Understanding the fine line between alcoholism and alcohol abuse

Calling somebody an alcoholic if he or she overindulges in alcohol is quite common. The term “alcoholic” is generally used to refer to anybody dependent and addicted to alcohol. However, in the absence of awareness of the criteria to demarcate people based on the amount of alcohol consumed, people often get confused between alcoholism and alcohol abuse. In fact, most of them are not even aware of the existing difference.

It is true that the excessive consumption of alcohol can lead to addiction. Like every other kind of addiction, alcohol addiction also undergoes various levels and stages before developing into its full form. Overall, the difference between different stages is determined primarily by the severity level and symptoms, as both tend to differ from one stage to another.

One is inadvertently led toward the path of addiction with the transformation of occasional drinking into excessive drinking, which further includes binge drinking, heavy drinking, any alcohol use by the youngsters below the legal drinking age (21 years) and any alcohol use by pregnant women, as per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Notably, excessive drinking is again different from heavy drinking. While excessive drinking consists of the above-mentioned scenarios, heavy drinking, according to the CDC, can be defined as consuming 15 drinks or more a week for men, and eight drinks or more a week for women.

To be able to identify the risk a person is exposed to due to his or her drinking problem, it is essential to understand the difference between alcoholism and alcohol abuse

Continuous consumption results in high tolerance for alcohol

Alcoholism, also known as alcohol dependence, is a condition that makes an individual completely dependent on alcohol for the regular functioning of life. Such people, due to continuous consumption, usually develop a high tolerance for alcohol; hence, they need more dosage or amount of alcohol to experience the similar effects as felt in the past. Alcoholism leads to uncontrolled cravings for alcohol wherein the person does not stop drinking despite being aware of the negative effects on his or her overall well-being.

Being significantly dependent on alcohol, the absence of a particular type of alcohol even for a short period of time can cause withdrawal symptoms, such as tremors, fatigue, etc. Therefore, people addicted to alcohol resort to drinking to overcome these symptoms, which may appear within few hours of the last drink. Experiencing the symptoms further makes alcoholism a fatal condition. Besides physical problems (most notably liver disease, heart diseases and brain damage), alcoholism also leads to mental disorders.

Not every alcohol abuser turns alcoholic

Alcohol abuse differs from alcoholism in severity. Compared to alcoholism, an alcohol abuser is comparatively less dependent on alcohol. The person is also likely to experience a lesser tolerance level and a few withdrawal symptoms.

In this case, one is often noticed to prioritize drinking over other essential aspects of life to enjoy oneself or overcome certain emotions. Though it’s one of the stages of alcoholism, not every alcohol abuser is likely to turn into an alcoholic.

Moreover, alcohol abusers are not attached to any particular drink, as seen in the case of alcoholism, rather indulge in all types of drinks. They also tend to mix alcohols or take alcohol by combining it with other illicit or prescription drugs.

It majorly differs from alcoholism in terms of being able to control the intake, however, up to a limit. Like in alcoholism, an abuser often tends to drink in excess and usually do not have any fixed time for drinking.

Count your drinks

As there is a fine line between alcohol abuse and alcoholism, both the conditions display similar symptoms. However, alcoholism is much more severe than alcohol abuse. Despite the differences, both the conditions require adequate treatment.

If you or someone you know is addicted to alcohol, contact the Alcohol Addiction Get Help Helpline for assistance and guidance. Call us at our 24/7 alcohol addiction treatment helpline number 866-281-3014 or chat online with our experts.