What Is the Difference Between Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism?

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While AUD does involve alcohol abuse, not everyone who abuses alcohol has an alcohol use disorder. The difference between alcohol abuse and alcoholism is that someone with an AUD has a chronic medical condition and has lost control of their drinking. Alcohol abuse, on the other hand, is an action; it does not necessarily mean that someone is unable to stop drinking. People face both alcohol abuse and alcoholism at high rates in the United States.

The terms “alcoholism” and “alcohol abuse” are often used interchangeably. Although both refer to problematic drinking behaviors that can impact a person’s day-to-day life, there are certain distinctions to be aware of. Today, our Clearbrook rehab is sharing a comparison of alcohol abuse vs. alcoholism to understand their differences and help you identify their symptoms in others.

Alcohol use disorder

Not everyone who abuses alcohol is physically dependent on it, but alcohol dependence is a key sign of an alcohol use disorder. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

  • It doesn’t matter how tiny the glass is, or how little you drink before becoming intoxicated.
  • Blood tests are often used to evaluate your overall health, with particular attention to parts of the body most affected by excessive alcohol use, such as the heart, liver, brain, and nervous system.
  • While some people may be better served in-person, teletherapy helps make treatment more accessible to people in need of recovery.

The person often can’t, or won’t, stop drinking even when it causes severe and detrimental health issues, not to mention relational and legal issues. An alcoholic may not even drink every day, but when they do, they almost always lose control of when, or if, they stop. They stop because they pass out, their supply runs out, they get arrested, in a fight, or some other external interference with their ability to continue drinking. Stopping does not come from an internal realization that they have had enough.

Oar Member Stories: Cutting Back on Alcohol

Alcohol abuse can be a bit tricky to define being that alcohol is legal and does not come with portion sizes that a person should take, like food or prescription pills do. However, alcohol can be abused by people’s mentalities and behaviors behind their drinking. “Long-term drug treatment of patients wit[…] what is the difference between alcohol abuse and alcoholism alcohol dependence.” Australian Prescriber, April 1, 2015. It can be heartbreaking to realize that your loved one has a problem with alcohol. But as time goes on and personal, financial or legal problems increase, you’ll have to face the possibility that your loved one could have a substance use disorder.

Perhaps you even want to drink less, or stop drinking entirely, but find yourself unable to quit. The most recent edition of the “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5)” includes AUD as a mental health diagnosis. The terms “alcoholic” and “alcoholism” are popular among adherents of 12-step programs like AA.

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