Understanding the Difference Between Alcohol Abuse and Alcohol Addiction

Adult alcohol abuse and alcohol addiction are often used interchangeably in conversation, but in the medical field, there is a clear difference and a clear line between the two.

Alcohol Abuse

When an individual abuses of alcohol, they are not yet addicted, but they can become addicted and dependent.

Alcohol abuse occurs when the individual drinks excessively to a point where their physical health and relationships suffer. It may also be present if they find themselves in legal trouble relating to their drinking habits, such as a DWI.

Someone who abuses alcohol may continue to drink despite all of these problems and, unfortunately, on the outside, their abuse may not seem like abuse at all–in fact, it may even appear casual at times. Alcohol abuse often manifests as the direct result of an individual drinking alcohol in order to alleviate stress.

Even though this sounds a lot like addiction, alcohol abusers can understand their consequences and change their behavior far more easily.

Alcohol Addiction – Also Known as Alcohol Dependence

Alcohol addiction as a chemical dependency is an illness that affects adults in the same way that abuse does, but more severely in the sense that even though both abuse and addiction are harmful behaviors, abuse still involves a degree of choice. When it comes to addiction, it’s chronic and choice is nonexistent. In addition to the aforementioned consequences of alcohol abuse, addiction causes problems with all facets of one’s life. Signs of alcohol addiction include, but are not limited to:

  • Intense cravings for alcohol

  • Inability to stop consuming alcohol

  • Continued, excess consumption of alcohol despite the negative consequences

As with any chemical dependency, it is really difficult for individuals to stop drinking on their own, which is why many end up being checked into rehab hospitals like ours and participate in both inpatient and outpatient programs for chemical dependency.

Their inability to stop drinking may be due to a few reasons. For one, since choice is nonexistent, try as they might, it is easy to fall back on their chronic habits. Second, individuals suffering from an alcohol addiction build a high tolerance for alcohol, so they need to drink more to get the same alleviating effects. Third, alcohol addiction, much like drug addiction, almost always causes withdrawal symptoms when the individual stops drinking, so they drink again to get rid of the symptoms, which may include:

  • Cravings

  • Anxiety

  • Shakiness

  • Headaches

  • Irritability

  • Nausea or vomiting

Sacred Oak in Houston Helps Adults Recover From Alcohol Addiction

At Sacred Oak Medical Center, our medical professionals offer two kinds of outpatient therapy programs. One is intensive for more severe cases, and the second, though less intensive than its counterpart, is a structured program that focuses on support. Through our various group and individual sessions, our adult patients will learn how to overcome their battle with addiction and live a healthier life. To determine which program is best for you or a loved one, please schedule an assessment so we can help Repair the Body, Mend the Mind, and Heal the Spirit.

Sacred Oak Medical Center is a recently constructed, state-of-the-art facility which opened its doors in March of 2017. Our services include Adult inpatient mental health, Adult medical detox and substance abuse rehabilitation, partial hospitalization and outpatient programs. Our hospital hosts 80 beds and expanded facilities. We are accepting referrals for all programs.


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