Alcoholism refers to serious drinking problems, which persist even though adversely affecting all or some of the following aspects in the Individual’s life – interpersonal relationships, occupational and/or social functioning, physical and/or psychological health. A person suffering from alcoholism either ‘abuses’ alcohol or becomes physically ‘dependent’ on it.
Alcohol abuse is when drinking habits become detrimental, either physically or mentally, for the Individual ? e.g. drinking while driving, neglecting duties in the house or at work because of drinking. These drinking habits continue, despite causing interpersonal, social or legal problems.
Individuals who abuse alcohol, however, have some control over their drinking, even though their drinking habits are self destructive. They have not, as yet, become dependent on alcohol and so do not experience withdrawal symptoms if they do not drink. It is this that differentiates alcohol abuse from alcohol dependence.
Not all individuals who abuse alcohol become dependent on it. However, continued alcohol abuse can lead to alcohol dependence, whereby an individual loses control over his or her drinking. An individual, who has become dependent on alcohol, experiences strong cravings to consume alcohol and is unable to quit drinking, even though it might be causing him or her to get into trouble, repeatedly ? be it with family, at work or even with the law.
Alcohol dependence is characterized by a strong need or compulsion to drink (cravings), impaired control or an inability to limit one’s drinking, physical dependence which causes withdrawal symptoms (tremors, sweating, nausea etc) if alcohol is not consumed and lastly, tolerance, which results in increased alcohol intake to experience the same effects.
Once an individual becomes addicted to alcohol (physically and/or psychologically), their whole life begins to revolve around getting and drinking alcohol. People who become physically dependent on alcohol usually cannot stop drinking on their own and need outside help. They usually have a history of repeatedly trying to quit, but being unable to do so.