9 Minutes

Edited & medically reviewed by THE BALANCE Team
Fact checked

You’ve recently seen some radical changes in your kid or husband. He’s having more problems with anxiety, staying out after work more frequently, and you might have spotted him spending so much more on alcohol. If he is making it very clear, your dear one may even be consuming alcohol more frequently next to you or dumping empty bottles around the house.

You’re aware that your beloved has a drinking issue, but what exactly is that problem? You would believe that distinguishing between alcoholism and alcohol addiction is merely a matter of nomenclature, but it isn’t.

Perhaps you mistakenly believed that alcoholism and alcohol addiction was the same thing. Even though the two are related, there are several key differences to be aware of, which can be tough to spot. There are significant differences in the type of issue your loved one is currently experiencing, and it’s critical that you understand them. Let’s explore the differences between alcoholism, alcohol abuse, and binge drinking, as well as the symptoms of each.

Today, we are here to clear things up.

While people might become emotionally or physically reliant on substances like alcohol, this reliance does not always imply that they are addicted to that substance, according to the US Department of Health and Human Services website. Addiction is typically accompanied by physical and mental dependence as a sign of the underlying problem.

According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, about 15 million people in the United States have an alcohol use disorder, which can range in severity. Let’s start at the beginning to gain a better knowledge of these challenges.

Alcoholism and alcohol addiction are usually used synonymously. Some authorities have tried distinguishing the two. It still remains valid that there is a thin line between alcoholism and alcohol addiction for people who drink a lot of alcohol.

Alcohol Addiction

Over time, people who drank alcohol in large doses and for a longer duration of time tend to acquire stronger desires for it, and they will continue drinking it irrespective of the consequences. They develop physical and mental dependence on alcohol which is a hallmark of addiction.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse classifies addiction as an illness. Addiction takes a toll on a person’s emotional and physical health, as well as physiologically altering their brain.

A person’s addiction to alcohol and other substances is caused by environmental and biological factors. When an individual consumes more and more, they require more alcohol to attain the desired feeling, and when they don’t drink, they may experience withdrawal symptoms.

These problems indicate that the individual who abuses alcohol has grown physiologically reliant on it.

When someone is addicted to alcohol, they may suffer the following symptoms:

  • Being mysterious and untrustworthy
  • Unkempt appearance, as though weary or ill
  • Easily irritated
  • Getting intoxicated on a regular basis
  • Lack of interest in once enjoyable hobbies and activities
  • Anxiety and depression are common mental health issues in alcoholics


Strictly speaking, alcoholism is a non-medical term used for the various short-term and long-term manifestations that alcohol addicts face. These manifestations are a sum of the tolerance to alcohol that develops during the process of addiction and the withdrawal symptoms that follow once alcohol intake has been discontinued.

In our society, alcoholism is rampant, causing 3 million deaths per year. The most serious form of problem drinking is alcoholism. Alcoholism includes all of the clinical symptoms of alcohol addiction, as well as tolerance and withdrawal symptoms of alcohol addiction. You are an alcoholic if you need alcohol to work or if you feel physically forced to drink.

Although these signs can be common in both alcoholism and alcohol addiction, they are usually attributed to alcoholism.

Tolerance: the 1st significant telltale sign of alcoholism. To become intoxicated or feel relaxed, do you have to consume a lot more alcohol than you used to? Is it possible to drink more than other individuals without becoming drunk? These are symptoms of tolerance, which can be a precursor to alcoholism. Tolerance means that you require more and more alcohol over time to achieve the same influence.

Withdrawal: The 2nd significant telltale sign. Do you need something to help you stay awake in the morning? Drinking to alleviate or prevent withdrawal effects is an indication of alcoholism and a major red flag. When you consume a lot of alcohol, your body becomes accustomed to it and will experience symptoms of withdrawal if you stop drinking.

Symptoms of withdrawal include:

  • Anxiety or jitteriness
  • Trembling or shakiness
  • Sweating
  • Insomnia
  • Vomiting and nausea
  • Depression
  • Nervousness
  • Fatigue
  • Appetite loss.
  • Headache

Alcohol withdrawal can cause hallucinations, seizures, confusion, agitation, and fever in severe situations. If you’re a heavy drinker who wants to quit, talk to your doctor about these symptoms.

Additional warning signs of alcoholism include:

  • You’ve let your drinking get out of hand. You frequently consume more alcohol than you expected, for longer than you anticipated, or against your best intentions.
  • You want to stop drinking but are unable to do so. You have a strong desire to reduce or eliminate your alcohol consumption, but your attempts to do so have been unsuccessful.
  • Because of the drinking, you’ve stopped doing other things. Because of your alcohol consumption, you are spending less time on things that used to be vital to you (going out with friends and family, hitting the gym, following your hobbies).
  • Alcohol saps a lot of your energy and concentration. You spend lots of time drinking, obsessing about it, or recuperating from the consequences of it. You have few, if any, hobbies or social activities that aren’t related to drinking.
  • You continue to drink despite the fact that you are aware that it is giving you issues. For instance, you may be aware that your alcohol consumption is harming your relationships, exacerbating your depression, or causing health issues, but you continue to consume alcohol.

An individual who drinks excessively on a regular basis will eventually become completely reliant on alcohol. They will have a higher tolerance for alcohol, which means they will need a lot more to get the same “buzz” they are used to. They are significantly more prone to have deadly and unpleasant symptoms of withdrawal if they’re unable to drink due to alcohol’s effect on the brain.

When someone is dependent on alcohol, it becomes second nature for them to:

  • They will be unable to think of anything other than how badly they desire alcohol.
  • They may have attempted but failed to reduce their drinking habits.
  • They have symptoms of withdrawal ranging from shakiness to delirium.
  • Give up other activities in order to have more time to drink.
  • Regardless of the consequences, they keep drinking.
  • Gradually progress from binge drinking to persistent heavy drinking.
  • Being hung-over all the time and unable to work without alcohol

Once a person has developed an addiction to alcohol, more severe treatment methods are required to address the problem. This is why inpatient or outpatient rehabilitation programs come in handy.

Many individuals believe that while mental and physical dependence is not evident in all types of alcohol misuse, abusing alcohol is not the same as addiction to alcohol. Addiction is a desire to drink despite the health and socioeconomic impact, not only dependence on alcohol.

You might be suffering from alcoholism if you have felt like the same amount of alcohol doesn’t give the high that you were previously getting due to the development of tolerance to alcohol. You get a plethora of withdrawal symptoms (as discussed above) when you stop drinking.

Signs of alcoholism can vary with the amount of alcohol been consumed, the duration of time for which it was consumed, age, gender, underlying mental illness or chronic medical conditions, and whether or not it was consumed with other drugs.

Alcohol use disorder (AUD) is a clinical diagnosis for alcohol addiction that signifies dependence on alcohol, and it can be mild, moderate, or severe.

The classification of alcohol use disorder (AUD) is as follows:

  • Two to three symptoms are considered modest.
  • Four to five symptoms are considered moderate.
  • Six or more symptoms are considered serious.

To be diagnosed with AUD, a person must exhibit at least two of the ten primary symptoms listed below.

  • You haven’t been able to cut back on your drinking
  • Ended up drinking more than planned, or drank for longer periods of time than planned
  • Felt overcome by the want for another drink and found it difficult to concentrate.
  • Spent a lot of time drinking and then recovered from the consequences of drinking
  • Discovered that your drinking (or being sick as a result of drinking) has caused issues at school, work, or at home
  • Displayed a lack of enthusiasm for activities or hobbies that you previously enjoyed
  • Drank despite the fact that it was causing problems with family, friends, and other loved ones
  • Have you ever had mental or physical health issues as a result of how much you drink, or have you ever had memory blackouts?
  • You’ve observed that you need to drink more than you did to have the same results.
  • When the effects of alcohol have worn off, you may experience withdrawal symptoms (for example, trouble sleeping, shakiness, nausea, sweating, seizure, or racing heart).



The Balance RehabClinic is a leading provider of luxury addiction and mental health treatment for affluent individuals and their families, offering a blend of innovative science and holistic methods with unparalleled individualised care.


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