The Difference Between Alcohol Dependence And Alcohol Abuse


The use of alcohol is typically divided into three different categories. The first category is that of casual drinking and is defined by the use of alcohol only on special occasions.

Most casual drinking takes place only a few times a year and never to the point of drunkenness or blackout.

The other two categories are more difficult to define and many times are confused with each other. These categories are 1) alcohol abuse and 2) alcohol dependence.

Alcohol Abuse is defined as any harmful use of alcohol. People who abuse alcohol continue to drink alcohol despite social and even legal problems that it may have caused them in the past.

Typically, people who abuse alcohol can be easily helped with minimal treatment or many times can quit drinking without intervention. It is important that alcohol abusers be taught the dangers of binge drinking and alcohol poisoning.

Education will usually lead to recovery for the person who abuses alcohol. Most often abuse is diagnosed in people who have only used alcohol for a short amount of time.

There are four general rules that are used by diagnosticians to determine alcohol abuse:

Recurrent substance use resulting in a failure to fulfill major role obligations at work, school, home (e.g., repeated absences or poor work performance related to substance use; substance-related absences, suspensions, or expulsions from school; neglect of children or household)

Recurrent substance use in situations in which it is physically hazardous such as driving a car or operating machinery.

Recurrent substance related legal problems

Continued substance use despite having persistent or recurrent social or interpersonal problems that are caused or made worse by the substance abuse.

Alcohol Dependence is defined the same way, as alcohol abuse except the person will also exhibit signs of withdrawal, tolerance, and compulsion. The alcohol dependent person will drink compulsively and during waking hours generally can think of nothing but getting more alcohol.

When forced to go several hours without alcohol the dependent person will go into withdrawal and have extreme anxiety, sweating, and nausea. Tolerance develops when it begins to take more and more alcohol to achieve the same level of intoxication and is another aspect of the alcohol dependent person.

Did You Know

Drinking steadily and consistently over time can cause a physical dependence on alcohol as well as withdrawal symptoms when going without alcohol for very long.

Physical dependence will not lead to alcoholism by itself. There must first be issues involved that cause the person to abuse alcohol and to abuse alcohol in an effort to deal with painful emotions and/or experiences. Many factors lead to alcoholism and alcohol abuse.

These things are important to recognize when the alcoholic goes through recovery and quits abusing alcohol. Any factors that can be removed or solved need to be addressed as part of the alcoholism treatment.

Alcoholism is a progressive and potentially fatal disease. Alcoholism itself is not curable but it is possible to recover completely. Recovering from alcohol is to abstain from all forms of alcoholic beverages and medications that contain alcohol such as cough medicines.

Alcoholism is considered a chronic illness. As with any chronic illness, it affects entire families. As a result, the recovery process also affects the entire family and network of friends of the alcoholic.

The good news is that these people can serve as a good support network to enable the alcoholic to abstain from drinking alcohol. The same way a family would support a chronically ill person is how the alcoholic should be treated because alcoholism is chronic.

Anyone who is an alcoholic will be an alcoholic for the rest of his or her lives.  Even though there is no cure for alcoholism, there is hope for the alcoholic.  That is where recovery comes in - the abstinence from all alcohol on the part of the addicted person.  This is where the control part of the disease comes into play. 

It is important to be able to control the desire to have alcohol and to choose not to drink it.  Unfortunately, the sheer nature of being an alcoholic is defined by the lack of an ability to control ones drinking. 

In order to enter the recovery phase and thus control the disease itself, the alcoholic must come to the place where he or she is able and willing to take control and stop reaching for alcohol.

Research has shown that the alcoholic cannot willfully control his drinking and therefore should be abstinent. The alcoholic has to accept responsibility for his addiction and recovery.


Chronic alcohol abuse and dependence can damage multiple organ systems and can cause heart failure, cancers, liver diseases, and neurological problems. The amount and frequency of the drinking and the general health of the alcoholic affect the degree to which complications and illness can develop.

Interesting Facts

Alcoholism, regardless of whether the alcoholic totally abstains from alcohol or just drinks in moderation, is a controllable disease.

However, alcoholism is not considered curable because the alcoholic can relapse back into the acute phase of the disease many times with just one drink or one episode of over drinking.


When diagnosing intoxication and withdrawal it is important to rule out a few conditions that can mimic intoxication or withdrawal. These include hypoglycemia, electrolyte imbalance, diabetic acidosis, and even stroke.

If a person has any of these conditions, they may exhibit the same signs and symptoms of intoxication. Alcohol abuse and dependence are both potentially dangerous conditions that need intervention in order to stop the downward spiral to alcoholism.

Although an alcohol abuser can possibly recover without professional intervention, it is necessary to get professional education. A person who is alcohol dependent needs professional intervention in order to recover.



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What is the Attraction To Alcohol
Alcoholism is a Widespread Problem
The Difference Between Alcohol Dependence And Alcohol Abuse
FAQ's About Alcoholism Pt 1
FAQ's About Alcoholism Pt 2
A Brief Summary Regarding Alcoholism
Alcohol Abuse and the College Campus
The Brain And Alcohol
Health Risks For Women Alcoholics
Holiday Survival Guide For The Alcoholic
How A Child See's Alcoholism
Alcoholism Detoxification Steps
Alcoholism and the Workplace
The Children of Alcoholics
Common Questions About Alcoholism
Tests for Alcohol Use
Do All Alcoholics Need a Rehab Center
The Dangers and Penalties Of Drinking and Driving
The War On Drunk Driving
How To Determine When Someone Needs Professional Help
Some Facts About Alcoholism
Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
Diet Hints To Assist With Alcoholism Withdrawal
Helping Someone To Overcome Alcoholism
Alcoholism Risk Is Linked to Early Aged Drinking
A Portrait Of An Alcoholic
The Symptoms of Alcoholism
Basic Facts About Alcoholism
Hard Facts About Alcoholism
Cautions Concerning Non Alcoholic Beer
The College Campus And Alcoholism
Dangers of Alcoholism
Alcoholics Anonymous Steps 1-6
Alcoholics Anonymous Steps 6-12
What Causes An Alcoholic Blackout
New Shot to Treat Alcoholism
Alcoholism's Physical Effects
Group Support For Alcoholism
Threats From Alcoholism
The Truth About Alcoholism
Treating The Three Main Issues In Alcoholism
Treatments for Alcoholism
Vitamins and Supplements For The Alcoholic
Recovering From Alcoholism
Help Your Teen Avoid Becoming An Alcoholic
What Is Alcholism
Family Members Drinking Too Much
Explain Alcoholism
Who Are The Alcoholics
Women Fighting The Consequences of Alcoholism
Al Anon Support For The Alcoholic's Family
Health Consequences Of Alcoholism
Medications Used For Treating Alcoholism
Screening Tests For Alcoholism
What Is The Difference Between Alcohol Abuse And Alcoholism
What the Bible Says About Alcohol Abuse
How to Stop Drinking Alcohol without AA
The Truth About Alcoholics Anonymous
Alcoholism - Curable or Just Controllable
The Causes of Alcoholism
So How Much Drinking Really Is Too Much?
Is Alcoholism Hereditary
What Children Need to Know About Alcohol
How to Recognize When Children are Drinking
What You Need to Know about how to Set Up an Intervention for an Alcoholic
How to Quit Drinking Without Gaining Weight