Alcoholism vs. Alcohol Use Disorder: What’s the Difference?

Learning the Difference Between Alcoholism and Alcohol Use Disorder

Some words have come to be used interchangeably, but that practice doesn’t always represent the true meaning of those words. When dealing with alcohol abuse, you may hear the terms alcoholism and alcohol use disorder.  It’s important to understand what each one means, what they have in common, and where they differ.

Perhaps you’ve come across these terms in your own life, or maybe concerning a friend or family member. In the world of addiction science, the terms alcohol use disorder and alcoholism are used to describe particular medical conditions, but to the public, these terms are often used interchangeably. What do these two terms mean, what makes each one different, and what can you do to help yourself or a loved one get help?  Keep reading to learn more.

If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction, call WhiteSands Alcohol and Drug Rehab today at 877.969.1993 to learn how we can help.

What Is Alcohol Use Disorder?

The use of alcohol can be seen as a spectrum instead of a single problem, it’s essential to start with that simple fact. Alcohol can be an extremely dangerous drug, but it is also a legal one that many people use with few severe side effects. However, for others, alcohol use can create real problems, and that is where alcohol use disorder comes into play.

Alcohol use disorder happens when excessive drinking progresses into a compulsion, and the individual suffering from the condition is unable to control their drinking or moderate their use of alcohol. This chronic brain disorder is often accompanied by a marked decline in the individual’s emotional state, especially when they do not use alcohol.

If someone you know is suffering from alcohol use disorder, you may notice that they become increasingly agitated when they do not have access to alcohol and that their issues continue to get worse as time goes by. If you recognize any of these signs and signals, you should seek help for your friend, or yourself, as quickly as possible.

What Is Alcoholism?

The terms alcoholism and alcohol use disorder are often used interchangeably, but there are some differences you should know. Alcoholism is a term used to describe individuals suffering from a serious physical dependency on alcohol. It is important to note that alcohol is a physically addictive drug, so stopping cold turkey creates painful and sometimes dangerous side effects.

Alcoholism is often used as a blanket term to describe people who drink too much, but it is more complicated than that. A college student can embark on a weekend of binge drinking, for instance, without being an alcoholic. While this temporary abuse of alcohol is not a good idea, it is not necessarily an indication of alcoholism or any deeper problem.

What distinguishes alcoholism from less severe forms of alcohol abuse is the physical dependency. Simply put, the alcoholic will have difficulty not drinking even if they want to, such as the physical hold the drug has over their system.

If you are worried about a friend or family member who may be suffering from alcoholism, it is vital to get them help as soon as possible. No matter what you call it or what name it goes by, problem drinking can be a real danger to the individual themselves and their friends, family members, and society.

Getting Treatment for Alcohol Abuse

Whether you call it alcoholism, alcohol use disorder, problem drinking, or something else, the dangers are much the same. The excessive use of alcohol can be disastrous in many ways, from the risk of unintentional overdose to blacking out and being taken advantage of, to being involved in a drunk driving accident.

If you have problems with your drinking, or if you are concerned about the alcohol use of someone you love, it is crucial to seek help as soon as possible. Alcohol abuse can be a life-threatening condition, and receiving prompt care could make a tremendous amount of difference.

If you are ready to seek help for your alcohol use disorder or alcoholism, we are here to help. At WhiteSands, we’re experts at treating alcoholism, alcohol use disorder, and other forms of problem drinking. You can rely on our expertise, our years of experience, and our compassionate approach to see you through. The path to sobriety is still in front of you, and we can help you make it to the other side.

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

Jackie has been involved in the substance abuse and addiction treatment sector for over five years and this is something that she is truly eager about. She has a passion for writing and continuously works to create informative pieces that not only educate and inform the public about the disease of addiction but also provide solutions for those who struggle with drug and alcohol abuse.