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Alcohol Use and Abuse: What You Should Know Mental Health America

If you go to Alcoholics Anonymous, very rarely will you hear the term alcohol use disorder. “Alcoholism” is a term often used to describe someone with a severe form of alcohol dependence. Many times people use it to refer to someone who simply drinks too much. Alcoholism is more severe than simply having a bad weekend, though. Not everyone who drinks excessively develops an alcohol use disorder or becomes an alcoholic. Approximately 90% of people who drink to excessive levels will not meet the criteria for a diagnosis of AUD. Continue reading to learn the differences between problem drinking vs. alcoholism, how problem drinking can lead to addiction, the definition of alcoholism, how to cut back or seek treatment if necessary.

What is the Difference Between Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism

Not all alcohol abusers become full-blown alcoholics, but it is a big risk factor. Sometimes alcoholism develops suddenly in response to a stressful change, such as a breakup, retirement, or another loss. Other times, it gradually creeps up on you as your tolerance to alcohol increases. If you’re a binge drinker or you drink every day, the risks of developing alcoholism are greater. Treatment for alcoholism and alcohol abuse is anchored in controlling cravings and withdrawal symptoms.


Dr. Ashish Bhatt, MD explains the differences between physical dependency and addiction. Addiction encompasses both a mental and physical reliance on a given substance. The difference between addiction and dependence can be difficult to understand. Some organizations have different definitions, use the words interchangeably or even abandon both terms altogether.

Knowing as much as possible about addiction and dependence can also be a valuable tool in achieving recovery. It is also important to realize that while a dependence may be present without addiction, substance dependencies frequently lead to addiction. If you think you have a dependence or addiction, contact a treatment provider today for help. Get professional help from an online addiction and mental health counselor from BetterHelp. The United States Preventive Services Task Force recommends screening and behavioral counseling interventions to reduce alcohol misuse by adults, including pregnant women, in primary care settings.

Alcohol Abuse vs Alcoholism

Read on to learn more about the symptoms, risk factors, treatments, diagnosis, and where to get support. “If someone is clinically diagnosed with alcohol use disorder, medical detox is necessary because alcohol withdrawal can lead to seizure and possibly death,” What is the Difference Between Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism Weinstein says. As an isolated occurrence, some of these signs are not necessarily a cause for immediate concern. But if you start to experience several of these symptoms regularly or every time you drink, there’s a chance you’re looking at alcoholism.

What makes a person become an alcoholic?

Research has shown that the two genes ADH1B and ALDH2, which control alcohol metabolism, are key factors in developing alcoholism along with several others. Some who do not have genetic risk factors may develop alcoholism if raised in an environment that encourages or normalizes maladaptive drinking behaviors.

Delirium tremens is a symptom of severe alcohol withdrawal that can be potentially fatal. Contact emergency services immediately if you experience symptoms such as fever, involuntary muscle contractions, seizures, delusions, hallucinations, or rapid mood swings as you withdraw from alcohol. Verywell Mind articles are reviewed by board-certified physicians and mental healthcare professionals. Medical Reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research.

Problem Drinking vs. Alcoholism

These are known as “triggers.” Something as simple as the act of driving can trigger a desire to use. These triggers set off biochemical changes in a person’s brain that strongly influence addictive behavior. Alcoholism is a specific term referring to addiction to alcohol, while drug addiction indicates a generalized condition wherein one can be addicted to any substance.

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