Alcohol Dependence vs Alcohol Abuse: Understanding the Differences

Rather, the manual defines substance abuse disorders as mild, moderate, or severe. We will help manage the physical effects of addiction through medically supervised detoxification. As we help you wean off drugs or alcohol, we address painful withdrawal symptoms and ensure your safety throughout this challenging process. Sometimes, drug dependence and addiction are accompanied by underlying mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety, eating, trauma, and stress-related disorders.

However, there are clear differences between the two terms, several of which deal with the chemical effects that happen to addicted persons. Alcohol abuse is a different disorder, less severe than alcohol dependence, but still dangerous. A person with alcohol abuse disorder may not be in as much trouble as someone who is already dependent on alcohol, but the condition can still be very dangerous. The kind of behavior that constitutes alcohol abuse can lead to the issues listed above, and someone who has an alcohol use disorder of this kind might experience any of the symptoms above except for dependence. As I’d mentioned in earlier posts, our current best notions about addiction are that the process involves some obvious physical and psychological processes and some much more subtle effects on learning that are still being studied. A study I’m currently conducting is meant to test whether drugs interfere with some of the most basic learning processes that are meant to limit the amount of control that rewards have over behavior.

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Dependence is the most accurate term, though, because a person is not only psychologically dependent on alcohol to help them relieve stress but also physically dependent on the substance as well. This individual would experience withdrawal symptoms if they were to stop drinking, which is one of the most important distinctions to remember. Dependence is defined as a psychological and physical reliance on a substance and losing control of substance abuse.

There is a difference between alcohol abuse and dependence, but what separates these alcohol use disorders does not come down to just one difference or one issue. It is important to assess your situation as an individual and decide which factors you recognize as being a part of your alcohol abuse. Substances that mimic the effects of illegal drugs may help reduce the symptoms of withdrawal during treatment. Detox programs use a combination of therapy and medical treatment to ease dependence and treat the disorder. Ongoing therapy sessions may be needed after you’re released from a treatment program. All in all, the only way to look at Addiction is as both a psychological addiction AND a physical addiction that are inextricably liked through our psyche’s presence in the brain, a physical part of the body.

Types of Addiction

Alcohol dependence was originally defined as a chronic medical condition characterized by experiencing symptoms of withdrawal when the person stops consuming alcohol. To avoid experiencing withdrawal symptoms, the person has to keep consuming alcohol. Addiction is marked by a change in behavior caused by the addiction vs dependence biochemical changes in the brain after continued substance abuse. Substance use becomes the main priority of the addict, regardless of the harm they may cause to themselves or others. An addiction causes people to act irrationally when they don’t have the substance they are addicted to in their system.

These physical abnormalities persist long into the recovery process making it all but impossible for a person to maintain abstinence on an ongoing basis. I suppose that some people would have an addiction problem if they were to take some of the meds I take. I’ve never had a problem with addiction, to drugs or alcohol or nicotine or a behavioral addiction.