The difference between alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence

Until the fifth edition is published Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), Material problems are generally divided into abuse and dependence. DSM-5 combines these categories into a single substance use disorder, measured on a continuum from mild to severe.

This change was made to update the view that abuse is the mild and early stage of the disease, and dependence is a more serious manifestation. In reality, abuse is often very serious.

Who is an alcoholic?

It is sometimes still useful to clarify the difference between abuse and dependence. Alcoholics can be defined as people who continue to drink despite recurring social, interpersonal, health, and legal problems caused by drinking.

Who is an alcohol dependent?

Alcohol dependent persons show some or all of the following characteristics.

  • Alcohol tolerance: need to increase alcohol consumption over time to achieve the previous results. For example, you used to drink three cocktails every night, but now you need five to get the feeling you want.
  • Withdrawal symptoms: physical symptoms such as insomnia, tremor, and mood swings appear. After not drinking for a short time.
  • Drink alcohol to relieve or avoid withdrawal symptoms, such as drinking alcohol to stop shaking or “cure” a hangover.
  • Whether you admit it to others or not, you are aware that you have an urge to drink or a craving for alcohol.
  • Drinking more alcohol than expected or drinking for longer periods of time, and have not succeeded in reducing the amount of alcohol consumed.
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People with moderate to severe alcohol use disorder usually need outside help to stop drinking. This may include detoxification, medical treatment, professional rehabilitation or counseling and/or self-help group support.

How much is too much?

Are your drinking habits safe, risky or harmful? Are you drinking or drinking too much? Looking at the symptoms above can give you an idea of ​​how your drinking might fall into harmful patterns and indicate whether you have a drinking problem.

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms and treatment

If you rely on alcohol and decide to change your life and give up alcohol, you may experience withdrawal symptoms. According to the National Institutes of Health, these discomforts usually peak 24 to 72 hours after your last drink, but may last for several weeks.

Those with mild to moderate symptoms may be able to receive treatment in an outpatient clinic. During this process, you should ask a loved one to accompany you. You may need to visit a clinician for daily monitoring. If you have moderate to severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms, you may need to be hospitalized in a hospital or substance abuse facility. Symptoms of severe alcohol withdrawal include:

  • fever
  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures
  • Serious confusion
  • Unstable vital signs