Unlike using illicit drugs, drinking alcohol is widely considered an acceptable social activity. Many American’s drink with friends on weekends, at home, or even at certain work functions. Consuming alcohol occurs frequently enough that it can be difficult to decipher when someone has lost control. Consider the question: is my drinking a problem? There are a few simple questions and observations that may help provide clarity of the differences between casual drinking and alcoholism.
Knowing when drinking has become a problem can be very difficult. In many ways, experienced clinicians consider any amount of alcohol or drug misuse to be problematic as it can often lead to more significant problems in the future. However, there are still signs that may suggest alcohol has become a larger issue.
Difference Between Alcohol Abuse and Alcohol Use Disorder
When referring to alcohol abuse versus alcohol use disorder (AUD), it’s essential to consider the spectrum of drinking habits as a routine activity. Each of these terms helps to further define problematic drinking as it reveals levels of alcohol consumption concerning behavior and mental health.
Alcohol abuse and AUD are quite similar and often used interchangeably. However, key differences between the two that may help answer is my drinking a problem? Not everyone who has a drinking problem suffers from AUD, or what others consider ‘alcoholism. Many different types of drinkers exist, and a set of 11 criteria usually determines the severity of a drinking problem.
On the one hand, alcohol abuse refers to a mild form of AUD, while severe AUD includes a particular dependency on drinking. It’s important to note that alcohol abuse and alcohol use disorder often require professional diagnosis and treatment for long-term recovery. Alcohol is an incredibly addictive substance, negatively impacting millions of lives annually.
Examples of Alcohol Abuse
If you’re wondering, is my drinking a problem, first consider how you interact with alcohol.
Alcohol abuse includes dangerous drinking patterns such as binge drinking, heavy drinking, moderate to extreme intoxication, and higher tolerance. Engaging in alcohol abuse places an individual at high-risk for developing alcohol use disorder, and it’s essential to seek help sooner.
According to the Diagnostic Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders, 5th Edition, alcohol abuse may or may not involve chronic episodes of binge drinking. Alcohol dependence involves many alcohol abuse episodes leading to blackouts, withdrawal, cravings, and a physical, emotional, and social emphasis on alcohol use.
People who are alcohol-dependent usually exhibit some or all of the following characteristics:
- Alcohol tolerance – As tolerance builds, drinking amounts increase to produce the same effects.
- Withdrawal symptoms – Experiencing insomnia, tremors, and mood swings are not unusual with AUD
- Awareness of the compulsion to drinking – Craving alcohol
- Drinking larger amounts – Making unsuccessful efforts to cut down on drinking
If you would like further information on alcohol abuse and alcoholism, please visit the Center for Disease Control website or visit MedicineNet. Both websites offer useful information regarding the similarities and differences in problematic drinking behaviors.
Is My Drinking a Problem?
Knowing what behaviors are problematic can be tricky, but it is critical to understand the differences between casual drinking and alcohol abuse or AUD.
According to the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, casual drinking is commonplace in the U.S., with over 70% of American adults over the age of 18 state consuming alcohol within the last year. Approximately 40% of Americans report alcohol use or abuse within the previous month.
The acceptance of alcohol use throughout the world has caused difficulties in understanding what alcohol use behaviors are problematic or indicative of a larger problem. Some common concerning behaviors associated with alcohol consumption include:
- Loss of control over alcohol use
- Lots of time and energy in obtaining, using, and recovering from substance use
- Continued use despite problems
- Lack of pleasure in hobbies
- Health problems
- Loss of employment
Although it’s best to consult with a medical professional, assessing patterned drinking behavior may help answer, is my drinking a problem?
What is Alcoholism or AUD?
First, alcohol use disorder is a term used within the healthcare sector. Alcoholism is a dated classification used by the public that incorporates both alcohol abuse and alcohol use disorder. Each of these terms must be distinguished from the other.
In general, AUD is a long-term disease that can result from ongoing alcohol abuse. As stated in NIH’s study, when problem drinking becomes severe, the medical diagnosis is AUD. AUD is a chronic relapsing brain disorder characterized by an impaired ability to stop or control alcohol use despite adverse social, occupational, or health consequences.
An estimated 15 million people in the U.S. have AUD. Additionally, nearly 6%, or 14.4 million adults in America, ages 18 and older, have AUD.
The following 11 points of criteria and symptoms may suggest alcohol use disorder. It’s important to take the steps in finding evidence-based, supportive care. What are the eleven symptoms of alcohol use disorder? Is my drinking a problem?
Signs of AUD include:
- Alcohol is often taken in larger amounts or over a longer period than was intended.
- There is a persistent desire or unsuccessful efforts to cut down or control alcohol use.
- A great deal of time is spent in activities necessary to obtain alcohol, use alcohol, or recover from its effects.
- Craving, or a strong desire or urge to use alcohol.
- Recurrent alcohol use and failing to fulfill significant obligations at work, school, or home.
- Continued alcohol use despite having persistent or recurrent social or interpersonal problems caused or exacerbated by the effects of alcohol.
- Important social, occupational, or recreational activities are given up or reduced because of alcohol use.
- Recurrent alcohol use in situations in which it is physically hazardous.
- Continued alcohol use despite knowledge of having a persistent or recurrent physical or psychological problem likely caused or exacerbated by alcohol.
- Tolerance, defined by either of the following: a) A need for markedly increased amounts of alcohol to achieve intoxication or desired effect; b) A markedly diminished effect with continued use of the same amount of alcohol.
- Withdrawal, as manifested by either of the following: a) The characteristic withdrawal syndrome for alcohol (refer to criteria A and B of the criteria set for alcohol withdrawal); b) Alcohol (or a closely related substance, such as a benzodiazepine) is taken to relieve or avoid withdrawal symptoms
The presence of at least two of these symptoms indicates an alcohol use disorder. The severity, then, is determined by mild, moderate, and severe. Alcohol abuse and AUD has the potential to destroy people’s lives. Raising awareness of these symptoms can help individuals find the treatment they need.
How Can I Tell If Alcohol Has Become A Problem?
It is essential to assess problem drinking behaviors. Many consequences from problem drinking habits can occur and can be very detrimental to health and quality of life. Unfortunately, due to the high level of acceptance in the U.S., many drinking problems go undiagnosed each year and may contribute to the wide range of ongoing abuse and dependency.
AspenRidge makes it easy to begin taking steps to assess for problem drinking. The AspenRidge staff created several self-assessment tools available online. If you are interested in learning more or speaking with staff about possible problem drinking, you are encouraged to visit the website below to take our “Am I Becoming An Alcoholic” Quiz.
After completing the survey, participants may contact AspenRidge’s knowledgeable staff to discuss results and other possible treatment options available.
How Can AspenRidge REACH Help?
AspenRidge has developed effective programs to address problem drinking and alcohol use. We provide online support through AspenRidge’s REACH alcohol addiction programs. Additionally, we provide Coloradans access to our in-person treatment centers. REACH provides needed access to those who may have work commitments or personal obligations, but are still seeking support during a crucial time. Problematic drinking can be addressed from the comfort of your home.
As with all of AspenRidge’s alcohol treatment and rehab programs, REACH has several options. These are geared to patient needs and preferences.
When you choose REACH online Intensive Outpatient program, you can expect to meet in individual and group sessions virtually. This will occur via video conferencing on AspenRidge’s secure platform. The frequency and duration of these sessions vary with the program option selected.
Our three online alcohol treatment programs include six-weeks and 12-week sessions.
Contact AspenRidge Recovery
Get effective online help to stop drinking. We offer many individuals an easier, convenient, and private way to access treatment for alcohol use disorder. Our flexible plans factor in people’s busy lives. Furthermore, our priority is always to treat alcohol abuse, as well as underlying mental health conditions. Telehealth is a viable option for those that seek long-term sobriety. Curious to know if our alcohol rehab programs work? Find more information here.
Find out more about our online rehab programs here or give us a call to speak with an intake specialist 24/7 at 720-650-8055.
REACH Online Rehab Reset
The REACH Rehab Reset educates and empowers participants. While it does not deal with detox, it offers support groups and mental health counseling services.