Alcohol abuse and alcoholism are serious challenges that individuals can struggle with for their entire lives. Yet, even though they share some similarities, there are also clear distinctions between these two struggles. Whether you have personally been touched by alcohol-related issues or want to gain an understanding of how alcohol abuse and alcoholism differ from each other.
This article will help provide an in-depth look at the impact of these potential problems. From examining the signs of each issue to developing a greater comprehension of which treatments work best for either form of alcohol-related strife, here is what you need to know about navigating through situations related to alcohol use.
What is the Difference Between Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse?
Alcoholism vs. alcohol abuse is two very different conditions with dissimilar signs, effects, and treatments. On the one hand, alcoholism is a chronic condition characterized by intense cravings for alcohol and the inability to control drinking behavior. Users often become physically and emotionally dependent on alcohol, continuing to drink even when it impacts their health or relationships.
On the other hand, alcohol abuse refers to dangerously excessive drinking or drinking in dangerous situations despite negative consequences such as health issues or difficulty performing everyday activities like work or school. Although both alcoholism and alcohol abuse has serious consequences that negatively impact an individual’s social life, mental well-being, and physical safety, knowing their differences is critical for successful treatment.
What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Alcoholism?
The signs and symptoms of alcoholism are typically divided into physical, social, and psychological. Physically, individuals may experience a variety of issues, such as weight loss or gain, stomach pain, fatigue, nausea, insomnia, and increased tolerance to alcohol. Socially, individuals with alcohol dependence may begin to neglect friendships and other relationships due to their drinking habits.
They may also be more likely to engage in risky behaviors such as driving under the influence of alcohol or using drugs alongside drinking. Psychologically speaking, individuals with alcoholism often experience mood swings or depression when they cannot drink. Additionally, they can become agitated quickly when confronted about their problem drinking and become defensive toward anyone who mentions the possibility of them having a drinking problem.
What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Alcohol Abuse?
The signs and symptoms of alcohol abuse are often similar to alcoholism, but they tend to be less severe. Physically, individuals who abuse alcohol may experience some physical issues such as nausea, headaches, or dizziness after drinking too much. They also may not have an increased tolerance to alcohol like someone with alcoholism would.
Socially, individuals who suffer from alcohol abuse may begin to neglect their relationships, engage in risky behaviors such as driving under the influence or become socially isolated due to their drinking habits. Psychologically speaking, individuals may become moody when confronted about their drinking habits and become more irritable if they don’t get what they want regarding their drinking behavior.
How is Alcoholism Treated?
Alcoholism is a lifelong, chronic condition that requires ongoing treatment and support. Alcoholism treatment typically involves individual or group therapy, medication, and lifestyle changes. Various medications have been developed to help individuals with alcohol dependence manage their cravings and withdrawal symptoms.
For instance, Naltrexone helps reduce cravings, while Disulfiram makes drinking unpleasant by inducing nausea and vomiting when the individual drinks too much alcohol. Many individuals find support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous incredibly helpful in managing their disease. These programs provide a safe place to discuss issues related to living with alcoholism while also providing valuable coping strategies for handling situations that may trigger an urge to drink.
How is Alcohol Abuse Treated?
The treatment for alcohol abuse typically involves behavioral therapy, medication, and lifestyle changes. Behavioral therapies such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), or motivational interviewing (MI) help individuals identify triggers and develop new coping strategies to manage cravings and avoid relapse. Medications can also help manage withdrawal symptoms while the individual goes through detoxification.
Lifestyle changes are also significant when it comes to treating alcohol abuse. Regular exercise, healthy eating habits, reconnecting with friends and family, engaging in sober activities, and avoiding high-risk situations can help individuals stay on track with their recovery goals. Additionally, support groups are invaluable for helping individuals suffering from alcohol abuse maintain long-term sobriety.
What Are the Long-Term Risks Associated With Both?
Both alcohol abuse and alcoholism are associated with an increased risk of severe health issues. Long-term risks associated with drinking include liver damage, heart disease, cancer, and mental health issues such as depression or anxiety.
Additionally, both addiction types can lead to financial strain due to the costs associated with getting treatment or purchasing alcohol. Alcoholism can also disrupt relationships with family members, friends, or romantic partners due to their drinking habits. Ultimately, the long-term effects of both conditions depend on the severity of the individual’s drinking problem and how quickly they get help for it.
Alcohol abuse and alcoholism have distinct symptoms, treatments, and long-term risks. It is essential to be aware of the differences between the two to identify the type of condition an individual suffers from correctly. If you or someone you know is struggling with alcohol use disorder, it’s essential to seek help from a licensed healthcare provider.