Not everyone who becomes an alcoholic starts out exhibiting the tell-tale signs of alcohol addiction. In fact, even those who have a genetic predisposition for alcoholism are not born with the disease. Alcohol abuse has to occur in order to lead to alcoholism, and if someone in your life seems to be abusing alcohol in a problematic way, it’s very possible that this could eventually end up being the course their life takes, especially if they do not seek help.
In short, alcohol abuse can lead to alcoholism, which requires treatment in the form of alcohol detox followed by rehab. Our alcohol detox in Florida program is effective for helping people get a handle on their alcohol addictions and build strong recoveries. But how does alcohol abuse lead to alcoholism and how can you prevent it from setting in before it happens?
What is Alcohol Abuse?
Alcohol abuse is a behavior that is characterized by the dangerous use of alcohol. This includes any kind of drinking that is not considered moderate drinking. As defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, moderate drinking is defined as one standard drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men, all of whom must be over 21 when engaging in drinking.
A standard drink is different depending on the kind of alcohol you are drinking. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism includes this chart on the amounts of different types of alcohol that make up a standard drink:
- 12 fl oz of beer
- 8-9 fl oz of malt liquor
- 5 fl oz of table wine
- 1.5 fl oz (or a shot) of spirits (including gin, whiskey, rum, vodka, tequila, etc.)
Men who drink more than two of these per day or women who drink more than one per day can be considered to be abusing alcohol. Anyone who drinks under the age of 21, drives or operates any other type of heavy machinery while intoxicated or drinking, or does not follow the other laws associated with safe and legal alcohol use, can also be considered to be abusing alcohol.
Do I Abuse Alcohol?
According to the NIAAA, a 2015 study found that 86.4 percent of individuals aged 18 and older reported having used alcohol at some point in their lifetime. As a result, likely, most people who drink or have used alcohol in their lifetime have abused alcohol.
Think about your life. Have you ever had more than one or two drinks on the same day? Have you ever started drinking just to get drunk? Have you ever become intoxicated enough to feel a serious difference between yourself before and after drinking? If you answered yes to these questions, you have probably abused alcohol at some point in your life.
How is Alcohol Abuse Different from Alcoholism?
Alcohol abuse and alcoholism are not the same. Many people abuse alcohol and do not become alcoholics, even if they abuse it consistently. But, unfortunately, there is still a serious link between these issues.
When you abuse alcohol, you do not use the substance moderately. A person might only abuse alcohol once, but because the substance has addictive properties, this is unlikely. As a symptom of alcohol abuse, you might experience issues like those listed by the National Library of Medicine, which include: * Cravings for alcohol. * An inability to control your drinking or to stop once you’ve started. * Growing tolerance for the effects of the substance. * Problems at home, work, or school. Still, some people abuse alcohol and might not experience any serious problems until later.
Alcoholism is a disease. It requires treatment in an alcohol detox facility and later at an alcohol rehab center. All of the problems that can be associated with alcohol abuse are also associated with alcoholism and are generally much worse. Alcoholism causes dependence, which results in withdrawal symptoms if you stop drinking. These symptoms can be mild or severe, depending on several variables.
How Does Alcohol Abuse Lead to Alcoholism?
Alcohol abuse leads to alcoholism the same way drug abuse leads to drug addiction. This process is well illustrated by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Generally, when a person begins drinking, they may or may not do so in moderation. However, if they enjoy drinking, they may begin drinking more often and in greater amounts. This is how alcohol abuse forms without the individual even knowing they are abusing alcohol. The substance is so prevalent in our culture; people are always encouraged to drink at social functions or to celebrate an occasion. Most of the time, these occasions allow for the use of more than a moderate amount of alcohol.
Over time, the consistent use of alcohol causes changes to the brain. This makes the individual tolerant to the sensations they experience while drinking, meaning they have to drink more to experience the same effects. They may also start to feel that they can’t enjoy themselves unless they are drinking, which can lead to cravings and uncontrolled use of alcohol.
Eventually, the individual cannot stop drinking on their own and will experience severe physical and psychological symptoms if they attempt to do so. This is when alcohol abuse becomes involuntary leading to alcoholism.
How Can I Prevent Alcoholism?
If you are concerned about a friend or family member’s (or your own) drinking habits, there are many steps you can take to prevent alcoholism in yourself or someone you love. According to the CDC, these include:
- Following the dietary guidelines of moderate drinking.
- Taking control of your own drinking.
- Choosing to drink less and discussing this with others so they can be influenced by your decision.
- Refusing to give someone alcohol when you feel they have had too much to drink.
- Avoiding letting children and teens drink alcohol, as this is illegal and their brains are still developing, which could cause them to become addicted more quickly.
- Being supportive of actions in your local, state, and federal government and your community to prevent alcohol abuse and alcoholism.
Unfortunately, though, someone else’s alcohol use is not something you can fully control. And if you drink yourself, even if you do put certain precautions in place, any kind of alcohol abuse is still abuse, and there is always a possibility of it turning to alcoholism.
What Should I Do if Someone I Love Becomes Addicted to Alcohol?
If you or someone you love is already addicted to alcohol and needs help for alcoholism, it’s important to seek professional help. For one, alcohol is extremely prevalent in our current society, and someone who tries to quit can be easily swayed to returning to alcohol abuse. For another, alcohol withdrawal is extremely unpredictable and can become dangerous—and even life-threatening—very quickly. Being in treatment is necessary for safe and effective detox and recovery.
At Summer House Detox Center, we offer inpatient detox where alcoholics can gain a stable recovery and learn the ways to maintain sobriety outside of treatment. We focus on detox, but we are also willing to help you find the alcohol rehab program you need after your detox has ended.