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Alcohol Abuse vs Alcoholism

Most people tend to enjoy a social drink every now and then and probably know when to stop when they’ve had enough. Then there’s always that one friend that pushes for more or just doesn’t seem to have an ”off” switch. 

These types of people aren’t necessarily alcoholics. But they may struggle with other issues such as alcohol abuse or binge drinking. But what exactly is the difference between alcohol abuse vs. alcoholism, anyway? 

We outline everything you need to know in this blog, as well as the recovery options. 

Alcohol Abuse vs. Alcoholism: How Do They Differ?

Perhaps you have a loved one, a friend, or even worry about your own alcohol consumption and wonder whether there is a deeper problem at play? How do you know whether it’s a simple issue of binge drinking to escape reality or a serious problem such as alcoholism? 

While addiction is a complicated disease, it does not discriminate and can take hold of almost anyone who abuses a substance on a regular basis. This being said, there is a distinct difference between alcoholism and alcohol abuse. Let’s take a deeper look: 

Understanding Alcohol Abuse 

Alcohol abuse and alcoholism are different in nature. But both of these issues require attention and professional treatment. So what defines alcohol abuse? 

It’s a psychiatric condition that revolves around the recurring consumption of alcohol in harmful amounts. A person continues to drink despite the negative outcome(s) it can lead to. Those who abuse alcohol on a regular basis are usually classed as heavy drinkers. However, they may not necessarily have a dependence on alcohol. 

Despite this, they tend to put themselves at risk because of their drinking habits. In most cases, alcohol abusers don’t need to drink on a constant/consistent basis. 

What are the most obvious signs of alcohol abuse to look out for? 

  • Bouts of depression or consistent issues with depression
  • Withdrawal from social activities, family, and friends 
  • A lack of interest in schoolwork, college work, or work commitments
  • Erratic, unpredictable, and restless behavior 
  • Preoccupied with the need to drink 
  • An inability to curb drinking habits or knowing when to stop, i.e. when enough is enough 

Not everyone who abuses alcohol may display the same symptoms as another. Some could be far more obvious than others. If you have your concerns, you may need to think about approaching your friend or loved one about it in a calm, tactful manner. It’s best to do this before staging any type of intervention.

Understanding Alcoholism

Alcohol abuse and alcoholism may look the same in certain situations. However, alcoholism is a far more complicated and serious issue. It’s also known as alcohol dependence and centers on a psychiatric condition where a person is both physically and psychologically dependent on alcohol.

Today, the clinical term for alcoholism as Alcohol Use Disorder. Alcoholism is a form of addiction. It’s complicated and deep-rooted, often revolving around past trauma, abuse, depression, and so much more. 

The difference between alcohol abuse and alcoholism is that a person relies on alcohol to function throughout their day-to-day life. They may not be able to relax, perform daily tasks, or enjoy themselves without a drink nearby. An alcoholic continues to drink in a constant cycle, despite negative outcomes, health risks, or dire consequences. 

So, what are the top signs of alcoholism? 

  • A person continually thinks about their next drink and plans their daily events around drinking
  • An alcoholic may display a compulsive need to drink and doesn’t know when to stop once they start 
  • A person with Alcohol Use Disorder could wake up and drink alcohol (of any kind) first thing in the morning 
  • Alcoholism is usually accompanied by other mental health issues. This includes anxiety, depression, and mood disorders 

Without alcohol for an extended period of time, a person may experience withdrawal symptoms. Some of which include sweating, shaking, nausea, and irritability. 

Addiction to alcohol means that a friend or a loved one is completely dependent on this substance. In many cases, it may be one of the most important things in their life, if not the most important thing.  

Is Binge Drinking Something to Worry About? 

Binge drinking is also known as heavy episodic drinking. Basically, a person tends to consume large amounts of alcohol over a short period of time with the pure intention of inebriation. In some cases, this includes getting black-out drunk. 

In men, binge drinking may look like consuming five drinks or more in less than two hours. And for women, four drinks or more in this same timeframe. While binge drinking is not a serious issue to start with, it could lead to a problem with alcohol dependence down the line. 

If you have your concerns about a loved one, a friend, or even yourself, it’s wise to keep an eye on the frequency of binge drinking episodes. Talk to them about your concerns and ask whether they have a handle on their drinking or feel out of control.

If so, it may be a good idea for them to talk to a professional before binge drinking develops into something more severe.  

Treatment Options for Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism 

Both alcohol abuse and alcoholism warrant professional treatment. However, the type and extent of treatment may differ depending on the extent of the condition. 

For example, if you struggle with alcoholism, you may need to undergo a medical detox in a clinical setting. Most of the time, this will be at an inpatient recovery center.

Alcohol withdrawal after addiction can be severe. This is why it needs to be closely monitored by professionals. However, the worst of the discomfort peaks 24-72 hours into detox, then it becomes more tolerable from there.

After the medical detox, you will go on to stay at an inpatient center and work on your steps to recovery. Along the way, you’ll participate in group therapy, individual therapy, and cognitive behavioral therapy. As well as meditation and mindfulness, exercise, relapse prevention, and so much more.

When it comes to treating those with alcohol abuse, you can often receive treatment in an outpatient setting. You may also benefit from attending these outpatient therapy sessions with a supportive loved one you can trust. You may also need to visit a clinician for daily monitoring while detoxing. 

However, if your withdrawal symptoms become debilitating, inpatient medical detox may be required. 

Get the Help You Need With Restore Detox Centers

Now that you understand alcohol abuse vs. alcoholism a little better, don’t delay in seeking the treatment you or a loved one needs. The longer you leave a substance abuse disorder unattended, the more chance it has of consuming your life. 

With Restore Detox Centers, you have the all professional support you need to get your life back on track. Learn more about our addiction treatment options, today.