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Alcohol Abuse vs Dependence: The Facts

Alcohol use disorder can affect all aspects of your life, including your finances, relationships, and of course, your mental health and your physical health.

Learning about alcohol addiction and alcohol abuse is the first step toward getting help – knowing about your addiction is important and can prepare you for rehab treatment.

Many people think alcohol misuse, alcohol addiction and alcohol dependence are the same things. However, this is not the case, although they are all forms of alcohol use disorder (AUD).

What is Alcohol Dependence?

Alcohol dependence is also known as alcohol addiction or colloquially referred to as alcoholism. It is a chronic and relapsing disease that is characterised by a lack of control over drinking alcohol. This can present itself by drinking too much, too often, or not being able to stop drinking.

If you have a dependence on alcohol, then you’ll need to drink more alcohol to feel the same effects. You may also experience withdrawal symptoms if you stop drinking or lower the amount you’re used to.

Alcohol dependence not only causes unpleasant mental and physical symptoms but can increase the urge to drink alcohol. Alcohol dependence can have a negative effect on all aspects of your life. People with alcohol dependence may continue drinking alcohol despite the negative effects that may present.

Addiction can take its toll on your physical health – regular and heavy alcohol consumption can increase the risk of several types of cancer. Alcohol use disorder has also been found to be a causal factor in more than 60 medical conditions.

According to the DSM-5 (The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), you must meet two or more of 11 criteria to be diagnosed with an alcohol use disorder. AUD is classed as either mild, moderate or severe, with alcohol dependence being the more severe form of AUD.

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What Is Alcohol Abuse?

Alcohol should be enjoyed in moderation. According to the UK Government and the NHS, it’s recommended that you drink no more than 14 units of alcohol per week (spread across the span of three or more days). This equates to around 6 pints of 4% beer or 6 glasses of wine (medium).

Sticking within these guidelines can lower the risk of alcohol-related damage to your health. That being said, there is no completely safe level of drinking, so it’s important to drink in moderation and drink mindfully.

Alcohol abuse refers to a dangerous drinking pattern – drinking that can result in significant negative consequences. This can involve drinking-related legal issues (for example, drink-driving), relationship problems, or failure to fulfil responsibilities.

Alcohol abuse can often involve binge drinking. People who abuse alcohol may only drink once or twice a week but consume a dangerous amount of alcohol during this time (over 14 units). They may drink so much in a short space of time that it causes physical damage.

Alcohol Abuse vs Dependence – What Are The Differences?

Alcohol abuse is not the same as alcohol dependence – although those with alcohol dependence will typically abuse alcohol. Alcohol abuse and alcoholism are not the same, although they both fall under the category of alcohol use disorder and can both be damaging to your physical health and sense of well-being. Alcohol abuse can lead to alcohol dependence, but this isn’t always the case.

The key difference between addiction/ dependence and abuse is that alcohol dependence is when a person is dependent on alcohol – there is a physical compulsion to drink alcohol and a person may experience withdrawal symptoms if they stop drinking. A person who is dependent on alcohol may continue drinking alcohol despite the negative effects and consequences that alcohol addiction can cause.

People with alcohol addiction (alcoholics) may try to stop drinking or cut back on their drinking, but struggle to or end up relapsing. Many alcoholics will struggle to stop drinking or control their drinking without the help of a rehab program – alcohol rehab can help you detox from alcohol and prevent relapse.

Alcohol abuse, on the other hand, is when a person drinks excessively – a person who abuses alcohol may not have a physical compulsion to drink alcohol, although some people do. Alcohol abuse can be just as dangerous as alcohol dependence and can have similar physical effects.

Help for Alcohol Dependence

If you think that you or a loved one has an alcohol dependence or alcohol use disorder, getting help is the best thing you do. There is professional support out there if you feel unable to stop drinking, whether it be rehab or support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous.

At Help4Addiction, we can connect you with a wide range of rehabilitation treatments – whether it be private rehab, NHS-operated rehab, outpatient rehab, inpatient rehab/ residential rehab, or quasi-residential rehab.

Help4Addiction was created by a former addict – an addict who needed rehab to save his life. After he received the treatment he needed, he aimed to use his personal experiences with addiction to help others.

The first step of alcohol rehab involves detoxing from alcohol – which means all access to alcohol will be cut off so your body can free itself from the substance. During this stage, you may experience alcohol withdrawal symptoms.

In some cases, you may be given detox medication – which can help you to deal with the unpleasant symptoms of alcohol withdrawal. Certain medications can help to alleviate withdrawal symptoms, such as Librium and benzodiazepines.

Once you have detoxed from alcohol and the more severe withdrawal symptoms are under control, you can move on to the next stage of treatment – therapy. Different rehab centres offer different facilities, but most treatment centres offer cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), counselling, and group therapy. This can help whether you have existing mental health problems or not.

Contact us today to discuss your treatment options and begin your recovery from substance abuse.

About Author

Nicholas Conn

Nicholas Conn

Nicholas Conn is a leading industry addiction expert who runs the UK’s largest addiction advisory service and is regularly featured in the national press, radio and TV. He is the founder and CEO of a drug and alcohol rehab center called Help4addiction, which was founded in 2015. He has been clean himself since 2009 and has worked in the Addiction and Rehab Industry for over a decade. Nick is dedicated to helping others recover and get treatment for drug and alcohol abuse. In 2013, he released a book ‘The Thin White’ line that is available on Amazon.

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