Definition of Alcoholism

Medically Reviewed By Kayla Loibl | Last Edited:  JANUARY 03,
| 4 Sources

While people commonly refer to the definition of alcoholism as excessive problem drinking, the illness is actually segmented into two categories for diagnostic purposes: alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence. Both do refer to drinking problems, but they differ in several key ways. When describing what is alcoholism, it’s important to understand the difference.

What is Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse?

With an alcohol abuse definition of alcoholism, the drinker refuses to stop consuming alcohol even when work, family, friends and other responsibilities are put at significant risk. Alcohol abusers can have legal problems such as drinking and driving.

They also may have problems with binge drinking (consuming six or more drinks during one sitting). They often become angry when questioned about their alcohol consumption and drink in secret.

An alcohol abuse condition is not the same as an addiction. However, it can easily lead to dependence or addiction without timely treatment. Catching it early can prevent many long-term health risks and other complications.

What is Alcoholism and Alcohol Dependence?

Alcohol dependence is a physically and emotionally addictive condition that can turn fatal if the drinker does not seek help before the progressive illness takes its toll.

Alcohol dependents spend a great deal of time drinking alcohol, and obtaining it. The illness is characterized by four main symptoms:

  1. Alcohol Cravings – Drinking alcohol is an all-encompassing need and overshadows every thought and ambition during waking hours. The alcoholic may feel extreme anxiety at the idea of running out of alcohol, such as over a weekend or holiday.
  2. Increasing Tolerance – The drinker needs to consume greater and greater quantities of alcohol to achieve the same effects.
  3. Loss of Control – The alcoholic is powerless over his or her actions or compulsion to drink. They continue drinking despite the consequences, which can be severe; serious health problems may result, marriages may break up, and so on.
  4. Physical Dependence – The body and brain become reliant on alcohol, which causes physical reactions or withdrawal when drinking stops. Withdrawal behavior may include nausea, irritability, tremors, and seizures.

Definition of Alcoholism Treatment?

No matter how you look at alcoholism, individuals suffering from either alcohol abuse or dependence require professional treatment that may include a variety of approaches designed to help the drinker become sober and maintain an alcohol-free lifestyle.

The first step in treatment is to seek the counsel of a qualified healthcare professional who can evaluate the health and condition of the individual, make a diagnosis and design an appropriate treatment program. You should find a healthcare professional that has experience and training in the field of alcoholism.

Depending on the individual’s condition and needs, treatment may include one or more of the following: intervention, residential or outpatient program, counseling, medication, nutrition management, and/or ongoing support program participation.

Medical care may also be needed, both for detoxification purposes and to treat ongoing health problems caused by alcoholism. What is alcoholism best treatment? Probably a combination of the above.

To find a qualified healthcare provider, you can ask your physician or contact a licensed counselor. You can find counselors in your telephone book. If you have health insurance, check your policy to see if they cover alcoholism treatment.

You’ll need to investigate their definition of alcoholism to determine whether or not they will pay for your treatment.

You should know that there is good treatment available. The definition of alcoholism used to be like a death sentence, but that is no longer the case. With treatment, alcoholics can live happy and productive lives.

Lead Writer/Reviewer : Kayla Loibl

Licensed Medical Health Professional 

I am a Mental Health Counselor who is licensed in both New York (LMHC) and North Carolina (LPC). I have been working in the Mental Health field since 2015. I have worked in a residential setting, an outpatient program and an inpatient addictions program. I began working in Long Island, NY and then in Guelph, Ontario after moving to Canada. Read More

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