Is There a Difference Between Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse?

As the discussion of addiction continues, words like “alcoholic” and “alcohol abuser” can be thrown around so much that they appear to be synonymous. The truth, however, is that these words apply to two entirely different groups of people. This raises the question; what is the difference between an alcoholic and an alcohol abuser?

Signs of an Alcoholic

An alcoholic is somebody that simply cannot get by without alcohol. As this cycle continues, the alcoholic will gain a higher tolerance for alcohol, and thus need more drinks to feel any effect. Estimates have found that 6% of American adults are alcoholics.

In addition to their dependency upon alcohol, alcoholics also get severe symptoms from withdrawal. The symptoms of withdrawal for an alcoholic are:

  • Anxiety
  • Uncontrollable shaking
  • Profuse sweating
  • Exhaustion
  • Insomnia
  • Migraines
  • Depression

Many alcoholics will drink not only to feel the typical effects of alcohol but also to avoid these symptoms. This leads to a continuation of drinking that many alcoholics find near-impossible to escape.

While a high drinking tolerance and withdrawal symptoms are the most common identifiers of an alcoholic, there are several other signs:

  • Inability to stop drinking once they have started.
  • Obsessing over the thought of alcohol throughout the day.
  • Drinking in spite of financial or personal motivators not to.

While this explains what an alcoholic is, what makes someone an alcohol abuser?

Signs of an Alcohol Abuser

The primary difference between an alcoholic and an alcohol abuser is the severity of the condition. Because of alcohol’s addictive nature, most alcohol abusers will eventually become alcoholics if they do not change their drinking habits.

While an alcohol abuser may experience minor withdrawal symptoms, they will not experience the full effect that alcoholics suffer. This is because their bodies are not as heavily reliant upon alcohol.

Similarly, it is not uncommon for an alcohol abuser to have a higher-than-average alcohol tolerance, but it will not be as high as an alcoholic’s.

Because of the similarities between these two conditions, it is unsurprising that alcohol abuse will often lead to alcoholism. For anyone concerned that they may be moving from alcohol abuse to alcoholism, here are a few warning signs:

  • Neglect. This can be seen by calling off work because of a hangover or avoiding family to go drinking with friends.
  • Risky behavior. Things like driving while drunk or mixing alcohol and prescription drugs fall under this category.
  • Loss of control. When an alcohol abuser keeps drinking even after becoming sick from alcohol, this can be a big red flag for alcoholism.
  • Emotional drinking. Drinking to relax or overcome depression are surefire ways to exacerbate an alcohol addiction.

It is clear that alcohol abuse and alcoholism are serious issues that generally cannot be solved alone. This is why inpatient treatment facilities are so necessary to those seeking to overcome their alcohol addiction.

Inpatient Facilities

There are many reasons not to try overcoming an alcohol addiction alone. For one, the body of an addict has come to physically dependent on alcohol to function. There can be serious side effects during detox, which is why it is essential to have trained medical staff around during this time.

Inpatient facilities also keep their patients accountable. It can be incredibly tempting to go back to alcohol during the early stages of recovery, but inpatient facilities ensure that their patients can stick to their sobriety. This is why inpatient facilities have a significantly higher sobriety rate than outpatient treatments.

When faced with an alcohol addiction, it can be tempting to handle the issue alone. The reality, however, is that alcoholism and alcohol abuse are serious issues that severely impact the addict’s ability to think and reason. Because of this, it is often in the addict’s best interest to receive treatment at an inpatient facility.

Stay Aware

The best thing for anyone to do is to stay aware of their situation. By recognizing the symptoms of alcoholism and alcohol abuse, anyone can make informed decisions about their relationship with alcohol. If an addiction is discovered, seek treatment. These are serious issues that are extremely difficult to face alone.

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