Alcohol Abuse vs. Alcoholism

Alcohol is one of those substances that can be used in moderation with very little adverse effects, or it can be abused in large amounts. And, many people over time that abuse alcohol also become addicted to it. There is a difference between alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence, or alcoholism.

Alcohol Abuse

Alcohol abuse is often seen among young people and college students, who binge drink at parties or bars. Any time someone consumes too much alcohol and gets drunk, the potential is there for alcohol abuse to occur. The large amount of alcohol in the body impairs judgment, distorts thinking, and increases aggression. Those people that abuse alcohol may put themselves in danger because of their use of alcohol and may get into trouble with the law, or may take part in high-risk behavior such as drunk driving. But alcohol abusers are not alcoholics, and they remain in control of their drinking habits. They are not physically dependent on alcohol and can go for days or weeks without a drink. Sooner or later, though, they will abuse alcohol again, and many alcohol abusers eventually end up being alcoholics.


Alcoholics, on the other hand, have developed a dependence on alcohol through continual use of the substance. They lose control over their alcohol intake until their bodies physically need it in order to function. Their need for alcohol will usually increase over time, until they have built up a tolerance for it and a strong craving for it. Their addiction eventually becomes so bad that they can’t live without alcohol, and if they try to quit cold turkey or even abstain for one day, they suffer serious withdrawal symptoms. Alcoholics can often be found drinking in the morning to relieve withdrawal side-effects. Those that are dependent on alcohol may often drink alone, sneak more drinks in when others aren’t watching, and drink to cope with life’s problems. Alcoholics have a hard time staying sober on their own, and the process of getting clean is actually dangerous if the person’s body is extremely dependent on alcohol.

Treatment for Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism

Because of the dangerous withdrawal symptoms associated with alcoholism, medical detox is necessary to ensure the patient’s safety. Once the body is clean from alcohol, a person with alcoholism or alcohol abuse will need therapy and counseling to help them work through the psychological aspects of their drinking. They will need to examine the reasons why they drink and resolve other issues in their life before they can stay sober. Support groups are a great way to help those recovering from alcohol abuse or dependence to stay sober.

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“Take our free, 5-minute substance abuse self-assessment below if you think you or someone you love might be struggling with substance abuse. This evaluation consists of 11 yes or no questions that are designed to be used as an informational tool to assess the severity and probability of a substance use disorder. The test is free, confidential, and no personal information is needed to receive the result. Please be aware that this evaluation is not a substitute for advice from a medical doctor.”