Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism: What Are the Differences?

Alcoholism and alcohol abuse both refer to problems with alcohol consumption, but they’re not the same. What is the difference between these, and how do you know which one you’re dealing with? Find out more about these different types of drinking problems. 

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Alcoholism refers to a chronic condition involving dependence on alcohol. People who have this condition are both psychologically and physically dependent on alcohol. In fact, they often are unable to handle day-to-day tasks and activities unless they drink alcohol. Certain signs can indicate alcoholism, such as tolerance, withdrawal and compulsion. Tolerance means people need to drink more and more alcohol to have the same effects. Withdrawal occurs when people have physical and psychological symptoms, such as tremors and nausea, after going without alcohol. Compulsion refers to strong cravings for alcohol and an inability to stop drinking. Keep in mind that alcoholism can lead to higher risks of potentially fatal conditions, such as cirrhosis. 

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Alcohol Abuse

Alcohol abuse refers to drinking too much alcohol at one time, such as binge drinking, or having too much alcohol on a regular or more frequent basis. People who struggle with this continue abusing alcohol even when it has a negative impact on their life, such as harming interpersonal relationships or causing problems at their job. Alcohol abuse generally includes having 15 drinks or more for men or eight drinks or more for women. Binge drinking refers to having five drinks or more in 2 hours or less for men and having four drinks or more in 2 hours or less for women.

Those who have alcohol abuse don’t necessarily have alcoholism. However, abusing alcohol on a long-term basis can lead to a higher risk of having alcoholism at some point. If this happens, the risk of ending up with serious health problems, such as heart disease or liver disease, increases. People who have either condition require treatment in order to enjoy a full recovery, reduce the risk of severe health problems and adopt a sober lifestyle.

Intimacy in Alcoholic Relationships

Members share their challenges with all aspects of intimacy–physical, emotional and spiritual–in all relationships affected by the family illness of alcoholism.

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