Alcohol Abuse or Alcohol Dependence – How to Tell the Difference

Alcohol Abuse or Alcohol Dependence – How to Tell the Difference?

Approximately 8 out of every 10 adults in the United States have consumed alcohol at some point in their lifetime. Roughly 15 million Americans have alcohol use disorder. Yet, some people can enjoy alcoholic beverages their whole lives without ever becoming addicted to them. Why do some people struggle with alcoholism and others not? To understand why it’s important to know the difference between alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence since they have different consequences and different treatment approaches.

If you or someone you love is battling alcohol addiction, know that you are not alone. Treatment is available at alcohol and drug rehabs in Washington. With the help of a detox program, psychotherapy, 12-step programs, and support groups, you can get sober and stay sober. Before you start recovery, it helps to understand the differences between alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence.

Alcohol Abuse and Dependence: What is the Difference?

Various terms are used to describe excessive drinking, and even though they are often used interchangeably, there are subtle differences between them. Here are some of the most common terms defined:

Alcohol use disorder (AUD) is a medical diagnosis characterized by compulsive drinking. A person with AUD loses control over their alcohol consumption and continues drinking despite negative consequences on their health, relationships, professional life, finances, or legal trouble.

Alcohol abuse is drinking too much or too frequently. It refers to a harmful, self-destructive pattern of drinking. A person who is abusing alcohol will often put themselves and others at risk (for example, by driving under the influence). Also, people who abuse alcohol tend to neglect their responsibilities at home and work. Alcohol abusers use drinking as a way of coping with stress. However, alcohol abuse does not necessarily mean that the person is physically dependent on alcohol. If there is no compulsion to drink, but the person uses alcohol to escape reality, it qualifies as alcohol abuse. It’s worth remembering that alcohol abuse is not something that occurs overnight – there are various stages of alcoholism.

Alcoholism is a long-lasting, progressive disease in which a person drinks compulsively and cannot control the amount of alcohol consumed. Alcoholics often experience negative emotions when they are not drinking. Alcoholism frequently co-occurs with mental health issues, such as anxiety, depression, PTSD, and bipolar disorder which can put a person at greater risk of addiction.

Alcohol dependence or alcohol addiction is an inability to quit drinking despite the various negative effects of alcohol on a person’s life. The two cardinal features of alcohol addiction are tolerance and withdrawal. Tolerance refers to the state where a person has to drink more and more alcohol to achieve the same effects. Withdrawal refers to the physical and mental symptoms that occur in the absence of alcohol when a person has developed an addiction. People with alcohol dependence often make several unsuccessful attempts to quit. Washington alcohol rehabs are staffed by experts in addiction treatment who can help such individuals safely reduce or completely stop alcohol use.

Recognizing Alcohol Abuse and Addiction

It’s perfectly fine to have a glass of wine at the end of a long day to relax or to grab a beer when you’re out with friends. Yet, alcohol is an addictive substance and social drinking can quickly progress to problematic alcohol consumption. It’s not always easy to recognize alcohol abuse and addiction. If you suspect a loved one may have a problem with alcohol, it’s important to know what to look for. Here are some signs and symptoms to watch out for:

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  • Being unable to stop drinking. One drink turns into three and three drinks turn into five.
  • Spending large sums of money on alcohol.
  • Giving up previously enjoyed activities to drink.
  • Developing strained relationships with family members and friends.
  • Failing to meet obligations and responsibilities at work.
  • Suffering physical withdrawal symptoms when not drinking.

If one or more of these behaviors or symptoms sound familiar, it may be time to get professional help at a Washington drug rehab that specializes in alcohol addiction. Do you know the dangers of trying to quit alcohol without a supervised detox program?

Dangers of Detox Withdrawal at Home

Attempting to quit drinking without professional help is often unsuccessful. Repeated attempts at getting sober and failing can sometimes strengthen the grip of addiction and worsen the damage from alcohol abuse. This is particularly true for people with a longstanding alcohol habit or a history of heavy alcohol abuse.

It’s important to get professional help at a Washington drug rehab facility because the physical symptoms of withdrawal from alcohol can be severe and distressing, even dangerous. A potentially fatal condition known as delirium tremens (DTs) can occur during alcohol withdrawal. Withdrawal symptoms such as seizures, nausea, and diarrhea can lead to serious medical complications.

Now is the Time to Get Help for Alcohol Abuse and Dependence

During supervised detox programs at Washington alcohol rehabs, doctors closely monitor recovering addicts. They prescribe medications to manage alcohol withdrawal symptoms. This is important because the presence of withdrawal symptoms often contributes to relapse. People with alcohol dependence are more sensitive to relapse-provoking triggers than non-dependent people.

Once the detox withdrawal is complete, experts in alcohol use disorders develop an individualized addiction treatment plan based on the patient’s unique needs. Psychotherapy is begun to help the person understand the issues that led to their alcohol abuse and dependence. During treatment, recovering alcoholics are taught how to manage triggers and cravings. They also learn strategies to prevent relapse and achieve long-term recovery.

Don’t let an alcohol use disorder destroy your family’s life. Reach out to Discover Recovery and start your journey to sobriety.

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