Is Alcoholism The Same As Alcohol Addiction?

Alcoholism and alcohol addiction have often been conflated on the strength of a few superficial similarities, but some significant differences need to be clarified. Alcoholism is a severe medical disorder caused by chronic and excessive intake of alcohol, while alcohol addiction can refer to almost any type of substance abuse. Alcoholism has traditionally been considered a progressive disease, while alcohol addiction is usually seen as a matter of personal responsibility or free will. This piece will look at the differences between alcoholism and alcohol addiction to understand them better.

Key Differences Between Alcoholism and Alcohol Addiction

Genetic Basis

The primary cause of alcoholism, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), is a genetic predisposition that makes people vulnerable to alcoholism. In comparison, substance use disorders are typically caused by genetic and environmental factors. The presence of the gene for alcoholism is estimated at 48%, while the rates for alcohol addiction vary from 76% to 88%. However, many cases can be attributed to environmental factors as well.

The Showing Symptoms

Although alcoholism and alcohol addiction produce similar symptoms, the intensity is different in each case. The signs of alcoholism can be vague, such as a person becoming picky about food or using the term “sipping” to describe alcohol consumption. In some cases, withdrawal from socializing or spending time with family and friends can also be considered alcoholism. Some of the symptoms of alcoholism include spending a lot of time drinking, being unable to cut down on alcohol intake, giving up activities in favor of drinking, and staying drunk for longer periods. Alcohol addiction has more obvious signs, as it often manifests itself in physical symptoms like insomnia, sweating, and tremors.

The Treatment

Alcohol treatment is mainly focused on getting the patient to reduce their intake of alcohol. Treatment for alcohol addiction is usually centered around rehab centers, medications, and cognitive behavioral therapy. Alcoholism is more chronic and progressive, while alcohol addiction can sometimes be treated through counseling and psychotherapy. More information on treatments for each disorder can be found in this article on dealing with alcoholism.

The Long Term Effects

Although both alcohol use and alcoholism have long-term effects, alcoholism often causes more health problems than alcohol addiction. Alcoholism can also make it harder for the patient to quit drinking due to the medical complications that it causes. Common long-term effects include liver disease, brain damage, and heart problems. In comparison, alcohol abuse is usually not life-threatening. Alcohol addiction is an issue that many people juggle throughout their life and will continue to affect them for years after quitting drinking. However, it will not cause any long-term medical complications.

Family History

Family history plays a major role in alcoholism but only a minor part in alcohol addiction. According to the NIAAA, genetics has a stronger impact on alcoholism than other addictions. Some of the disorders that can run in families and trigger alcoholism include depression and anxiety disorders. Other things that could cause alcoholism include anxiety, depression, and personality disorders. On the other hand, although genetics can trigger alcohol addiction, environmental factors such as childhood abuse are generally more important in causing it.

The Prevalence

The prevalence of alcoholism is estimated to be 2.6% in the United States, while alcohol addiction is unknown but believed to be much smaller than that of alcoholism. According to the NIAAA, over 21 million people in the United States suffer from alcohol addiction. In comparison, there are only 42 million people with alcoholism. This can be partially attributed to the fact that alcohol addiction is a more recent phenomenon than alcoholism, and many people do not realize they have it until they reach recovery.

In conclusion, alcoholism and alcohol addiction have many similarities but significant differences. Although alcoholism is a disease that could cause long-term effects on the body, alcohol addiction is not always a disease. There can be genetic factors that make an individual vulnerable to alcoholism. However, the amount of risk will vary from person to person. As alcohol addiction can be treated through counseling and psychotherapy, it is, therefore, easier to treat than alcoholism would be. Call us today at 833-497-3812.