Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism


Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (alcohol dependence) are serious problems that affect about 1 out of 10 (10 percent of) U.S. adults. The results may affect those who come in contact with the drinker, in addition to the drinker. The main differences between alcohol abuse and alcoholism follow.

Alcohol Abuse Alcoholism
Although the person is not dependent on alcohol, he or she has a pattern of heavy alcohol intake which is associated with health results and/or impaired, or damaged, social functioning. Persons with alcoholism have such conditions as craving, loss of control, physical dependence, and tolerance. Each of these is briefly defined below. As a result, there is a change in the importance of drinking in the person’s life, and the ability to control his or her drinking.
  1. Craving – Having a strong need, or compulsion to drink.
  2. Loss of control – Being unable to limit one’s drinking in any given situation.
  3. Physical dependence – Experiencing withdrawal symptoms, such as nausea, sweating, and shaking, when alcohol use is stopped after a period of heavy drinking.
  4. Tolerance – Having to drink greater amounts of alcohol to “get high”.

Damaging results from alcohol, which may occur from a single experience, persistent alcohol abuse, and alcoholism (alcohol dependence) include:

  • problems with one’s family
  • problems with one’s friends
  • problems with one’s employer or work situation
  • problems with the police/criminal justice system
  • accidents/injuries
  • death
  • fetal alcohol syndrome – from fetal exposure to alcohol

Although some people are able to recover from alcoholism without help, most need professional assistance plus family support. With treatment and support, many affected individuals are able to stop drinking and rebuild their lives.

While individual care for alcohol abuse or alcoholism with a physician or other health professional works for some, another well known approach to treatment is AA (Alcoholics Anonymous World Service America). Their phone number and web site address can be reached in Health Power Resource Directory.

Remember the Health Power motto: Knowledge + Action = Power!

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