How do you know if you have an alcohol abuse problem or are suffering with alcoholism? When it comes to effective treatment, are these two conditions treated the same way? Can common misconceptions about recovery from alcoholism be detrimental to your process? Let’s look at the facts about alcohol abuse vs. alcoholism and what you need to know about alcohol recovery to ensure you get the best care possible.
What is alcohol abuse?
Alcohol abuse is a pattern of drinking that harms a person’s health, personal relationships, or ability to work. The word abuse typically refers to alcohol use that falls outside socially-accepted norms or heavy use of alcohol despite its potential harm or risk to someone’s physical and mental health.
A person may drink alcohol excessively or binge drink, engage in risky behavior (such as drunk driving), use drugs and alcohol together, or drink alone, called solitary drinking. These behaviors indicate an alcohol abuse problem and should be taken seriously because they may lead to illness, injury, addiction, and death.
What is alcoholism?
Alcoholism, or alcohol use disorder, is a condition characterized by dependence on alcohol despite harmful consequences to oneself and others. Alcoholics often cannot stop drinking once they start and may drink heavily even after experiencing physical pain. Those addicted to alcohol will also experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop drinking, including irritability, anxiety, tremors, sleep disruption, mood swings, and more.
The Differences Between the Two
While there is a high degree of overlap between alcohol abuse and alcoholism, these two conditions are not the same and can require different treatments. An individual with alcohol abuse often has difficulty controlling their drinking, while an alcoholic suffers from withdrawal symptoms if they go without alcohol for too long.
Alcoholics also tend to drink more than individuals with alcohol abuse, who might only have a problem when they consume more than four drinks at once or daily. In addition, the damage done to an alcoholic’s body and mental state is more severe than it would be for someone with alcohol abuse since chronic drinking affects all organ systems in the body and can lead to serious medical conditions like liver disease or pancreatitis, which can be fatal if left untreated. Also, alcohol abuse is not as severe as alcoholism but still a serious problem with many damaging effects on a victim’s life.
Is Treatment the Same for Both?
The words alcohol abuse and alcoholism are often used interchangeably, but there is a distinct difference between them. Alcohol abuse is only a symptom of the disease of alcoholism and should not be treated as though it’s a separate issue. Alcohol abuse may be accompanied by other symptoms of alcoholism, such as withdrawal when drinking stops, denial that there is a problem or that drinking has become an addiction or inability to control how much one drinks despite consequences.
For these reasons, treating an alcoholic who abuses alcohol can sometimes be more difficult than treating an alcoholic without alcohol abuse problems because it takes longer to uncover what’s happening in their lives and with their drinking habits. On the other hand, people with an alcohol abuse problem but no accompanying diagnosis of alcoholism will most likely stop drinking if they stop taking drugs or change their environment.
How do you know if you need help?
It is difficult to determine when alcohol abuse becomes alcoholism, but there are many signs that a person needs help. Alcohol abuse often leads to physical ailments, job loss, mental health problems, and isolation, but it only sometimes can lead to alcoholism.
Alcoholism is a chronic illness that progresses with time and can include all of these signs, along with a person’s inability to stop drinking despite the consequences and desire to stop drinking. If you have been drinking alcohol and feel like your consumption has increased or even exceeded what was normal, this may indicate that you need help from an alcohol recovery center.
In A Nutshell
Alcohol abuse and alcoholism are two different things, but they can both result in serious health problems. There is no difference between alcohol abuse and alcoholism regarding the potential damage to your body or how likely you are to die. The key difference between alcohol abuse and alcoholism is that alcoholics experience a compulsion to drink. In contrast, people who have abused alcohol may not want to give up drinking even though they know it’s hurting them.