Alcohol abuse and alcohol addiction are NOT the same although the criteria for the two are similar in the early stages. In fact, one must abuse alcohol in order to become addicted, but simply abusing the substance (drinking too much or drinking too frequently) does not substantiate alcohol addiction.
The severity and the signs of each type of alcohol related problem will help you to understand whether you or a loved one is in a state of alcohol abuse which may simply require a talk, support, or maybe outpatient treatment, or if there is a legitimate problem with alcohol addiction in which inpatient rehab is necessary.
Understanding Alcohol Abuse
Every facet of a person’s life is affected by his or her decision to drink. Alcoholism can lead to DUI, legal consequences, health problems, and death. Left untreated or without early recognition, alcohol abuse can lead to stronger situations of alcohol dependence in which professional treatment is necessary for recovery and healing. Call our helpline at 1-800-552-0697 if you suspect that you or someone you care about may be addicted to alcohol.
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, “problem drinking that becomes severe is given the medical diagnosis of “alcohol use disorder” or AUD.” This is a chronic, relapsing disorder just like any other type of addiction and is characterized by excessive and compulsive alcohol use as well as a loss of control over one’s ability to cut back or quit drinking despite efforts to make the change.
The most common signs of alcohol abuse include:
- Consuming more than 3 drinks in a single day or consuming more than 7 drinks total in a week. For men, this number increases slightly but is only 4 drinks in a day and up to 14 drinks in a week. Any consumption beyond this level is considered alcoholism, binge drinking or another form of alcohol use disorder.
- Consuming any amount of alcohol that is potentially dangerous for your health because you are sick, have liver problems, or have other underlying mental or physical health factors that make drinking especially dangerous for you.
- Struggling with the ability to stop drinking once you start—you can stop, but you struggle to do so.
- Having a drink in the morning to get ready for the day or feeling as if you need a drink at the end of the day to “relax” or “feel good” after work.
- Hiding your alcohol use from others.
- Feeling depressed about your alcohol use.
- Allowing your alcohol abuse to get in the way of your relationships with loved ones.
- Feeling shaky or otherwise like you are uncomfortable when you are not drinking.
Understanding Alcohol Addiction
The difference between alcohol abuse and alcohol addiction lies within your ability to cope with or without the substance. Alcohol abuse generally does not come along with symptoms of withdrawal or heavy cravings that make quitting impossible or at least seem impossible.
Likewise, alcohol addiction comes with those heavy cravings, physical withdrawal symptoms and an array of potential side effects that make quitting feel like something you simply cannot do.
Symptoms of alcohol addiction include:
- Repeat alcohol consumption despite legal problems.
- Repeat alcohol consumption despite health problems.
- Drinking despite the guilt that comes from drinking or the desire to quit that is failed when you keep drinking.
- Making decisions to cut back that are frequently changed or overlooked because you simply cannot say “NO” to another drink, despite your best efforts to try.
- Having a desire to quit but not knowing where or how to do so.
Do I Need Alcoholism Treatment?
While both alcohol abuse and alcohol addiction are situations that may warrant a need for professional help, just about everyone who drinks on a regular basis and is struggling with the symptoms of alcohol addiction will require professional help to quit.
The following alcohol use disorder or alcoholism symptoms define a need for treatment:
- Suffering from symptoms of withdrawal when you try to quit.
- Relapsing after a period of long-term or semi-long-term abstinence.
- Drinking unusual amounts of alcohol in order to produce similar “first time” effects.
- Craving alcohol and struggling with strong urges to drink when you can’t.
- Being in trouble with the law as a result of your drinking—but continuing to drink.
- Having relationships problems, financial troubles or other consequences of alcohol consumption but drinking anyway.
- Drinking so much you blackout and can’t remember what happened.
- Lying or hiding your alcohol use from others.
- Allowing alcohol use to interfere with your regular priorities with work, home or school.
If you need treatment for alcohol abuse or addiction, call 1-800-552-0697 for immediate help.