Author: James Anderson

Binge Drinking vs Alcoholism: What’s the Difference?

Difference Between Alcohol Use and Alcoholism

” then you might want to know the difference between a drinking problem and alcoholism, also known as alcohol addiction or alcohol use disorder (AUD). As alcohol abuse and alcoholism differ, so do the right treatment options for people with these conditions. However, with both alcohol abuse and alcoholism, these feelings are less effective over time as a person’s drinking habits increase. If you feel that you sometimes drink too much alcohol, or your drinking is causing problems, or if your family is concerned about your drinking, talk with your health care provider. Other ways to get help include talking with a mental health professional or seeking help from a support group such as Alcoholics Anonymous or a similar type of self-help group.

  1. Alcoholism is a non-medical term used most often in everyday language and within the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous.
  2. Combined with medications and behavioral treatment provided by health care professionals, mutual-support groups can offer a valuable added layer of support.
  3. Many of the effects of drinking every day can be reversed through early intervention.
  4. A person with alcoholism may drink every day, multiple times a day, may start their day with alcohol, end it with alcohol, and may not be able to go a day without drinking.

Treatment can be outpatient and/or inpatient and be provided by specialty programs, therapists, and health care providers. We’re going to break it down further, and share why the term “alcohol use disorder,” or “AUD,” is preferred by the medical community and the team at Monument. If a person has mild abuse issues, they may be able to join a support group, such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). They may need accountability to reduce drinking and avoid developing an AUD.

Copyright © 2024, The information provided by is not a substitute for professional medical advice. View our editorial content guidelines to learn how we create helpful content with integrity and compassion. A person with alcoholism may spend a lot of time thinking about drinking or how to hide their drinking. They may not feel comfortable at social events if alcohol is not available. Alcohol misuse or abuse can lead to alcohol use disorder, a condition difficult to overcome without proper help, support, and treatment. If a person abuses alcohol, they are drinking more than the recommended amount for safe drinking habits by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

What’s the Difference Between Binge Drinking and Alcohol Use Disorder?

You’ve likely heard multiple terms to describe unhealthy alcohol use, including alcoholism, alcohol abuse, alcohol addiction, alcohol dependence, and perhaps more recently, alcohol use disorder. Alcohol use disorder is a clinical term and diagnosable condition, whereas, alcoholism is a non-medical term used to describe unhealthy alcohol use. The latter has primarily been used in AA and traditional rehab programs. Binge drinking is defined as a pattern that brings your blood alcohol concentration level up to .08 percent or higher in a two-hour time period. While binge drinking and heavy drinking aren’t the same as alcohol use disorder, these drinking habits may be a risk factor for developing AUD. Not to mention, the potential effects of binge drinking can be dangerous even without an AUD diagnosis.

Notably, this update added craving alcohol and eliminated experiencing legal problems as symptoms, and also described a spectrum of mild, moderate, and severe AUD (4). Whether or not you meet any criteria for AUD, you can always benefit from support to change your relationship with alcohol. With online alcohol treatment, you can get expert guidance on your own terms and from the comfort of your own home. In addition to our alcohol-related vocabulary changing over time, so have our treatment options. Still, both patterns of drinking can lead to health concerns and affect your overall well-being and quality of life.

If you have developed alcohol dependence and decide to quit drinking, you can expect to experience withdrawal symptoms. According to information from the National Institutes of Health, these discomforts usually peak 24 to 72 hours after your last drink, but they may last for weeks. The official move away from the terms “abuse” and “dependence” in the DSM-5 is also reflective of a shift in how professionals talk about alcohol and substance use. The language used in the past often served to stigmatize people who are affected by alcohol use disorder. This included people who engaged in excessive drinking and binge drinking.

The importance of recognizing AUD as a medical condition

You might not recognize how much you drink or how many problems in your life are related to alcohol use. Listen to relatives, friends or co-workers when they ask you to examine your drinking habits or to seek help. Consider talking with someone who has had a problem with drinking but has stopped. Treatment tends to have more benefit when you address unwanted patterns of drinking sooner rather than later.

Difference Between Alcohol Use and Alcoholism

Keep in mind, too, that AUD can have effects that extend beyond your physical health. According to the World Health Organization’s Global Status Report on Alcohol and Health 2018, roughly 70 percent of alcohol-attributable deaths happen as a result of health issues. Even though alcohol is legal in most places, it’s still a toxin, and a potent one at that. If you spend most workdays hungover, daydreaming of the glass of wine you’ll have as soon as you get home, that’s still a concern. It doesn’t matter how tiny the glass is, or how little you drink before becoming intoxicated. Of course, these categories offer only guidelines, not hard-and-fast criteria.

What Is an Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD)?

A person with alcoholism may drink every day, multiple times a day, may start their day with alcohol, end it with alcohol, and may not be able to go a day without drinking. Essentially, alcoholism is the point at which alcohol abuse becomes alcohol addiction. Alcohol abuse, also called problem drinking, occurs when drinking alcohol becomes an issue that creates negative consequences for a person. Daily drinking can have serious consequences for a person’s health, both in the short- and long-term. Many of the effects of drinking every day can be reversed through early intervention.

Changing Terminology

We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers. You may have also heard the term ‘alcohol dependence,’ which was previously diagnosed per the DSM-IV. If you’re asking yourself, “why does it matter how we label unhealthy drinking?