Alcoholism is not a clearly defined condition as the presentation differs among alcohol users. From alcohol abuse to alcohol addiction, the broad term of ‘alcoholism’ depends on the extent that alcohol usage is affecting a person’s health and social functioning.
Definition of Alcoholism
Alcoholism is a chronic, progressive disease characterized by a dependence on alcohol failing which the user may display a range of physiological and psychological signs and symptoms.
Criteria to Define Alcoholism
The criteria for defining alcoholism may be useful in differentiating alcohol abuse from alcohol addiction (alcoholism) and the point at which intervention and treatment should be sought.
- Addiction, compulsion or a need to consume alcohol despite health risks and social consequences.
- Increasing tolerance to alcohol – needs more alcohol to achieve desired effect.
- Inability to limit one’s alcohol consumption – ‘drink till you drop’ mentality or until displaying rowdy, drunken behavior.
- Craving for alcohol – displays withdrawal symptoms if craving is not satisfied with alcohol consumption.
It is important to identify different behaviors exhibited by alcohol consumers as not all can be labeled as alcoholism.
Types of Alcohol Abuse
Binge drinkers may drink occasionally but usually drink in excess and do not limit their intake. This type of behavior is often seen in the late teens or early adulthood associated with the user’s social circle. A binge drinker usually does not allow their alcohol consumption to affect their health or level of social functioning in terms of occupation, academics or relationships.
Alcohol abusers are just short of alcohol dependence (alcoholism) and may not exhibit physical withdrawal symptoms should they stop consuming alcohol although they do experience a craving for alcohol. They often let their excessive alcohol intake affect affect their health and social functioning but are able to stop or limit their alcohol consumption with proper counseling and guidance.
An addiction to alcohol is typical of any substance abuse and a person with an alcohol addiction is often referred to as an ”alcoholic’. Similar to other addictions, an alcoholic will allow their dependence to affect every aspect of their life, including their health and social functioning. Alcoholics may also display anti-social behavior when under the influence of alcohol and may even resort to criminal behavior to support their addiction.
Article reviewed by Dr. Greg. Last updated on June 3, 2009