How Does Alcohol Abuse Differ From Alcoholism?

Alcohol detox isn’t easy and not everyone can do it on their own. That is why alcohol detox and alcohol withdrawal treatment is administered by medical professionals. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) classifies various mental illnesses and disorders. Mental health professionals use it nationwide to categorize and diagnose individuals seeking treatment.

Understanding the difference between alcohol abuse and alcoholism will help you determine the extent of your drinking problem. Many symptoms can be managed at home, but moderate to severe withdrawal should be supervised by a healthcare professional and may require inpatient treatment. If you have developed alcohol dependence and decide to quit drinking, you can expect to experience withdrawal symptoms.

Alcohol Abuse vs. Alcoholism: 3 Main Differences

Alcohol use disorder is a diagnosis used by medical professionals to describe someone with an alcohol problem to varying degrees. Alcoholism is a non-medical term used most often in everyday language and within the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous. Alcohol abuse refers to continuing to use alcohol, often excessively, even though it creates problems What is the Difference Between Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism in a person’s life, including health, relationship, and work-related consequences. If AUD is not treated, it can increase your risk for serious health problems. After completing treatment for AUD, it’s possible to have a risk of relapse. It’s important to recognize warning signs and seek help if you’re concerned about having a relapse.

Alcoholism is an addiction to alcohol, often manifesting as physical dependence. While you’ll often hear the two terms used to describe the same issue, they’re actually distinct diagnoses. To help clarify the difference between the two, let’s take a closer look at alcoholism vs alcohol abuse. If a person has mild abuse issues, they may be able to join a support group, such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). They may need accountability to reduce drinking and avoid developing an AUD.


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. A person can change their alcohol abuse patterns through therapy and willpower, and a mindful, intentional change in drinking habits. The first step is always to see your doctor about your struggles and learn what they recommend depending on how severe the alcohol use is. The physical dependence may cause withdrawal symptoms if they stop drinking suddenly.

  • This inability to change their thinking is also why remission from alcoholism requires very targeted addiction treatment.
  • If your drinking has gotten out of control, or if you know someone who’s struggling with alcohol abuse, our Wilkes Barre alcohol treatment can help.
  • Even if they decide not to drink because of something important, they frequently do it anyway.
  • Our alcohol rehab in Pennsylvania offers treatment at an inpatient level of care, which includes everything from medically monitored detox to therapy to individual and group counseling sessions.

To learn more about alcohol treatment options and search for quality care near you, please visit the NIAAA Alcohol Treatment Navigator. A health care provider might ask the following questions to assess a person’s symptoms. After World War I, the Army and Veterans Administration broadened the nomenclature to include disorders affecting veterans. Research shows a high correlation between alcohol misuse and high-risk sexual behavior, violence, crime, self-injury, and fatal injury from things like motor vehicle accidents. People with AUD represent about 20–35 percent of completed suicides. Regardless of the path you choose for treatment, the VOASW is here to support you.

Alcohol Misuse in the Workplace

Being without alcohol for any period of time can make you feel physically ill. Symptoms of withdrawal include headaches, nausea, tremors, and in severe cases, hallucinations and seizures. For example, researchers say people who develop alcohol abuse account for the majority of cases of alcohol disability and death.[5] But alcoholism is the more serious of the two conditions. Similarly, if you experience severe withdrawal symptoms when you decrease alcohol intake or stop drinking altogether, you might have a drinking problem.

Alcoholism generally refers to a disease in which a person is unable to stop drinking. However, with both alcohol abuse and alcoholism, these feelings are less effective over time as a person’s drinking habits increase. Mutual-support groups provide peer support for stopping or reducing drinking.

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