Alcohol Dependence vs Alcohol Abuse: Understanding the Differences

Alcohol use disorder is a medical condition characterized by an impaired ability to stop or control alcohol use despite adverse social, occupational, or health consequences. It encompasses the conditions that some people refer to as alcohol abuse, alcohol dependence, alcohol addiction, and the colloquial term, alcoholism. Considered a brain disorder, AUD can be mild, moderate, or severe. Lasting changes in the brain caused by alcohol misuse perpetuate AUD and make individuals vulnerable to relapse. According to a national survey, 14.1 million adults ages 18 and older1 (5.6 percent of this age group2) had AUD in 2019. Among youth, an estimated 414,000 adolescents ages 12–171 (1.7 percent of this age group2) had AUD during this timeframe. Is a force of healing and hope for individuals, families and communities affected by addiction to alcohol and other drugs.

What is the best way to stop drinking?

  1. Make your intentions known. Tell your family and friends that you're aiming to stop drinking alcohol and explain why.
  2. Avoid temptation. In the early stages, it's a good idea to avoid situations where you may be tempted to drink.
  3. Try something new.
  4. Reward progress.
  5. Enjoy the benefits.

The term substance dependence was believed to be a more descriptive term than addiction, and it was adopted until 2013 when DSM-5 was released. With this release, the entire scheme for diagnosing what most of us think of as “addiction” was changed. David embarked on his journey into sobriety in June of 2005, which led him to his current career path as a Certified Professional Addiction Recovery Coach in private practice in Greater Nashville. David is cohost of the weekly Positive Sobriety Podcast, as well as being a frequent contributor to various articles and recovery based materials. Recognizing the difference between an addiction and substance dependence can help to better understand the nature of addiction. Knowing as much as possible about addiction and dependence can also be a valuable tool in achieving recovery. It is also important to realize that while a dependence may be present without addiction, substance dependencies frequently lead to addiction.

How to Get Help for Addiction

Individuals with alcoholism have many of the symptoms listed in the DSM-V criteria. Whether you drink every day or are a weekend binger, if you drink more than expected or continue to drink despite the consequences, you may be an alcoholic. “Alcoholism” is a term often used to describe someone with a severe form of alcohol dependence. Many times people use it to refer to someone who simply drinks too much. Alcoholism is more severe than simply having a bad weekend, though. Alcohol dependence was originally defined as a chronic medical condition characterized by experiencing symptoms of withdrawal when the person stops consuming alcohol.

The craving for substance leads them to neglect their daily life and act irresponsibly, to the point where their lives are in shambles. Even then, they sometimes cannot comprehend their substance use as the destructive force in their lives. They downplay the extent of their substance use, and often blame its consequences on outside factors.

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Group meetings are available in most communities, at low or no cost, at convenient times and locations—including an increasing presence online. This means they can be especially helpful to individuals at risk for relapse to drinking. Combined with medications and behavioral treatment provided by health professionals, mutual-support groups can offer a valuable added layer of support. As you can see, these are not the reactions of a social or moderate drinker.

  • Sometimes alcoholism develops suddenly in response to a stressful change, such as a breakup, retirement, or another loss.
  • Our website is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.
  • There is help and support available for both you and your loved one.
  • Read on to learn more about the symptoms, risk factors, treatments, diagnosis, and where to get support.

Alcohol is a legal beverage consumed in many forms, most commonly wine, beer, and spirits. In low doses, alcohol can lower anxiety and inhibitions, promoting a relaxed state. It acts as a depressant in larger quantities and can cause loss of motor function, slurred speech, and short-term memory loss. Expose your teen to healthy hobbies and activities, such as team sports, Scouts, and after-school clubs. You may also benefit from joining a group such as Al-Anon, a free peer support group for families coping with alcoholism.

Other signs and symptoms of alcoholism

You have few if any interests or social involvements that don’t revolve around drinking. Have mental health issues, such as grief, anxiety, depression, eating disorders and post-traumatic stress disorder. Alcohol problems do not discriminate; anyone can develop a drinking problem. More and more young people are discovering that they already have alcoholic tendencies and are seeking treatment. People who have been drinking their whole life also seek help in stopping drinking. We have provided a short to overview the difference between alcoholism and alcohol abuse. Safely withdraw from drugs or alcohol in a controlled, medically supervised environment to ensure the patient’s health and safety.

  • Volunteer Organizations – Nonprofits like the VOASW have convenient online resources and contact information for those struggling with alcohol abuse.
  • By the 1880 census, the Bureau of the Census had developed seven categories of mental illness.
  • This included people who engaged in excessive drinking and binge drinking.
  • Explain your concerns and make it clear that your concern comes from a place of love.

The diagnosis is made when drinking interferes with your life or affects your health. At His House we provide many levels of treatment from intervention and detox to sober living and ongoing continuing care. Our multi-disciplinary approach is instrumental in educating the addict about the effects of drugs and alcohol on the body, mind, and spirit. Using evidence based modalities, our qualified experienced staff works closely with the addict to develop an accurate and effective treatment plan based on individual needs and goals. Too much alcohol affects your speech, muscle coordination and vital centers of your brain.

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Even though many people still use the terms alcohol abuse and alcohol addiction interchangeably, they refer to two different syndromes. In 2013, the American Psychological Association released the fifth edition of the DSM. In this edition, the definitions revolving around addiction were changed once again.

How do you tell a loved one they have a drinking problem?

  • See how they feel about change.
  • Plan and pick a good time.
  • Avoid blame and accusations.
  • Use examples to explain.
  • Don't give mixed messages.
  • Be prepared for resistance.
  • Don't push the issue.
  • Don't give up.

What often starts as social drinking can quickly progress to problem drinking and this is more common than you think. The terms alcohol dependence and alcohol abuse are often used interchangeably, but they are not the same. It’s important to understand the difference between alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence because they can have different consequences and may require different treatments. Another indicator What is the difference between alcohol abuse is if there is an intense craving for alcohol, and a large proportion of time is spent on obtaining alcohol, drinking it, and recovering from a drinking session. Another reason “alcoholic” is not the preferred terminology is that it carries many societal connotations and baggage. These terms underplay alcohol abuse as being part of a wider mental health condition, one that can be treated and managed.

Alcohol Use Disorder: A Comparison Between DSM–IV and DSM–5

If you’re a binge drinker or you drink every day, the risks of developing alcoholism are greater. Alcoholism and alcohol abuse can affect all aspects of your life. Long-term alcohol use can cause serious health complications, affecting virtually every organ in your body, including your brain. Problem drinking can also damage your emotional stability, finances, career, and your ability to build and sustain satisfying relationships. Alcoholism and alcohol abuse can also have an impact on your family, friends and the people you work with. Drinking problems can sneak up on you, so it’s important to be aware of the warning signs of alcohol abuse and alcoholism and take steps to cut back if you recognize them.

What is the difference between alcohol abuse

The World Health Organization also wanted to replace the medical designation of “addiction” with the word “dependence” back in 1964 . Being criticized by others for your drinking or having friends and family express concern about your alcohol use. In some people, the initial reaction may feel like an increase in energy. But as you continue to drink, you become drowsy and have less control over your actions. Some research studies indicate that having bariatric surgery may increase the risk of developing alcohol use disorder or of relapsing after recovering from alcohol use disorder. People with a history of emotional trauma or other trauma are at increased risk of alcohol use disorder.

Verywell Mind’s content is for informational and educational purposes only. Our website is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Virtual Outpatient Addiction Treatment Learn more about Hazelden Betty Ford’s multiple levels of virtual outpatient addiction treatment. RósGlas provides bespoke individualised one-on-one treatment and rehabilitation for addictions and emotional health concerns in the comfort of luxurious accommodation and private surroundings in Ireland. This means when you drink alcohol, your blood pressure and breathing rate becomes lower, which is why one feels relaxed after a drink. If you notice yourself or a loved one has one or more of these signs and symptoms, it is time to get help.

What is the difference between alcohol abuse


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