Is tequila an upper?
September 28, 2013 8:24 PM   Subscribe

I am in an argument with my friend who claims tequila is somehow a stimulant or upper. I think this is ludicrous and all alcohol is a depressant. I am trying to prove her wrong via the internets but all the sources I can find are completely unsubstantiated crap. Is there any reputable source that will settle this preposterous argument?
posted by nathancaswell to Food & Drink (18 answers total)
Ethanol is a depressant. The burden would be on your friend to prove that there's anything different about tequila in that respect, and there isn't.
posted by Sticherbeast at 8:46 PM on September 28, 2013 [5 favorites]


Isn't tequila the only alcohol that is a stimulant?
David, Potomac, MD

There are no clinical studies existing that support tequila as a stimulant. While tequila is made from a different plant than other alcohols, it is still an alcohol, and the source of the sugars become less important than the resulting product of the alcohol itself. Tequila, like all alcohols, acts as a drug affecting the central nervous system by suppressing nerve function. At very low doses, and for certain people, it can appear as a stimulant since it suppresses certain inhibitions. However, tequila is a depressant like all other alcohols.

posted by bluecore at 8:51 PM on September 28, 2013 [7 favorites]

Alcohol is alcohol. It all acts on the same region of the brain in the same way.
posted by Annika Cicada at 8:57 PM on September 28, 2013

Alcohol is a depressant. Chemically ethanol is ethanol.

It can behave differently in different people though. For instance a six pack of beer or a bottle of wine or a few tumblers with a few too many fingers of bourbon will keep me awake all night. All night.

When I have had surgery, and I've had several, opiate painkillers keep me fucking wired. I can't sleep for at least two days after a surgery. Benadryl wires me. Melatonin will keep me awake forever.

Your friend is wrong in that Tequila has any sort of magical property, but if she's anything like me it can wire you for hours.
posted by sanka at 8:58 PM on September 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

In the United States tequila has a strong cultural association with losing one's inhibitions to a degree beyond what the ethanol alone would produce. This is the source of the aforementioned myth.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 9:20 PM on September 28, 2013 [3 favorites]

io9 has a little article with some references: Do different kinds of alcohol get you different kinds of drunk? (suggests "congeners", the non-ethanol components, may play a role, but that people's expectations of what different drinks do also plays a large role.)
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:28 PM on September 28, 2013 [2 favorites]

Alcohol inhibits normal sleep functions and promotes blood flow, but bluecore has got it.
I've used it to stay awake, I think I've used it in nearly every capacity, but the key is dosage and delivery as well as context.

I'm guessing this person thinks of it as a "shots" drink to "get things going," and would have the same idea about any such drink, like Jaegermeister, vodka, etc.

You could prove her wrong demonstratively in many ways, depending on her experience with alcohol, but the facts are with you.
posted by provoliminal at 9:31 PM on September 28, 2013

Look at what people believed about absinthe when it was banned. Yet the concentration of the supposedly active ingredient was frequently "homeopathically low."

Tequila is what people drink when they expect to drink a lot and behave badly. It's not surprising they get what they expect, when dealing with the pharmaceutical-grade drug that is ethanol solution.
posted by wnissen at 10:08 PM on September 28, 2013 [2 favorites]

I had never heard the tequila as stimulant rumour but as someone who has plied himself with a fair a punt of different booze over the years I have had a number of incidents where tequila has seemed to act like rocket fuel, leaving me bouncing around after consumption, in a way other drinks do not. Now I realise that a and not an objective observer since I could be creating my own expectation but I am fascinated that this is a thing and my experience makes me wonder where it comes from.
posted by biffa at 2:37 AM on September 29, 2013

Oh dear, I am somebody who goes around telling people that tequila is an upper. Admittedly this information is not based on any science, but I heard someone once say that it was the booze equivalent of cocaine and I ran with that definition... I am 100% with @biffa - when I drink other alcohol I get sleepy after a point, but when I drink tequila I am WIDE AWAKE, can dance all night, and then after hours of said dancing and in a state of complete physical exhaustion I find it very hard to fall asleep. Whereas if I have been drinking wine or beer I will very easily pass out upon lying down. Anecdotal evidence. But still.
posted by beccyjoe at 2:44 AM on September 29, 2013

Mod note: Reminder that the OP is looking for reputable sources more than personal anecdotes.
posted by taz (staff) at 3:37 AM on September 29, 2013 [4 favorites]

I am trying to prove her wrong

Why? She's the one with the extraordinary claim. The burden of proof rests with her.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 3:46 AM on September 29, 2013 [3 favorites]

I think that every different type of alcoholic drink has it's own signature effect - it's not something that is dependable or quantifiable, but if you are a person who enjoys drinking, you do notice the differences. Tequila can have a particularly uplifting effect - my friends have used the phrase "magical mood margaritas" it's still alcohol, but like it has it's own flavour, it has it's own feel.

this is not to say that I agree that it's an upper, but I can see where the rumour started.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 4:08 AM on September 29, 2013

This is my most-hated silly urban myth. No, tequila is not a stimulant, and the reason you can't find any reputable sources that say so is that the idea is so absurd an academic would be laughed out of the schoolhouse for entertaining it.

Here is an excerpt on plant-based beverages from a book on the cultural history of plants. As you can see as you scroll down, when a plant-based beverage has stimulant properties, that fact is noted in the explanation. Moving down to agave/tequila, you'll see agave/tequila is not touted as a stimulant BECAUSE IT IS NOT ONE OH MY GOD AND IF ANYONE THINKS SO I AM RIGHTFULLY JUDGING THEM.
posted by sevensnowflakes at 5:23 AM on September 29, 2013 [4 favorites]

Long term, alcohol is a depressant. But in the short term, alcohol can act like a stimulant. It raises blood sugar and reduces inhibitions. So if someone is low on blood sugar and sort of an inhibited person, alcohol will perk them up like a stiff coffee.
posted by gjc at 12:48 PM on September 29, 2013

As others mentioned, alcohol is alcohol. But with that said, tequila is often consumed quickly in shot form so it is easy to go from 0-60 quite quickly. The effects of being out of control can materialize rather quickly as opposed to something carbonated like beer which naturally takes you longer to consume and the results aren't so dramatic as a consequence.
posted by mmascolino at 2:51 PM on September 29, 2013

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