What’s the Difference Between Alcohol Dependence and Alcohol Abuse?
Understanding the Difference Between Alcohol
Dependence and Alcohol Abuse
Alcohol abuse, alcohol dependence, alcohol addiction, alcoholism; what do all these terms mean? Are they synonymous with one another, or are there significant differences between them? Here, we’ll explore these terms, helping you understand the difference between alcohol dependence and alcohol abuse and when it crosses over into addiction.
Yes. There are differences between alcohol abuse, dependence, and alcohol addiction (alcohol addiction is synonymous with the term alcoholism). Alcohol abuse can lead to dependence, which can then lead to a full-blown addiction.
A person who develops a dependency on drugs or alcohol may not yet be addicted. Addiction involves physical, mental, and behavioral dependencies. Each one of these dependencies requires treatment for the individual to manage their alcohol addiction effectively. It’s not always easy for someone to differentiate between alcohol abuse, dependence, and addiction, which is why getting an evaluation from a trained addiction specialist is so helpful.
What Is Alcohol Abuse?
Simply defined, alcohol abuse refers to the misuse of alcohol. Other than smoking, no other form of substance abuse is more common in the U.S. Signs of alcohol abuse include habitual overdrinking or binge drinking.
Someone who uses alcohol to escape their feelings or problems could also be ‘misusing’ alcohol and putting them at increased risk of developing dependence. Suppose you drink to the point that you blackout or your drinking prevents you from maintaining your responsibilities (i.e., work, school, caring for family). In that case, you could also be described as abusing alcohol. Alcohol abuse can quickly lead to the development of alcohol dependence.
What Is Alcohol Dependence?
A person who drinks alcohol habitually can develop a tolerance to it. To experience the same effects from alcohol, they need to increase their intake. This paves the way to dependence.
Dependence occurs when a person experiences withdrawal symptoms when they don’t drink alcohol within a certain period. Withdrawal symptoms can include headache, irritability, tremors, anxiety, nausea, and vomiting. Dependence is a hallmark of addiction; however, if caught in time, it may not progress to alcohol addiction, which also involves psychological and behavioral dependencies.
However, frequently, when a person develops a physical dependence on alcohol, the mental and behavioral aspects are already evident. Traditionally speaking, addiction involves multiple dependencies. Today, some addiction therapists might argue that physical dependence alone is enough to diagnose addiction.
When Is the Time to Seek Help for Alcohol Abuse or Dependence?
The right time to seek help for suspected alcohol abuse or dependence is right away. If you or a loved one is abusing alcohol, you’re at risk of becoming addicted to it.
Alcoholism will detract from both physical and mental health. Moreover, a drinking problem is a chronic and progressive condition. It won’t get better without treatment. If you are experiencing the following signs and symptoms, you should get help at a high-quality alcohol treatment rehab:
- Inability to limit or stop drinking
- Neglecting responsibilities like work or school
- Engaging in high-risk behaviors while drinking, like driving or operating equipment
- Experiencing legal problems related to drinking (i.e., disorderly conduct)
- Drinking with prescription medications or other drugs
- Drinking to the point of blacking out
- Drinking to cope with negative emotions or chronic stress
- Drinking even though it’s causing relationship or health problems
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms
Alcohol Treatment at Resurgence
Resurgence Behavioral Health offers high-quality alcohol abuse and addiction treatment programs. The risk of relapse associated with alcohol addiction is high, so our programs feature a strong relapse prevention component. We individualize treatment to help clients get the ideal type of support to manage their alcohol problems. Don’t wait to get help. Visit us today or call (855) 458-0050 to begin the evaluation and enrollment process.