More than half of U.S. adults have a close family member who’s suffering from or who has battled alcoholism or alcohol abuse, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Yet many people don’t know the basic facts about these conditions.
Q: What’s the difference between alcohol abuse and alcoholism?
Q: How is alcoholism treated?
A: Alcohol abuse, also called “problem drinking,” is a pattern of excessive drinking that results in adverse health and social consequences to the drinker, and often to those around the drinker. In cases of alcohol abuse, the person using alcohol in a destructive way has the ability to change his or her drinking habits. Alcoholism is characterized by an addiction to alcohol that’s out of the drinker’s control—he or she can’t stop using alcohol despite the severe physical, mental, and emotional consequences.
Treatment programs use both counseling and medications to help people stop drinking. Alcoholism treatment works for many people, but there are varying levels of success. Some people stop drinking and remain sober. Others have long periods of sobriety with bouts of relapse. And still others can’t stop drinking for any length of time.
Q: How is alcohol abuse identified?
A person can abuse alcohol without actually being an alcoholic. He or she may drink too much and too often but still not be dependent on alcohol. Some of the problems linked to alcohol abuse include not being able to meet work, school, or family responsibilities; drunk driving arrests and car crashes; and drinking-related medical conditions.
Q: Are there any warning signs of alcoholism?
Yes. These are the warning signs:
- Needing a drink to relieve stress
- Drinking quickly or gulping down several drinks to “loosen up”
- Finding and consuming alcohol is the focus of social or professional activities
- Being erratic, temperamental, irritable, and difficult to get along with
- Missing deadlines
Q: What should I do if someone I care about shows signs of alcoholism or drug addiction?
A: If you suspect that you or someone you are close to has a problem, take the first step by seeking professional help. You can begin by speaking with your physician or other medical provider. You may also contact Behavioral Health Services for information and assistance. We offer free alcohol and substance abuse screenings at our outpatient offices and can help you decide if there is a problem and learn about treatment options.