Alcohol Abuse vs. Addiction

Alcohol abuse and alcohol addiction are different, but they can both have adverse effects on a person’s life. However, it’s not always easy to identify when casual drinking turns into alcohol abuse or progresses to addiction. Understanding the differences between alcohol abuse and addiction will help you decipher the best treatment course for yourself or a loved one. 

What is Alcohol Abuse?

Simply defined, alcohol abuse means drinking too much too often, resulting in harm. The ‘harm’ aspect can manifest as:

  • Not fulfilling responsibilities at work, home, or school 
  • Carrying out hazardous activities such as driving a vehicle or operating machinery under the influence of alcohol
  • Being legally held to account due to acts under the influence of alcohol
  • Destroying relationships due to continued drinking
  • Harming people around you under the influence of alcohol
  • Poor financial decision making due to alcohol abuse

With alcohol abuse, the negative pattern continues, despite not being addicted to alcohol. Although it does not have as disruptive an influence as alcohol addiction, it can be just as damaging to a person’s life. 

As well as the harmful aspects mentioned above, other signs of alcohol abuse can include:

  • The discontinuing of social, occupational, or recreational activities due to alcohol use
  • The persistent use of alcohol despite its negative impact on a known physical or psychological problem 
  • More time spent in activities necessary to obtain or use alcohol
  • Drinking more than intended 

Over time, alcohol abuse may also lead to addiction. 

What is Alcohol Addiction (Dependency)?

Alcohol addiction is also known as alcohol dependency or alcoholism and is considered to be a chronic disease. The primary signs of alcohol addiction include:

  • An increase in alcohol tolerance
  • Withdrawal symptoms if alcohol is not consumed
  • Unsuccessful attempts to cut down or quit alcohol use
  • Lose of control of alcohol consumption / the inability to limit drinking
  • Strong alcohol cravings
  • Continued alcohol use despite it negatively affecting all areas of life (physical, psychological, financial, and interpersonal)

With alcohol addiction, there is a physical dependence and loss of control no matter what consequences arise. To feel the effects of alcohol, people with alcohol addiction need to increase their alcohol consumption due to developing a tolerance to alcohol. People with an addiction to alcohol have a chemical dependency. They experience withdrawal symptoms like anxiety, body shakes, cravings, headaches, vomiting, nausea, and irritability. This means that willpower alone isn’t usually enough to quit drinking, and they will need help to overcome the addiction. 

Treatments for Alcohol Abuse and Addiction

Whether the problem faced is alcohol abuse or alcohol addiction, there are various treatments available to help. If left untreated, alcohol abuse or addiction can be harmful to your life. Therefore, it’s essential to get help as early as possible.

Many treatment options can be relevant to both alcohol abuse and addiction. Examples of treatments include:

  • Behavioral treatments: include therapies such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, motivational enhancement therapy, counseling, and family therapy. 
  • Coping Mechanisms: involves learning to recognize triggers and putting coping mechanisms in place to deal with triggers. 
  • Support Groups: can be very useful when giving up alcohol. Whether in person or online, they help you to feel less isolated. It also allows you to connect with others and share experiences. 
  • Medication: may be needed to manage withdrawal symptoms for those trying to combat alcohol addiction. It is vital to see clinical support when taking medication for alcohol addiction. For more managing more severe withdrawal symptoms, an inpatient treatment program is sometimes recommended. 

Achieve Whole Recovery Services

If you, or a loved one, need outpatient support with alcohol abuse or addiction, then Achieve Whole Recovery is here to help. Our outpatient medical assisted treatment center offers alcohol abuse/addiction therapy and medication-assisted therapy. Our experienced team can help those suffering from addiction and co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders. 

Achieve Whole Recovery accepts Medicaid and Medicare and works with you to find the best treatment plans for your individual needs.