Alcohol Abuse vs. Alcoholism: What is the Difference?


Many people use the terms ‘alcohol abuse’ and ‘alcoholism’ interchangeably, and while they are both related to excessive drinking, they are not the same. The line between alcohol abuse and alcoholism can be blurry, and many people can fall between the two.

In this blog, we will explore the distinctions between the two and the effects each can have on an individual’s health, career, and relationships. We will also look at alcohol use disorder, a medical condition affecting individuals who suffer from alcohol abuse and alcoholism. In addition, we will provide you with resources to help you regain control over your relationship with alcohol.

The Differences Between Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism

While alcohol abuse and alcoholism are related conditions, they are distinct. Nonetheless, each of them can lead to significant mental and physical health problems and affect an individual’s personal, social, and professional life.

Here are some differences between the two conditions:

Alcohol Abuse

Alcohol abuse is the second most common type of substance abuse in the United States. Because alcohol consumption is viewed as socially acceptable at social gatherings and work events, it can be challenging to spot the signs of alcohol abuse. Some of these signs include:

  • Binge drinking
  • Being unable to control the amount of alcohol you drink
  • Consuming alcohol in situations where it’s unsafe (e.g., when driving)
  • Engaging in risky behavior after drinking
  • Social, physical, and mental problems caused by alcohol


Alcoholism (also known as ‘alcohol dependence’) is a more severe form of alcohol abuse. The primary difference between alcohol abuse and alcoholism is that alcoholism is recognized as a medical condition, while alcohol abuse is not.

Alcoholism is characterized by a physical and psychological dependence on alcohol and can result in severe health and personal problems. Some of the signs of alcoholism include:

  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms (such as tremors, nausea, and sweating) when not drinking
  • A higher tolerance resulting in individuals consuming more alcohol to achieve the same effect
  • An inability to stop drinking alcohol despite significant health or personal problems
  • Cravings that result in an overwhelming desire to drink alcohol
  • Neglecting personal care such as hygiene and grooming

What is Alcohol Use Disorder?

Alcohol use disorder (AUD) is a medical condition characterized by a harmful pattern of drinking. It can range from mild to severe. Many individuals who abuse alcohol or have been diagnosed with alcoholism will experience the symptoms, including:

  • Inappropriate behavior
  • Unstable moods
  • Poor judgment
  • Alcohol withdrawal
  • Continuing to drink despite adverse effects
  • Difficulty in stopping or cutting down on alcohol

Are You Ready to Redefine Your Relationship with Alcohol and Lead Sober?

If you’re struggling with alcohol, it’s important to remember that you aren’t alone, and help is available. At Lead Sober, we understand the unique challenges of balancing a demanding career and personal life while struggling to overcome alcohol addiction. That’s why we’re dedicated to providing resources and support to help you lead a sober, successful life.

The first step isn’t easy, but it’s worth it. Contact us today and together, let’s begin the journey toward a happier, sober you.