Alcoholism and addiction are often held in different categories. Alcoholism refers to the chemical dependency on alcohol whereas addiction indicates a chemical dependency on drug substances, or other substances. However, in terms of neurobiology and how chemical dependency works in the brain, there is little to no difference between how drugs work and how alcohol works. Alcohol addiction is another way of saying alcoholism. People take the way they define themselves in recovery quite seriously. In the community of twelve step programs, for example, there is a difference in the way people introduce themselves at AA meetings, Alcoholics Anonymous, and NA meetings, Narcotics Anonymous. Most people in both programs have had problems with both drugs and alcohol. Yet, it is an unwritten faux pas to introduce yourself as an “addict” at an AA meeting and an “alcoholic” at an NA meeting. Describing abstinence in AA uses the term “sober” whereas describing abstinence in NA uses the term “clean”. Though both fellowships advocate abstinence from all mind altering substances and use the same 12 steps, there is a cultural difference. If you are questioning whether you might be an alcoholic or have a problem with alcohol, there is a difference between alcohol abuse and alcohol addiction, or, alcoholism. Many people experience unhealthy relationships with alcohol during an abusive period in their lives and go to treatment. After examining why they have this unhealthy relationship with alcohol, they are able to return to a normal manner of drinking which does not include abuse. For those who become chemically dependent, on the other hand, there is no such thing is going back to a normal manner of drinking. The brain is programmed to recognize alcohol and crave more of it. Alcohol addiction is when the body and the brain are in need of consuming alcohol in order to function. Alcohol abuse includes high volumes of drinking which lead to negative consequences, but do not involve the symptoms of chemical dependency like cravings and/or withdrawals. The hallmark difference between alcohol abuse and alcoholism is that someone who has developed an abusive relationship with alcohol will be able to stop drinking on their own, if not with some difficulty. Someone who has developed a chemical addiction to alcohol cannot stop.
If you are having problems quitting alcohol, you are not alone. Oceanfront Recovery is a mens’ treatment program offering a full continuum of residential care from detox to transitional living. Our intensive programs empower men in their self-efficacy and ability to live autonomously without alcohol dependence. For information, call us today: 877.279.1777