There is a difference between occasional alcohol use and alcoholism, but when light consumption of alcohol develops into alcohol abuse or alcoholism, it's time to get serious about getting help. Heavy alcohol consumption that comes with abuse can cause damage to the body's nervous system and brain functioning, as well as lead to risky behaviors.
Because alcohol in large amounts affects your perception, balance, and coordination, you're much more likely to get into an accident or otherwise injure yourself or others. Alcohol also impairs a person's judgment, makes you less inhibited, and can even increase feelings of aggression in some. This makes it much more likely for a person to become involved in dangerous, violent, or careless behaviors while under the influence.
The differences between alcohol abuse and alcoholism.
We hear these terms thrown around a lot, but what is the difference between the two? And what makes them similar? First let's look at alcoholism or alcohol dependence. This is characterized by a few major features:
•Having a physical dependence on alcohol that causes withdrawal symptoms when the drinker tries to stop.
•Having an increasing tolerance for alcohol that causes the drinker to have to drink in greater quantities.
•Having difficulty controlling the amount of alcohol consumed once drinking begins.
•Having an overwhelming craving for alcohol that makes it difficult to quit.
Alcohol abuse is different from alcoholism in that there isn't a physical dependence present. Someone who abuses alcohol experiences significant problems in their life as a direct result of their drinking. A poor sense of judgement, tendency to take risks and cause damage to themselves or others often lead to trouble with the law and conflicts with others.
Despite all this, someone who abuses alcohol can control and adjust their behavior because they are not dependent on alcohol. Other things that someone who abuses alcohol may do include:
•Continues to engage in their drinking habit and may even binge drink on occasion even though they are experiencing issues in their life and relationships because of their habit.
•Is repeatedly intoxicated under dangerous circumstances, such as driving a car or operating heavy machinery.
Alcohol abuse and alcoholism are linked in that a person who regularly abuses alcohol is very likely to develop a dependency. This is why it's important to be familiar with the indicators of a serious alcohol problem. The following are some of the most common signs that someone has crossed over from casual use or abuse of alcohol into full on alcoholism.
•A drinking habit is causing significant problems at work, school or with family and friends.
•Several unsuccessful attempts to cut down on drinking have been made.
•A person is unable to control the amount of alcohol they consume once they start drinking.
•A person starts drinking alone on a regular basis.
•A drink is needed before going out to a social event or before other stressful events in order to relax.
•Using alcohol to cure a hangover or to help wake up in the morning.
•Having an especially high tolerance for alcohol that makes drinking large amounts of alcohol necessary.
•Alcohol is used as a way to cope with emotional problems, stress, and other life issues.
•Drinking has recently increased significantly.
•A person has a genetic predisposition toward addiction or alcoholism, or the person was exposed to alcoholism in their childhood years.
If you recognize several of these characteristics in yourself or in a loved one, then it may be time to seek professional help. There are many treatment options available out there to suit specific needs, budgets, and lifestyles.