Alcohol Dependence, Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism are three terms that sometimes are used interchangeably while sometimes they are referred as meaning different things.
The problem with the term “alcoholism” is the fact that it has many definitions and some of them are compatible with alcohol dependence or alcohol abuse. Alcoholism is a broad term describing problems with alcohol.
Usually it describes out of control consumption of alcohol that affects the social life and the health of a person. Maybe the most notable difference between alcohol abuse and alcoholism is that alcohol abuse includes short-term abuse like binge drinking.
In DSM IV alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence are different disorders.
Though alcohol abuse leads to alcohol dependence, in the DSM-5 alcohol dependence and alcohol abuse are combined into a new disorder Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD). The severity is graded depending on how many criteria are met. For example if adolescents meet 2 or 3 criteria the diagnosis will be similar to alcohol abuse in DSM IV.
If the adolescent will meet 4 or more criteria he will get a diagnosis similar to alcohol dependence diagnosis in DSM IV.
In DSM-IV craving was not included as a criterion of diagnosis and it was added in DSM V. Also the legal problems were a criterion in DSM IV and were eliminated as a criterion in DSM V.
Anyway, alcohol use has major negative effects on the human body and it affects every organ in the body including the brain. It comes with both long-term and short-term risks. For example driving and alcohol are considered alcohol abuse.
Short term alcohol abuse includes risks such as injuries, social problems, unprotected sexual activities, violence and financial problems.
Short term alcohol abuse includes binge drinking which is associated with impaired memory and neurocognitive deficits affecting mostly the frontal lobe.
Psychiatric disorders are pretty common among alcoholics and long-term misuse of alcohol leads to many mental health problems. Cognitive problems are pretty common among people with alcohol problems.
Alcohol misuse is associated with about 10% of all dementia cases and it is the second leading cause of dementia. Excessive alcohol consumption over a long period of time affects psychological health and damages brain functions.
Reasons Why People Become Alcoholics?
As the prefrontal cortex of the brain is deeply affected by the neurotoxic effect of the alcohol, the social skills are deeply affected. Social skills impairment is very common among alcoholics.
People affected by alcohol misuse have problems understanding humor, perceiving facial emotions and prosody perceptions problems. Most often people are affect by depression and anxiety.
Panic disorder, bulimia, borderline personality disorder and post traumatic disorder are the most common problems among alcoholics. Women who have problems with alcohol are very likely to have a history of domestic violence, sexual and physical assault.
Men with alcohol problems are very likely to get a diagnosis of mental problems such as schizophrenia, antisocial personality disorder, attention deficit or bipolar disorder.
Alcoholism is linked with serious social problems with law including criminal offences such as rape, assault, child abuse, domestic violence and burglary. The behavior while drunk can be harmful to people around and might lead to isolation from friends and family. Then it might lead to other psychological problems.
In order to withdraw from alcohol people might need specialist assistance of a psychologist or a psychiatrist. In case of a history of long term misuse of alcohol the withdrawal carries the risk of severe symptoms that might even cause death.
Sometimes withdrawal leads to death even with treatments. People with alcohol problems should quit before it’s too late. And if someone notices someone with alcohol problems they should help them as soon as possible.