Heavy Drinking vs Alcoholism

Heavy Drinking vs Alcoholism – What’s the Difference?

Heavy alcohol use and alcoholism is fairly common in the United States. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism collects national data on the use of alcohol. They released stats showing that seven percent of the adult population has had heavy alcohol use in the last month in 2015. Alcohol use disorder, also known as alcoholism, was present in roughly 15.1 million people, or 6.2 percent of the adult population. But what are the differences between heavy drinking vs alcoholism?

In this article, we will examine heavy drinking vs alcoholism and look at the signs of alcoholism to know when action is needed.

A Standard Drink

Firstly, we must establish what a standard drink is. According to the NIAAA, a standard drink is one with 14 grams of alcohol. You would normally find this amount in roughly 5 ounces of wine, 12 ounces of beer or 1.5 ounces of spirits.

Classifying Heavy Drinking

To better understand the differences between heavy drinking vs alcoholism, a classification of heavy drinking is required. Binge drinking, according to the NIAAA, is when a person drinks fives drinks in two hours for men, and four drinks in the same period for women.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration defines heavy drinking as a person who binge drinks at least five times in a month period. A person who is engaging in heavy drinking doesn’t necessarily have alcoholism, but drinking at this level opens the individual up to alcohol addiction.

From Heavy Drinking to Alcoholism

Alcoholism is not something that happens overnight, but rather with repeated abuse of alcohol, or heavy drinking and binge drinking. The more the person heavily drinks, the closer they are to becoming addicted and even physically dependent on alcohol. For each person, an addiction to alcohol may develop at a different pace based on their genetics, environment, peer pressure and several other factors of addiction.

When looking at heavy drinking vs alcoholism, heavy drinking is just a stone’s throw away from alcoholism. To be better aware of when alcoholism is a factor, the following looks at the signs of alcoholism.

  • Alcohol has become a way for you to feel better or relax.
  • You sometimes lie to others about your drinking habits, such as how much you drank or hiding that you went to a bar.
  • Once you begin to drink, you find it hard to control how much you drink.
  • You have blackouts that cause you to forget what happened during a drinking episode.
  • Some of your responsibilities are not as important as they once were and become neglected.
  • There are numerous relationship problems.
  • You have developed a tolerance to alcohol.
  • Withdrawal symptoms such as profuse sweating, headaches and depression set in when you haven’t drank recently.
  • You’ve tried stopping before, but it didn’t work out.

If you see these signs in either yourself or a loved one, then rehab for alcoholics should be strongly considered.

What Should You Do Next?

If the signs of alcohol use disorder are ignored, it is very likely that the problem will worsen over time. Alcohol use disorder can affect every aspect of a healthy life if it’s not treated, including a person’s job, their health, their family and social life.

Rehab for alcoholics allows an addict to discover the roots of their substance use disorder and be helped to find new ways to cope with the stressors in their life.

If you or a loved one needs help with abuse and/or treatment, please call the WhiteSands Treatment at (877) 855-3470. Our addiction specialists can assess your recovery needs and help you get the addiction treatment that provides the best chance for your long-term recovery.

About the Author

is a proud alumni member of WhiteSands Treatment. After living a life of chaos, destruction and constant let downs, Mark was able to make a complete turnaround that sparked a new way of life. He is serious about his recovery along with helping others. At WhiteSands Treatment, we offer support to you in your homes or when you are out living in your daily lives.