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How Do I Know My Alcohol Abuse Has Become an Addiction?

If you are a consistent alcohol abuser, it may be time to ask yourself if your drinking has crossed into the realm of addiction. If you believe you need help in order to stop drinking, call 800-481-6965 (Who Answers?) now; we can help you find safe, effective rehab programs that will cater to your needs.

Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism: What’s the Difference?

Any type of alcohol use where a person imbibes beyond the safe limit consistently can potentially be considered an alcohol use disorder (or AUD). According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, low-risk drinking limits include

  • No more than 4 drinks for men or 3 for women on a single day.
  • No more than 14 drinks for men or 7 for women per week.

When a person begins to drink more than this, they put themselves at risk for developing an AUD. As also stated by the NIAAA, “Approximately 7.2 percent or 17 million adults in the United States ages 18 and older had an AUD in 2012.”

Still, there is a distinct difference between the abuse of alcohol and the full-blown dependency on it that is akin to drug addiction, also called alcoholism. In the first case, a person may have bad habits toward their use of the substance. They may drink too much too often, binge drink, and/or experience problems consistently as a result of their alcohol use. This often requires treatment but is not as severe as the alternative.

Alcoholism, as defined by the National Council on Alcohol and Drug Dependence, “is a primary, chronic disease with genetic, psychological and environmental factors influencing its development and manifestations” (Office of Personnel Management). The disease itself is similar to drug addiction and can be fatal. This is why it is extremely important to understand the difference between these two disorders and the severity of alcoholism, which can eventually occur from alcohol abuse or problem drinking.

How Can I Recognize Alcoholism?

Alcohol Abuse Has Become an Addiction

If you rely on alcohol to feel good, you’re likely addicted.

There are a number of ways in which you can recognize this disease and understand that it is affecting your life more intensely than the effects of a milder AUD or problematic drinking habits. According to the National Library of Medicine, these include:


  • If you consistently experience strong cravings when you are unable to drink, this is a clear sign of addiction.
  • Drinking heavily and consistently changes the way the brain works just like consistent drug abuse, and eventually, those who experience this issue will start to feel that they cannot enjoy themselves or feel happy unless they can drink.

Physical dependence and withdrawal

  • One of the most dangerous signs of alcohol addiction is a physical dependence on the substance. This means experiencing intense physical side effects when you stop drinking and potentially even become very ill.
  • According to the NLM, withdrawal from the substance can include symptoms such as
    • Shakiness
    • Anxiety
    • Mood swings
    • Nightmares
    • Confusion and the inability to think clearly
    • Irritability
    • Depression
    • Fatigue
    • Headache
  • There is even a severe form of alcohol withdrawal known as delirium tremens that can be deadly.

How to Turn Your Alcohol Abuse into Recovery


  • Tolerance is the result of drinking heavily and consistently over a long period of time. Eventually, the individual will need to drink more in order to experience the same effects.
  • Tolerance occurs with other types of substance abuse as well, and in most cases, people will continue to use more in order to get the effects they seek.

Loss of control

  • This is the strongest sign of alcoholism, as it illustrates an addiction that cannot be restrained.
  • Those who are unable to control their substance abuse often continue to drink dangerous amounts, causing them to experience severe physical and psychological side effects, as well as problems in their personal and professional lives.

What Do I Do?

If you believe yourself to be suffering from alcoholism based on the signs above, it is important to seek treatment immediately in order to safely recover. Even if you believe that you are not yet an alcoholic, you may still need help in order to learn how to cut back or stop entirely. Call 800-481-6965 (Who Answers?) today to find safe, effective rehab programs for substance abuse and addiction.

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