Problem Drinking vs. Alcoholism: What’s the Difference?

You may have heard of the term problem drinking and wondered what exactly makes it different from alcoholism. How do you know if you’re a problem drinker or an alcoholic? What’s the difference?

The short answer is yes, there is a major difference between the two. Problem drinking is using alcohol in a way that can negatively impact your health and your life, but the body is not physically dependent on the substance. Alcoholism, on the other hand, most likely includes the physical addiction to alcohol in addition to the problems it may cause your health and your life.

For instance, a person may be a problem drinker if alcohol causes them to routinely miss work or school, but they can go days, weeks or months without drinking. An alcoholic usually cannot go a long period of time without needing to drink alcohol.

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Signs of Problem Drinking

So, how do you know if you are a problem drinker? Here are some of the most common warning signs.

You may be a problem drinker if alcohol:

  • Makes you miss important functions like class or work.
  • Causes you to avoid family or friends and become isolated.
  • Makes you feel depressed, angry or violent.
  • Causes you to spend money you don’t have and creates financial troubles.
  • Disrupts your relationships with family and friends.
  • Causes you to make unsafe decisions, such as partaking in unsafe sexual relations with someone you don’t know.
  • Causes you to do something illegal and/or get arrested due to your behavior.
  • Causes you to drive under the influence.
  • Causes you to have blackouts.

One of the differentiators between problem drinking and alcoholism is the physical dependency. If you can go long periods of time without the need for alcohol, you may not be an alcoholic. However, problem drinking has the capability to turn into alcoholism over time. If you think your drinking is out of control, it’s important to seek help before it gets worse.

There is no question that problem drinking and alcoholism can create negative consequences that disrupt your life. Don’t wait for it to get worse. Seek the alcoholism treatment you need to get back on track towards health today.

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