The Difference Between Alcohol Dependence And Alcohol
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
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
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.
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
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
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