What’s the Difference between Alcohol Abuse and Alcohol Dependence?
Question: What is the difference between alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence?
Answer: Alcohol abuse, in the simplest terms, is a pattern of excessive use of alcohol to the point of self-harm. You continue to drink even though adverse consequences--ranging from marital problems to DUIs--have occurred. An example would be frequent episodes of binge drinking, followed by “sobering up” the next day. However, alcohol abuse is NOT addiction. It does NOT include
- a strong craving for alcohol
- loss of control over drinking
- physical dependence on alcohol
Alcohol dependence, on the other hand, is addiction to alcohol and includes
- physical dependence
- loss of control
- withdrawal symptoms after stopping
Someone who is dependent will drink until passing out and continue to drink upon waking, creating a cycle stopped only by outside intervention (a family member) or running out of drinks.