Legacy Healing Center Blog
Distinguishing Between Problem Drinking vs Alcoholism
A common question that drinkers and people who care about a drinker’s wellbeing have is whether there is a drinking problem, or if it’s already escalated to alcoholism. It may seem like the same thing in many cases, but there are clear differences between problem drinking vs alcoholism. Understanding these differences can help you to identify a problem before it becomes life-threatening, or put you in a position to get the professional help needed to overcome alcoholism.
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According to the findings by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), the prevalence of heavy alcohol use among Americans aged 18 and older over the last month was 6.7 percent of the populous in 2017. 26.4 percent of adults participated in binge drinking in the same year over the last month.
Alcoholism affected over 14 million adults (5.7 percent) in the United States in 2017. But what exactly is the difference between problem drinking vs alcoholism? In this article, we will review the key differences between the two, as well as alcoholism and problem drinking signs.
Key Differences Between Problem Drinking vs Alcoholism
Alcoholism, or alcohol use disorder, is a mental disease characterized by an inability to stop drinking alcohol, regardless of the negative effects it has on the user’s health, relationships, and mental wellbeing. Individuals who are addicted to alcohol find themselves both mentally and physically dependent on alcohol. Alcoholism changes the way your brain works.
Problem drinkers, on the other hand, aren’t yet physically dependents on alcohol and usually don’t experience withdrawal symptoms – an important motivation factor for alcohol consumption in alcoholics. However, being a problem drinking still means that there are often significant problems associated with the abuse of alcohol. Problem drinking may also lead to alcohol dependence if the frequency of alcohol consumption remains high over.
Warning Signs of a Problem Drinking
How can you tell if you or someone you care about has become a problem drinker? Problem drinking signs are important warnings that should be addressed to prevent the situation from escalating further and becoming a major health concern.
The symptoms and signs that someone may be a problem drinker include the following:
- Tendency to become increasingly isolated from friends and family.
- Drinking in situations that can be dangerous, such as while or before driving.
- Memory blackouts caused by binge drinking and heavy alcohol use.
- Alcohol becomes a way to feel happy.
- Using alcohol as a means to escape problems.
- Drinking alcohol to help cope with social anxiety.
Signs of Alcoholism
When a drinking problem becomes alcohol use disorder then the signs become more pronounced and difficult to ignore as it begins to affect all areas of the person’s life.
The DSM-V describes the symptoms that can be an indicator of alcohol use disorder. They include the following:
- Withdrawal symptoms set in within hours to a day after the last drink, including symptoms such as anxiety, insomnia, sweating, and headaches among others.
- Abortive attempts to cut down or stop drinking.
- A significant craving for alcohol.
- Other hobbies and enjoyable pastimes are neglected in favor of drinking.
- Oftentimes, self-imposed alcohol drinking limits are impossible to adhere to, and drinking occurs for longer than intended.
- The person may be aware that drinking is causing problems in their health and life, but it doesn’t stop consumption.
In order to properly determine if alcoholism is present, it is advised that a professional assessment is done. Once it becomes clear that alcoholism is present, then the appropriate steps can be taken to recover from the disease. There may be a fine line between drinking vs alcoholism, but through professional assistance and rehab programs, a person can be helped to restructure and improve life.