Is Alcohol Abuse and Dependence the Same?

At first thought, alcohol abuse and dependence may sound like the same thing. But their meanings, however, are fundamentally different. In this article, we explore both what an alcohol abuser is and what an alcohol dependant person is. We also outline some main withdrawal symptoms someone struggling with alcohol addiction might face, requiring alcohol rehab to help them reach sobriety.

Alcohol abuse is now known as Alcohol Use Disorder, a disease and disorder recognised by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders.

What is Alcohol Abuse?

Alcohol abusers are those who will continue to drink, even if it consistently creates problems for their social life, interpersonal, health, and legal issues. It is not as serious of disease as alcoholism, but it is much more common.

Around 10% of men and 4% of women in the UK are estimated to experience periods of alcohol abuse.

What is Alcohol Dependence?

People who are alcohol dependant will display a handful or all of these characteristics:

  • High tolerance for alcohol. They will need to drink a lot more to experience the desired effects. For example, if you needed to drink 2 glasses of wine to feel relaxed, you may now need to drink 4 to feel the same.
  • Withdrawal symptoms such as tremors, mood swings, and insomnia when they do not drink for a short period.
  • Consuming alcohol to stop withdrawal symptoms affecting them. Passing this off as ‘the hair of the dog’.
  • Being aware of their compulsion to drink or their increased craving for alcohol, whether they like to admit it or not.
  • Consuming much larger amounts of alcohol over a longer period than they may have intended. Their efforts to cut down are unsuccessful too.

People who are alcohol dependent will generally require help from professionals to stop their drinking. They may require detox, medical help, and addiction rehab or counselling.

How are Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms Dealt with?

If you or a loved one is dependent on alcohol, and you decide to turn your life around, you will experience symptoms of withdrawal. These symptoms will usually be at their peak at 24 to 72 hours after the last drink is consumed, but can last for weeks.

Mild to moderate symptoms can be controlled at home with the care of a loved one and help from a professional. However, severe withdrawal symptoms will need to be managed in a controlled facility. Severe symptoms may include; fever, seizures, confusion, and hallucinations.