Alcohol Abuse and Addiction Is There a Difference?

There is a difference between alcohol abuse and dependence, but what separates these alcohol use disorders does not come down to just one difference or one issue. It is important to assess your situation as an individual and decide which factors you recognize as being a part of your alcohol abuse. Treatment for alcoholism and alcohol abuse is anchored in controlling cravings and withdrawal symptoms. More frequently, complete abstinence from drinking is the preferred treatment, as the temptation to over-consume can be difficult for many. When your body becomes dependent on a substance like alcohol, it can react negatively when that substance is withheld.

  • If you abstain from drinking for a few days and experience anxiety, depression, headaches, insomnia, or nausea, there’s a possibility you’re suffering from alcohol-related withdrawals.
  • It can also lead to serious symptoms like seizures, fever, or hallucinations, and can be a medical emergency.
  • If you are abusing alcohol, but are not yet addicted to it, you may experience a little bit of tolerance or a small level of withdrawal, but nothing as severe as what an alcoholic experiences.

However, with both alcohol abuse and alcoholism, these feelings are less effective over time as a person’s drinking habits increase. When people use this term, they are typically referring to an alcohol use disorder, which is the diagnostic term for alcohol addiction. Alcoholism generally refers to a disease in which a person is unable to stop drinking.

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In the 2002 NSDUH, approximately 88 percent of respondents reported any alcohol consumption in their lifetime and around 70 percent reported past-year consumption (Grucza et al. 2007). While AUD does involve alcohol abuse, not everyone who abuses alcohol has an alcohol use disorder. The difference between alcohol abuse and alcoholism is that someone with an AUD has a chronic medical condition and has lost control of their drinking. Alcohol abuse, on the other hand, is an action; it does not necessarily mean that someone is unable to stop drinking. The primary difference between alcohol abuse and alcoholism is that alcoholism refers to a legitimate medical condition, while alcohol abuse does not.

  • He often worked and his wife held a steady job with the state highway department, allowing them to pay about $900 a month in rent, even as they struggled to buy groceries.
  • There are many signs of alcohol use disorder, but you will know your loved one has developed this condition if you can no longer get through the day or week without drinking.
  • Alcohol use disorder includes a level of drinking that’s sometimes called alcoholism.
  • In the NESARC, 1-year incidence of alcohol abuse was 1.02 percent and 1-year incidence of alcohol dependence was 1.70 percent (Grant et al. 2009).

Among Asian Americans from countries of origin with low per-capita annual alcohol consumption, the probability of being a current drinker was highest among those who reported low use of Asian languages. Among Asian Americans from countries of origin with higher per-capita annual alcohol consumption, the probability of being a current drinker was similar regardless of Asian-language use (Cook et al. 2012). People in older age groups not how to recognize signs and symptoms of alcoholism and alcohol abuse only have lower prevalence of alcohol abuse or dependence but also have fewer alcohol-related role-function problems (e.g., problems at work or school). Thus, in the NSDUH, adults ages 26–34 had higher odds of such problems compared with adults ages 65 and older, followed by young adults ages 18–25 and adults ages 35–49, respectively (Alameida et al. 2010). Withdrawal symptoms from alcohol dependence can range from irritating to fatal.

Is There a Difference Between Alcohol Abuse & Alcoholism?

If you think you’re struggling with an alcohol use disorder and want professional help, call The Recovery Village. Our helpful representatives can discuss your situation with you, explain your treatment options, and get you started on the path to lifelong recovery. Alcohol dependence was originally defined as a chronic medical condition characterized by experiencing symptoms of withdrawal when the person stops consuming alcohol. To avoid experiencing withdrawal symptoms, the person has to keep consuming alcohol. Many people with alcohol use disorder hesitate to get treatment because they don’t recognize that they have a problem. An intervention from loved ones can help some people recognize and accept that they need professional help.

Of course, these categories offer only guidelines, not hard-and-fast criteria. Other factors, like height and weight, can also have an impact on how alcohol affects you. Very high concentrations of alcohol in the blood can cause breathing problems, coma, or death. Although it is best to consult with a medical professional for expert advice, you can do a quick self-check.

Alcohol Use and Its Consequences in Different Age Groups

As you might have noticed, none of these criteria specify an amount of alcohol. You shouldn’t attempt to drive or operate heavy machinery while under the effects of alcohol. In the United States, the legal limit for driving under the influence of alcohol is 0.08 percent, except in the state of Utah, where it’s 0.05 percent. Research shows a high correlation between alcohol misuse and high-risk sexual behavior, violence, crime, self-injury, and fatal injury from things like motor vehicle accidents. People with AUD represent about 20–35 percent of completed suicides.

Alcohol Abuse vs. Being an Alcoholic

Explore statistics on alcohol-related deaths and emergency visits in the United States. At Choices Recovery, we offer our patients the ability to discover the tools and skills necessary to lead a healthier and more positive lifestyle. We offer them a chance to make the right choice and get their lives back on track. Their web pages offer both local and online groups, so you can choose whichever option works best for you. If you’re having thoughts of hurting yourself or ending your life, know that you’re not alone. Keep in mind, too, that AUD can have effects that extend beyond your physical health.

Alcohol & Your Health

Ask yourself whether you have any of the symptoms listed above and see how many apply to your life. The term “Alcoholic” is often used in regards to the Alcoholics Anonymous program. Instead, they insist you are the only one who can make that decision. By Buddy T

Buddy T is a writer and founding member of the Online Al-Anon Outreach Committee with decades of experience writing about alcoholism. Because he is a member of a support group that stresses the importance of anonymity at the public level, he does not use his photograph or his real name on this website.

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Drinking alcohol too much or too often, or being unable to control alcohol consumption, can be a sign of alcohol misuse and, in some cases, alcohol use disorder (AUD). Daily drinking can have serious consequences for a person’s health, both in the short- and long-term. Many of the effects of drinking every day can be reversed through early intervention. While cirrhosis scars from excessive drinking are irreversible, quitting alcohol and leading a healthier lifestyle can help your liver heal from alcohol-related liver disease.

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