Alcohol Misuse vs Alcohol Addiction – What Is the Difference?

woman in sunshine and trees-min-min.jpg

It’s easy to assume that alcohol misuse and alcohol addiction are the same.

In reality, the two issues are actually very different.

Simply put, alcohol misuse is drinking too much alcohol too often. Alcohol addiction is the inability to quit drinking.

People who misuse alcohol are often called “abusers.” With that in mind, it’s important to note that people who abuse alcohol can often run into some of the same negative implications as those who are addicted.

However, addiction or dependency on alcohol is usually far more serious. It's also much harder to treat.

What Are the Signs of Alcohol Misuse?

When a person consumes excessive amounts of alcohol (often called “binge drinking"), it’s considered alcohol misuse.

Some of the signs typically associated with misuse include:

  • Drinking every day or most days of the week

  • Having more than 14 alcoholic drinks each week

  • Consuming 7+ alcoholic drinks in a short period of time

As you might expect from this kind of alcohol abuse, there are risks to consider.

Some of the short-term risks of alcohol misuse include:

  • Accidents/physical injury

  • Violent behavior

  • Consistently losing personal possessions, temporary impairment

  • Alcohol poisoning

  • Reckless behavior

Alcohol abuse can also have several long-term effects. These include physical issues like heart disease, liver disease, or stroke.

In many cases, you can manage alcohol misuse effectively through something like intervention, support, and counseling.

What Are the Signs of Alcohol Addiction?

Alcohol misuse can very easily lead to alcohol addiction. But there are several important differences to keep in mind.

Again, the biggest difference is the fact that someone who is addicted to alcohol can’t give it up. They simply can’t quit their drinking habit. In fact, people with alcohol addiction often start their day with a drink and continue consuming alcohol throughout the day. They often recognize their problem and may even feel guilty about it. This can lead to behavioral problems like aggression or self-destructive behaviors.

Someone who is addicted to alcohol might also only go to events where they know alcohol will be served, or they only spend time with people who will drink with them. Addicts also often have a drink of choice or a specific brand they like to stick with. Interestingly, this marks a big difference from someone who misuses alcohol, as they will usually drink whatever is available.

Alcoholics may even try to quit from time to time but quickly go back to drinking because they can’t give it up.

Alcohol addiction can also lead to many different physical problems. Some of the short-term problems are similar to the ones seen by someone who misuses alcohol, but they are often more serious. Additionally, alcohol addiction can cause dizziness, shakiness, or excessive sweating. And it can lead to more serious health conditions like liver cancer, heart disease, stroke, etc.

What Is the Best Treatment for Alcohol Addiction?

Unfortunately, alcohol addiction is usually much harder to overcome than alcohol misuse. Treatment typically consists of counseling for a long period of time. Some people enter rehab programs offered by hospitals, clinics, etc., combined with different types of counseling. Plus, addicts can often benefit from attending different support groups as well.

If you or someone you know is struggling with alcohol, it’s important to know the difference between misuse and addiction. While one can lead to the other, recognizing these differences can make it easier for you to determine what kind of help/treatment to seek.

Do you need help in dealing with an alcohol problem, or you know someone who does? Feel free to reach out to me. Together, we can get to the bottom of these alcohol issues and begin the process of working through them so you can take control of your life once more.