Alcohol use is everywhere. Happy hour, movies, television shows, celebrations, picnics, you name it; alcohol is probably nearby, if not the main event. It’s nearly impossible to escape. In fact, in 2019, the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) revealed that 85.6% of U.S. adults admitted to drinking alcohol at some point in their lives.
Then 2020 happened, bringing alcohol sales up a whopping 234%. And that was only one month into the pandemic.
The repercussions are far-reaching.
As you can imagine, the number of American adults with a “drinking problem” skyrocketed as well. But how do you classify a drinking problem? What is alcoholism vs. alcohol abuse?
The line between the two can be challenging to define. And the clinical diagnosis of determining if someone has a drinking problem has evolved over time.
Today, you can define alcohol abuse vs. alcoholism by specifying the severity of your reliance on alcohol.
Alcohol Abuse vs. Alcoholism = AUD
Without diving deep into the semantics of alcohol abuse vs. alcoholism, you may think they mean the same thing. The two terms are often used interchangeably when referencing someone struggling with an alcohol problem. But there is a difference.
- Alcohol Abuse
This is a pattern of drinking resulting in harm to your health, relationships, or ability to work. If you deal with alcohol abuse vs. alcoholism, you may have experienced any of the following situations.
- Inability to fulfill home, work, or school responsibilities
- Drinking to the point of dealing with frequent legal problems
- Drinking in hazardous situations, like drinking and driving
- Continuing to drink despite problems caused or worsened by drinking alcohol
Alcohol abuse does not equal alcoholism. But it is a serious problem that needs to be addressed with professional alcohol treatment. If left unaddressed, it could lead to a more severe alcohol use problem. And that means dealing with alcoholism.
Alcohol abuse becomes alcoholism when your consumption of alcohol interferes with your mental and physical health. Also called alcohol dependence, alcoholism is a chronic disease and an addiction that negatively impacts all aspects of your life. If you suffer from alcoholism, you likely live your life battling the following symptoms.
- Inability to stop or even limit drinking alcohol
- Uncontrollable cravings for alcohol
- Continuing to drink even after experiencing psychological, interpersonal, and physical consequences time and time again
In 2013, the DSM-5 was updated. The DSM-5 is a manual used to assess and diagnose mental disorders. This is when the term “alcohol use disorder” (AUD) came on the scene. AUD is the clinical diagnosis given to anyone imbibing more than recommended and varies in intensity.
So what’s the suggested amount of alcohol to drink before it becomes a problem? According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, that means one drink or less per day for women and two drinks or less per day for men.
Beyond that, you may be given an AUD diagnosis. Whether that’s alcohol abuse vs. alcoholism, it’s best to get an official diagnosis from a medical professional.
Ranking AUDs on the DSM-5 Classification Scale
Upon the DSM-5’s 2013 revision, the two former categories of alcohol abuse vs. alcoholism went by the wayside. Today, when you search for “alcohol counseling near me,” you’ll find an alcohol treatment professional who will diagnose your level of AUD. Based on the DSM-5 AUD classification scale, they’ll use eleven criteria to determine if your AUD is mild, moderate, or severe.
Even if you aren’t yet in the services of a mental health professional, you can look at the criteria listed below. If you’ve experienced any of the two within the past 12 months, you have AUD and can benefit from searching for “alcohol counseling near me.”
- Drinking more as a result of your tolerance to alcohol
- Inability to cut back on the amount you consume
- Decreasing your participation in activities once important to you
- Continuing to drink even though alcohol has caused repeated problems with family or friends
- Getting sick for a long time due to drinking too much
- Drinking more or longer than intended
- Inability to care for your family, perform in school, or successfully hold down a job
- Experiencing alcohol withdrawal symptoms
- Craving alcohol to the point of obstructing your ability to concentrate
- Participating in harmful or dangerous activities due to drinking
- Continuing to drink alcohol despite depression, anxiety, blacking out, or other health problems
So, how’d you do? If you experienced at least two of the above, you have an AUD. Whether it’s mild, moderate, or severe depends on your score.
- Mild AUD: 2-3 signs
- Moderate AUD: 4-5 signs
- Severe AUD: 6+ signs
Even if you scored “mild” and are worried about how alcohol may be controlling your life, seeking help is more than a good idea. Whether you prevent or overcome an addiction to alcohol, getting a third party involved can only help.
Finding the Best Alcohol Treatment in San Diego
Realistically speaking, if you think you might have an issue with alcohol, you’re probably right. Whether you fall in the “mild,” “moderate,” or “severe” AUD category, a professional specializing in helping people like you break habits and overcome addiction is the smartest way to avoid further destruction in your life.
95,000 Americans die from the effects of alcohol every year. While you may only score two or three on the AUD scale, you could still put yours or another’s life in danger. And if not now, then perhaps in the future.
Along with individual therapy, we offer one of the most effective alcohol treatments in San Diego. Our intensive outpatient program (IOP) allows you to gain the skills and strategies to overcome your addiction.
What you achieve in alcohol counseling at BOLD Health will help you through your current situation. It also arms you to battle temptations in the future. (Not to mention, if you need us later on down the road, we’ll always be here for you.)
Our IOP in San Diego gives you the flexibility of a rigorous treatment program combined with the ability to go home at night. Over ten weeks, you’ll work with your designated clinician through individual and group therapy sessions. Your treatment program may also include medication management.
Please don’t brush off your alcohol dependence. Even if you don’t score high on the DSM-5, think of it as getting the help you need before things get worse. If you’re looking for the best alcohol treatment in San Diego, or even the best IOP in San Diego, BOLD Health is your answer. And we’re ready to help.