Alcohol Abuse vs Alcoholism

Written by Chloe Nicosia

Alcohol Abuse vs Alcoholism – What is the Difference?

Alcohol abuse is still one of the leading causes of preventable deaths in the United States with an average of 88,000 people dying each year, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. There is often a fine line that separates heavy alcohol use, or alcohol abuse, and alcoholism, or alcohol use disorder. What are the differences between alcohol abuse vs alcoholism?

We will explore alcohol abuse vs alcoholism in this article, and examine the treatment options.

Defining a Standard Drink

In order for use to establish the difference between alcohol abuse vs alcoholism, we must first understand what a standard drink is. A standard drink in America is one that has roughly 14 grams of alcohol in it. You can find this amount in:

  • Spirits – 1.5 ounces.
  • Wine – 5 ounces.
  • Beer – 12 ounces.

Alcohol Abuse Definition

Firstly, moderate alcohol consumption is defined as a woman who drinks one standard drink per day, or two standard drinks per day for men. Setting a limit to three drinks in a day and seven per week for a woman and a limit of four drinks a day and 14 a week for a man reduces the risk of developing alcoholism – drinking within these limits causes alcoholism in only 2 in 100 people.

Binge drinking, which is alcohol abuse, is defined as a woman who drinks four or more drinks in two hours, and five drinks for a man. If this has occurred at least once in the last month, then the person is abusing alcohol.

Alcoholism Definition

Alcoholism is a step above alcohol abuse. It is known also known as alcohol use disorder. A person with alcoholism is unable to control how much they drink at all. They may be aware of the negative effects it has but they cannot do anything to stop it.

According to SAMHSA, the alcoholism definition is based on the way the person behaves. SAMHSA classifies it as a brain disease that has severe health, social and vocational problems associated with it, which does not deter its use. Both alcohol abuse and alcoholism are put under one category, which is alcohol use disorder.

When looking at alcohol abuse vs alcoholism, one can say that it is a progression. The more a person abuses alcohol, the closer they are to becoming an alcoholic.

Signs That Indicate Alcohol Use Disorder

The following is based on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. According to this guideline, if a person has two or more of the following criteria in the last year, then they have alcohol use disorder.

  • After drinking, the person has withdrawal symptoms, which includes nausea, sweating, depression, anxiety, insomnia and shakiness.
  • More alcohol is required because of a tolerance.
  • Hobbies and the like have been stopped.
  • Regardless of problems with family or friends, alcohol use continues.
  • Drinking and recovering interferes with the person’s ability to take care of their responsibilities.
  • A strong craving for alcohol exists.
  • Much time is spent drinking and recovering.
  • Failed to stop or slow down drinking on a few occasions.
  • The person drinks more than they wanted to.

Rehab for Alcoholics

The main benefits of rehab for alcoholics lie in the assistance that can be given during detox, which can be severe, as well as therapy to solve problems and prevents relapse.  It is important that medical assistance is found for detox as it can be fatal. After receiving treatment, a person can make a full recovery and reclaim the things in their life that they lost due to alcohol.

If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, get help right away. Make a phone call that will connect you to a professional drug treatment center. The call you make may save your life or the life of someone you love. Call us today at 1.800.429.7690.