Definition of Alcohol Abuse

Written by Chloe Nicosia

Learn the definition of alcohol abuse and how detoxes and treatment centers can help

If someone you love seems to be consuming alcohol to the point his or her home and work life are being negatively impacted, you may be wondering if alcohol abuse or alcohol dependency is taking place. In order for you to make an appropriate conclusion, let’s take a look at the definition of alcohol abuse vs. alcohol dependency. Alcohol abusers typically exhibit high-risk behaviors that put their life at risk, as well as the lives of others. The abuser’s drinking behavior will usually have a negative impact on their health, employment and relationships. Someone who is abusing alcohol may display some of the following actions:

  • Binge drinking
  • Drinking in dangerous situations such as driving, operating machinery, etc.
  • Drinking while under the legal age limit,
  • Unable to meet responsibilities at home, work or school

Even with these erratic and potentially dangerous behaviors, perhaps one of the most interesting aspects of alcohol abuse is the fact that abusers have some ability in adjusting and/or limiting their drinking. It is this fact that sets them apart from an alcohol dependent individual.

In addition to dangerous behavior that can prove risky, alcohol abusers are also putting their health at great jeopardy. Specific health issues can occur as a result of alcohol abuse, such as damage to the liver, unwanted pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, alcohol poisoning, neurological damage, sexual dysfunction issues and more. Plus, studies have shown that abusing alcohol in the form of binge drinking can have negative effects on brain cells and may cause brain damage.

Now that you are more aware of the definition of alcohol abuse, let’s discuss an alcohol dependence definition in more detail. When someone is struggling with alcohol dependence, he or she has become mentally or physically dependent on alcohol, experiences withdrawal symptoms when lowering intake, and has built up a high tolerance to alcohol effects. When someone fits the alcohol dependence definition, they are now considered to have a chronic disease that is typically progressive in nature and can be fatal in some cases. Individuals who have become alcohol dependent are unable to stop drinking and may also experience intense cravings.

You may hear the term alcoholism used in place of alcohol dependency, as the definitions are interchangeable. According to NIAA, the National Institute on Alcohol and Alcoholics, there are four specific alcoholism symptoms seen when someone is dealing with this disease. These include:

  1. A complete loss of control – The individual may feel he or she has no control regarding drinking, and has been unable to cut down or stop.
  2. Intense cravings – It is not uncommon for someone to experience strong cravings and desires for more alcohol.
  3. Physical dependence symptoms – Within a few hours of the last drink, withdrawal symptoms may occur in someone with alcohol dependence, such as sweating, vomiting, nausea, and shaking.
  4. Building up a tolerance – When someone’s tolerance to alcohol is built up, he or she will need more alcohol in order to feel drunk and help cravings subside.

Just like alcohol abusers, men and women who are alcohol dependent and exhibiting alcoholism symptoms can also face dire health issues such as cancer of the bowel, liver, pancreas or digestive tract; heart disease; brain damage and disease; and liver damage.

Treatment for Alcoholism Symptoms

Since we have covered the definition of alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence, let’s take a closer look at treatment options. For individuals living with alcoholism symptoms, long-term treatment that involves detox and inpatient rehab would typically offer the highest chance of success. Anyone who is alcohol dependent should not try detoxing on his or her own, as severe withdrawal symptoms can occur, some which could be life-threatening. Individuals struggling with alcohol abuse may succeed at recovery with short-term treatment, including intervention and inpatient or outpatient rehabilitation. Counseling, alternative therapies, support groups and aftercare services should be a part of treatment for anyone dealing with alcoholism or alcohol abuse.

To learn more about the definition of alcohol abuse, how treatment can help, and where to find rehabs near you, call 1-800-429-7690.