What Is Alcoholism?
Alcoholism, also known as “alcohol dependence,” is a disease that includes four symptoms:
• Craving: A strong need, or compulsion, to drink.
• Loss of control: The inability to limit one’s drinking on any given occasion.
• Physical dependence: Withdrawal symptoms, such as nausea, sweating, shakiness, and anxiety, occur when alcohol use is stopped after a period of heavy drinking.
• Tolerance: The need to drink greater amounts of alcohol in order to “get high.”
People who are not alcoholic sometimes do not understand why an alcoholic can’t just “use a little willpower” to stop drinking. However, alcoholism has little to do with willpower. Alcoholics are in the grip of a powerful “craving,” or uncontrollable need, for alcohol that overrides their ability to stop drinking.
This need can be as strong as the need for food or water.
What Is Alcohol Abuse?
Alcohol abuse differs from alcoholism in that it does not include an extremely strong craving for alcohol, loss of control over drinking, or physical dependence.
Alcohol abuse is defined as a pattern of drinking that results in one or more of the following situations within a 12-month period:
• Failure to fulfill major work, school, or home responsibilities;
• Drinking in situations that are physically dangerous, such as while driving a car or operating machinery;
• Having recurring alcohol-related legal problems, such as being arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or for physically hurting someone while drunk;
• Continued drinking despite having ongoing relationship problems that are caused or worsened by the drinking.
Although alcohol abuse is basically different from alcoholism, many effects of alcohol abuse are also experienced by alcoholics.
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