. It can lead to mood changes, including depressive symptoms, as its initial euphoric effects wear off.

Learn More:

Is alcohol depressant? Yes. Alcohol impairs motor skills and coordination, leading to impaired physical performance. Individuals seeking treatment for the adverse effects of CNS depressant alcohol use should consult a healthcare provider or addiction specialist to develop a personalized treatment plan.

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Is alcohol a depressant? Or is alcohol a anti depressant? Alcohol is a depressant. It impairs communication between nerve cells by enhancing the inhibitory neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) and inhibiting the excitatory neurotransmitter glutamate.
Is alcohol a depressant? Or is alcohol a anti depressant? Alcohol is a depressant. It impairs communication between nerve cells by enhancing the inhibitory neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) and inhibiting the excitatory neurotransmitter glutamate.

All You Need To Know About Alcohol is a Stimulant. An Antihistamine. A Depressant

Is alcohol a depressent? Yes. Alcohol inhibits and slows the central nervous system (CNS) activity, decreasing brain function and responsiveness.

Alcohol is primarily classified as a depressant because of its prominent effects on the central nervous system.

While it may initially produce stimulant-like effects, such as increased sociability and reduced inhibitions, its overall impact is depressant. Moreover, alcohol is not typically classified as an antihistamine; it can have antihistamine-like effects, including drowsiness and sedation, consistent with its depressant properties.

Is alcohol a depressant? Alcoholics reported that alcohol is a stimulant an antihistamine a depressant.

While some high-functioning individuals who consume alcohol may appear to manage their drinking and maintain a facade of normalcy with these effects of alcohol, high-functioning alcoholics may still experience adverse effects, such as health problems, strained relationships, and work-related issues, which they may hide or downplay.

Why is Alcohol Considered a Depressant? Fact Sheet

Alcohol and Antidepressants

Self-medicating is using alcohol as a medicine to cope with depression. If you do this, you may be at risk of deepening the feelings of depression. You may also rely on alcohol more. If this becomes your way of coping, it can lead to a dependence on alcohol. If you have depression, you are more likely to drink heavily.

Both alcohol and antidepressants can make you tired, less alert, and uncoordinated. So unless you want to be stumbling around before you keel over into bed, mixing alcohol and antidepressants is a bad idea.

Plus, alcohol can make antidepressant drugs less effective, which could cause a bout of depression to slide over into thoughts of suicide. Potentially fatal liver problems and spikes in blood pressure are other excellent reasons not to mix these drugs.

It’s best to avoid combining antidepressants and alcohol. It may worsen your symptoms, and it can be dangerous. If you mix antidepressants and alcohol, the following may occur:

  • You may feel more depressed or anxious. Drinking can negate the usefulness of your antidepressant medication, making your signs more challenging to treat. Alcohol may seem to enhance your mood in the short term, but its overall effect raises symptoms of depression and anxiety.
  • Side effects may be more harmful if you also take another medicine. Many medications can cause trouble with alcohol, including anti-anxiety, sleep, and pharmaceutical pain medications. Side effects may aggravate if you drink alcohol and take one of these medications and an antidepressant.
  • You may be at risk of a dangerous reaction if you take MAOIs. When combined with certain alcoholic beverages and foods, antidepressants called monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) can cause a dangerous spike in blood pressure. If you take an MAOI, know what’s safe to eat and drink and which alcoholic beverages will likely cause a reaction.
  • Your thinking and alertness may be impaired. Combining antidepressants and alcohol will affect your judgment, coordination, motor skills, and reaction time more than alcohol alone. Some combinations may make you sleepy. This can impair your ability to drive or do other tasks that require focus and attention.
  • You may become sedated or feel drowsy. A few antidepressants cause sedation and drowsiness, and so does alcohol. When taken together, the combined effect can be intensified.

Does Alcohol Cause Depression?

The relationship between alcohol and depression in terms of mental health is complicated. Just because a drug is considered a depressant doesn’t mean it directly causes depression. Being classified as a depressant only means a substance has depressant effects on the CNS.

Still, alcoholism and depression are closely related. Depression increases the risk of alcohol and drug abuse, as some people will abuse substances to cope with their depression. This is one reason why so many individuals with alcoholism also struggle with depression or other co-occurring mental disorders.

There is also evidence that heavy drinking can alter the brain, impair the production of vital neurotransmitters, and cause depression. Whether alcoholism or depression comes first, it is crucial to provide these people with dual-diagnosis treatment that addresses both disorders simultaneously.

How are Alcohol and Depression Co-Occurring Disorders Diagnosed?

The doctor will likely conduct a psychological evaluation and a physical exam. These tests help them assess your risk factors for either condition. This multi-test approach will help them rule out other conditions that account for the symptoms. Moreover, if a person is diagnosed with one of these disorders, the doctor may ask about the signs of the other condition. This is a general part of diagnosis because both so frequently happen together. Alcohol rehab dual diagnosis is a great way to receive the help you are waiting for.

Is alcohol a depressant? Yes. Alcohol may also lower inhibitions, which can lead to behavior that individuals might not engage in when sober, often with negative consequences.
Is alcohol a depressant? Yes. Alcohol may also lower inhibitions, which can lead to behavior that individuals might not engage in when sober, often with negative consequences.
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Alcohol Statistics

AUD (alcohol use disorder) is a treatable condition, and seeking help early can lead to positive outcomes. If you or someone you know is struggling with alcohol use disorder, it’s advisable to consult a healthcare professional or a specialized addiction treatment center for assistance and support.

15.1 Million

In the US, around 15.1 million adults (age 18 and older) had alcohol use disorder (AUD) in 2019.

Source: NIAAA


In 2016, the global average alcohol consumption was estimated at 17.0 liters of pure alcohol per person aged 15 years and older.

Source: WHO


Only a fraction of individuals with AUD seek treatment. In 2019, about 7.2% of adults with AUD received any form of treatment in the past year.

Source: SAMHSA

Do you have questions about alcohol depressant effects or treatment in general? Call our helpline 24/7.

Is alcohol a depressant? Yes. Alcohol is classified as a depressant due to its significant impact on the central nervous system. Learn more about the signs and symptoms of alcoholism.
Is alcohol a depressant? Yes. Alcohol is classified as a depressant due to its significant impact on the central nervous system. Learn more about the signs and symptoms of alcoholism.

The severity of AUD can vary from mild to severe, depending on the number of criteria met. It is a treatable condition, and various treatment options, including counseling, behavioral therapy, medication, and support groups, are available to help individuals with AUD achieve and maintain sobriety. Early intervention and seeking professional help are crucial steps toward recovery and improving overall well-being.

What is Alcohol Use Disorder?

Alcohol use disorder (AUD) is a medical term that describes a chronic pattern of problematic alcohol consumption characterized by an inability to control drinking, preoccupation with alcohol, continued use despite adverse consequences, and increased tolerance and withdrawal symptoms when not drinking.

AUD encompasses a wide range of alcohol-related problems, from mild to severe, and it is diagnosed based on specific criteria outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), which the American Psychiatric Association publishes. Some of the key features and criteria for diagnosing AUD include:

  • Impaired Control: Difficulty in controlling the amount or duration of alcohol consumption, often drinking more or for more extended periods than intended.
  • Social Impairment: Alcohol use that leads to social or interpersonal problems, such as conflicts with family or friends.
  • Risky Use: Engaging in hazardous activities while under the influence of alcohol, such as drunk driving.
  • Tolerance: Needing more alcohol to achieve the desired effect or experiencing reduced effects from the same amount of alcohol (tolerance).
  • Withdrawal: Experiencing physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms when alcohol use is reduced or discontinued.
  • Desire to Cut Down or Control Use: Repeated efforts to cut down or control alcohol use that are unsuccessful.
  • Time Spent on Alcohol: A significant amount of time spent obtaining, using, or recovering from the effects of alcohol.
  • Reduced Activities: Giving up or reducing important social, occupational, or recreational activities due to alcohol use.
  • Continued Use Despite Problems: Continued alcohol use despite awareness of its harmful physical or psychological effects.

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Treatment for Alcohol Depressant Abuse

So, alcohol is a depressant true or false? One thing’s for sure: alcohol abuse can harm your life. Long-term substance abuse (including drinking alcohol) can cause permanent damage to the brain and body. If you’ve tried to quit in the past but ended up drinking or using, that’s a clear sign you need professional help. Get the safest service you need and deserve. Our We Level Up NJ team specializes in creating an ideal environment and providing effective therapies.

Overcoming Alcohol Depressant Abuse. Find the Support You Need.

Battling with the addictive depressant effects of alcohol is often a challenging process to go through alone. Many people also experience relapses during alcohol withdrawal in an attempt to alleviate symptoms and satisfy cravings. However, you can manage withdrawal and alcohol use disorder symptoms and successfully recover with detox, rehab therapy, and a robust support system at the We Level Up NJ treatment center. If you require assistance with your rehab journey, contact a We Level Up New Jersey treatment professional now. Your call is free and confidential.

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Top 6 Is Alcohol a Stimulant or a Depressant? FAQs

  1. Is alcohol a depressant or a stimulant?

    Alcohol is considered a depressant. It slows down the central nervous system, decreasing physical and mental functions rather than stimulating them.

  2. Is alcohol a CNS depressant?

    Yes, alcohol is a central nervous system CNS depressant. It inhibits the activity of the CNS (central nervous system), leading to a decrease in brain function and a range of effects, including impaired coordination, slurred speech, and reduced cognitive abilities.

  3. How is alcohol a depressant?

    Alcohol is a depressant drug because it slows the central nervous system (CNS). It does this by enhancing the inhibitory neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) and inhibiting the excitatory neurotransmitter glutamate, decreasing brain activity, muscle relaxation, and overall sedation.

  4. What alcohol is not a depressant?

    Which alcohol is not a depressant? Is all alcohol a depressant? Yes. All alcoholic beverages, including beer, wine, and spirits, contain ethyl alcohol (ethanol), a depressant. Therefore, no type of alcohol is not a depressant; they all have the same fundamental effect on the central nervous system when consumed. Others may say tequila is the only alcohol that isn’t a depressant, but that statement is inaccurate. Tequila, like all alcoholic beverages, contains ethanol (ethyl alcohol), which is a depressant.

  5. If alcohol is a depressant why do I feel happy?

    Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant. However, while alcohol is classified as a depressant due to its impact on the central nervous system, it can initially lead to feelings of happiness or euphoria because it releases endorphins and dopamine in the brain. These neurochemicals create a sense of pleasure and relaxation. Still, as the depressant effects of alcohol predominate, they are often followed by feelings of sedation, impaired judgment, and a potential for negative emotional changes.

  6. Is alcohol a sedative?

    Is alcohol sedative? Yes, alcohol can act as a sedative. It has calming and relaxing effects on the central nervous system, leading to sedation, drowsiness, and reduced anxiety and tension when consumed in moderate amounts.

Alcoholism Treatment. Alcohol Use Disorder Facts Video & Why is Alcohol Addictive?

Is alcohol a depressant? Alcohol is primarily classified as a depressant, as it slows down central nervous system activity, leading to sedative effects such as relaxation and impaired coordination. However, alcohol’s impact on the body can vary depending on the amount consumed, and in some cases, low to moderate intake may initially produce stimulant-like effects, such as increased sociability and lowered inhibitions.

Regardless of its initial effects, alcohol has the potential to be addictive, with prolonged and excessive use leading to physical and psychological dependence, making it a substance of concern for public health. It is crucial to approach alcohol consumption with caution and awareness of its addictive properties.

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[2] Alcohol Facts and Statistics – National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) Is Alcohol a Depressant? related topic.

[3] Nehring SM, Freeman AM. Alcohol Use Disorder. [Updated 2022 Jul 31]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan-. Available from: Is Alcohol a Depressant? related topic.

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[9] Alcohol’s Effects on Health – National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA)

[10] Alcohol’s Effect on Health: NIAAA brochures and fact sheets – National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA)