Alcohol Abuse 

What is Alcohol Abuse?

Alcohol abuse occurs when someone has a problem with their alcohol consumption. Either they drink too much, too often, or just experience negative consequences from drinking in general. You do not have to be an alcoholic to have an alcohol problem. Many people think that alcoholism and alcohol abuse are the same thing, but this is not necessarily the case. 

People who abuse alcohol often experience negative consequences from drinking too much or too often, just like alcoholics do. These consequences can include missing work or school, not living up to family responsibilities, and driving while drunk which, of course, can lead to arrests, car crashes, and even the death of you or someone else. 

There are a lot of different ways to look at and define a person's problem with alcohol. Alcoholism and alcohol abuse are everyday terms we use to discuss problem drinking. In other posts, we will discuss the specific terms that the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) uses to define the various degrees of problem drinking. 

Is Alcohol Abuse The Same Thing as Alcoholism?

Alcohol abuse is basically the stage right before alcoholism takes over. It disrupts a person's life, but not to the extent that it does for an alcoholic. Many people who abuse alcohol don't even realize that what they are doing is considered alcohol abuse.

For example, binge drinking can be considered alcohol abuse, even if it is only done a few times per month.. Many teenagers and college students and even adults of all ages engage in binge drinking and deny that they have an alcohol problem.

Binge drinking can be very dangerous! It can lead to alcohol poisoning which can lead to death. It can also cause people to do things they would not otherwise do such as drink and drive or engage in other substance abuse or other situations that can be dangerous.

When someone is in the stages of alcohol abuse, it can be easier for them to get help than when they become a 'true alcoholic.' There is probably not a physical dependency yet, and a person who is abusing alcohol may be able to simply cut back. They often learn from their behavior and see the negative consequences that are coming from their drinking, and they are able to change those behaviors. When someone is an alcoholic and is truly physically and psychologically dependent on alcohol, it's usually not as easy as just cutting back. 

On the flip side, it can be really difficult to get someone who is abusing alcohol to cut back because they may tell themselves and others that they aren't an alcoholic, so they don't need help. In this case, educating them can be helpful. Explain that alcohol can be a problem even if someone isn't an alcoholic. We can all suffer negative consequences from things before they become true addictions. If we can stop and cut back before something becomes an addiction, then we are a step ahead!

Treatment for Alcohol Abuse

People who abuse alcohol might be able to cut back on their own, but others might need some more support. A person doesn't have to consider themselves an alcoholic to get treatment for a problem with drinking. 

Someone who is abusing alcohol can go to therapy, outpatient treatment for alcoholism, or even AA meetings. Someone who is abusing alcohol can still benefit from outpatient treatment; they will have a counselor and other people they can talk to about their problem and treatment. The same is true for AA meetings. A person doesn't have to call themselves an alcoholic to try out an AA meeting. A person who abuses alcohol might find these meetings very helpful. They may decide that they are okay drinking a little bit and can cut back, or the might decide that it is best if they don't drink at all. 

One of the most difficult parts of treating alcoholism or alcohol abuse is getting someone to even admit they have a problem. Many alcoholics refuse to admit that they are alcoholics or have a problem with alcohol, and the same can be true for people who are abusing alcohol. While it may sound cliche, it is true that it is very hard, if not impossible, to help someone if they don't want to help themselves.

Regardless, we should be supporting people and encouraging them to seek treatment. We should never minimize a person's problem with alcohol by saying they don't need treatment because they aren't an alcoholic. If you know someone who abuses alcohol, say something. Try to help them. Be there and be supportive! Most importantly, if they ask for help, please try to help them find it!

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