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Alcoholism vs Alcohol Abuse | Whats the difference?

Alcoholism vs Alcohol Abuse | Whats the difference?

What is the difference between alcohol dependency and abuse?

Many people go through stages of binge drinking in the early 20’s. Most do it because their friends and peers are doing the same thing, and most of these young adults learn how to temper themselves long before the drinking becomes a real problem. At least one in ten Americans, however, go on to drink enough that it becomes a habit. This habit eventually leads to disruptions in their lives; sometimes it leads to chemical dependency.


Alcohol abuse is defined as a pattern of behavior in which a person binge drinks for more than just social reasons. He or she may choose to spend a lot of their time alone drinking, and they may drink out of boredom or to calm their nerves. They may not drink until the end of the work day, but then will drink themselves to sleep. Those who abuse alcohol may drink to deal with upsetting emotions or stressful situations, unable to realize that hiding in the booze is only masking the problems, effectively creating even bigger problems for them in the long run.

At this stage, the person who is abusing alcohol is still in control of their drinking habit. They are not physically dependent on alcohol, and they may be able to go for days, weeks, or months without drinking. Once they start again, however, they may sneak booze or even lie about how much they have had. Some will stash empty liquor bottles and beer cans to cover up how much they are drinking in a single sitting.

People who abuse alcohol tend to share some characteristic behaviors. These behaviors include drinking patterns that damages relationships with family and friends. Drinking may impair the person’s ability to work regularly and certainly affects their ability to maintain any type of steady employment.

Those who abuse alcohol will often ignore or lose their responsibilities. Eventually, this will create situations of impaired judgement, distracted thinking, and legal difficulties. What this means is that the abuser may drive drunk, effectively ignoring their own or other’s safety. They may find themselves in the middle of disorderly conduct, lewd conduct, or assault charges as their alcohol consumption ramps up their aggression.

On the other hand, an alcohol abuser may find themselves having crying jags and depressive feelings that last for days at a time. They may drink until they black out, forget what they were upset about, and then begin the cycle all over again.
The alcohol abuser will continue to drink despite the relationship issues, employment problems, and legal entanglements. They may stop drinking for a short time after their first DUI and even swear they will never drink again; it will not be long, however, before they are racking up a second or even a third offense.

Abusers Can Change

The one silver lining in the grey cloud of the abuse of alcohol, however, is that the abuser can change their habits if they are willing. Since there is no chemical dependency at this point, the abuser can decide to stop drinking and take up healthier habits. With counseling and a support system, they can learn to deal with the issues that made them begin bingeing. They can repair damaged relationships, learn how to make a living, and repay their debts to society.

The driving force behind ending alcohol abuse is willpower. The person must want to stop and must be willing to meet their responsibilities head-on. They must be willing to recognize their destructive behavior and react accordingly to make amends for it.

Alcohol Dependency

According to the CDC, Alcohol Dependency, or Alcoholism, is a compulsive, chronic disease that stems from the consumption of so much alcohol that the action affects a person’s physical and mental health. It involves chemical dependency or the loss of the ability to function without alcohol in a person’s system. They cannot eat, work, or function in any way without it.

The primary difference between being a person who abuses alcohol and a person with clinical Alcohol Dependency is tolerance. A chemically dependent person needs more and more of it to feel the same effects they got from it the first time.Some people seem to be predisposed to getting pleasurable feelings when drinking while other people simply experience loss of inhibitions, nausea, overheating, and mood swings.

The pleasurable, floaty feelings from drinking are the driving force behind alcohol dependency. Suddenly, everything in the person’s world makes sense, sometimes for the first time in their lives. This eventually builds until the person’s world consists of nothing but the finding and consuming the next drink.

People with alcohol dependency will continue to drink even when they suffer for it: they are powerless to limit their consumption. This addiction is fed by the reward and motivation cycles that drive all human beings.

Mental and Physical Aspects

There are two distinct layers of Alcoholism: mental and physical. Mentally, the person needs alcohol to function in daily life; this is also known as obsession. Physically, they suffer from discomfort when alcohol is delayed or denied; this is the compulsion to drink.

Sadly, even after the alcohol dependent person has suffered through the same relationship, employment, and legal issues the abuser has suffered, they continue to drink. As expected, this has a large impact on their health, both physically and mentally. They will suffer from liver diseases, kidney disorders, diabetes, pancreatitis, and a host of stomach-related problems. They will have withdrawals that consist of shaking, headaches, and even hallucinations. Many people with alcohol dependence will suffer from malnutrition as alcohol becomes their primary fuel.

Ending Alcohol Dependency

The alcohol dependent person can get better. It takes more than willpower, however, as withdrawal symptoms can be fatal if not controlled in a professional environment or Detox. Alcohol Rehab is difficult but can be managed and the person will be better off for it. They may not be able to repair every broken bridge in their lives, but they will be able to start over.