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From liver disease to cancer to depression, various complications can result from untreated alcohol addiction. It’s important to point out that you don’t have to drink every day to abuse alcohol. While those who engage in alcohol abuse tend to be frequent heavy drinkers (men who consume more than 15 drinks or more in a week, and women who consume 8 or more drinks in a week), these individuals may also be occasional binge drinkers. Alcoholism is a treatable disease, with many treatment programs and approaches available to support alcoholics who have decided to get help. Getting help before your problem drinking progresses to severe alcohol use disorder can save your life. Treatment for alcoholism often involves a combination of therapy, medication, and support.

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Combined with medications and behavioral treatment provided by health care professionals, mutual-support groups can offer a valuable added layer of support. Health care professionals use criteria from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), to assess whether a person has AUD and to determine the severity, if the disorder is present. Severity is based on the number of criteria a person meets based on their symptoms—mild (2–3 criteria), moderate (4–5 criteria), or severe (6 or more criteria). Alcohol dependence causes people to keep drinking to avoid experiencing withdrawal symptoms. Alcohol abuse, on the other hand, involves drinking excessively without having a physical dependence. If you get really drunk on certain occasions and binge drink, you are abusing alcohol.

  • As alcohol abuse and alcoholism differ, so do the right treatment options for people with these conditions.
  • It’s important to point out that you don’t have to drink every day to abuse alcohol.
  • Not everyone who abuses alcohol is physically dependent on it, but alcohol dependence is a key sign of an alcohol use disorder.
  • You should also see a professional before quitting alcohol if you have other health conditions.

From our mental health blog

  • Additionally, another difference between alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence is the severity of drinking.
  • However, alcoholism, or Alcohol use disorder (AUD), represents a more severe form of alcohol dependency, characterized by an uncontrollable urge to drink, development of tolerance, and experiencing withdrawal symptoms upon cessation.
  • They may struggle to maintain their relationships or to hold down a job as a result of their drinking.
  • Over the long term, AUD may lead to serious health conditions, while worsening others.

People who abuse alcohol may engage in heavy drinking or binge drinking, but they don’t need to drink every day to feel normal or satisfy an urge, unlike people with alcohol addictions. Alcoholism, also known as Alcohol use disorder (AUD), is a chronic brain disease characterized by an inability to control or abstain from alcohol despite adverse social, occupational, or health consequences. It is recognized by patterns of compulsive alcohol use, a lack of control over alcohol intake, and a negative emotional state when not using.

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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. Many symptoms can be managed at home, but moderate to severe withdrawal should be supervised by a healthcare professional and may require inpatient treatment. People with AUD and co-occurring psychiatric disorders bring unique clinical challenges tied to the severity of each disorder, the recency and severity of alcohol use, and the patient’s pressing psychosocial stressors.

distinguish between alcohol abuse and alcoholism

Physical and Psychological Consequences of Alcohol Abuse

While you’ll often hear the two terms used to describe the same issue, they’re actually distinct diagnoses. To help clarify the difference between the two, let’s take a closer look at alcoholism vs alcohol abuse. Many Americans enjoy a quick drink after work or a cold beer at the neighborhood BBQ. But when the thought of that next drink becomes louder than the rest, you may be looking at evidence of alcoholism or alcohol abuse. After World War I, the Army and Veterans Administration broadened the nomenclature to include disorders affecting veterans. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) initially developed out of a need to collect statistical information about mental disorders in the United States.

distinguish between alcohol abuse and alcoholism

Medications also can help deter drinking during times when individuals may be at greater risk of a return to drinking (e.g., divorce, death of a family member). For example, any alcohol consumption by a pregnant person can be considered alcohol misuse, as well as drinking under the legal age of 21. However, since alcohol affects people in different ways, recognizing AUD in yourself or in others can be subjective and challenging.

How Do Doctors Diagnose AUD?

If you have a history of withdrawal symptoms, see a health professional before quitting. You should also see a professional before quitting alcohol if you have other health conditions. Many people with AUD continue to drink even as they develop health problems related to drinking.

distinguish between alcohol abuse and alcoholism

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