Alcohol Dependence vs Alcohol Addiction

Have you ever noticed that some people seem to be able to drink more than everyone else? Or that some people can keep on drinking alcohol without getting overly drunk?  Do you worry that you might be developing alcohol dependence?

Have you ever wondered why some people enjoy themselves after one or two drinks and then stop drinking?  They don’t seem to want to keep on drinking.  While for other people, one drink is never enough, and they just want more.

The answer lies in our brain and the way in which our brain has been genetically wired to react to alcohol. We need to understand that alcohol is a psycho active chemical.  This means that alcohol causes chemical interactions between the neurotransmitters within the brain.  And that the long term effects of drinking too much alcohol are not fully understood.

We each have our own individual reaction to the effects of alcohol.  And this is why it is not safe to prescribe a “safe level” of alcohol consumption.  Alcohol is a dangerous and addictive drug which is waiting to trap unwary victims.

What is the difference between Alcohol Dependence and Alcohol Addiction?

These two words can be used interchangeably when we observe someone’s inability or reluctance to stop drinking alcohol.

Alcohol Dependence

From a medical point of view, alcohol dependence is often the term used to describe a physical dependence on alcohol.  When a person feels the urge to drink alcohol to overcome physical symptoms due to a reaction to the withdrawal of alcohol.  This may include feelings of anxiety, inability to concentrate, sweating, or physical shaking which can increase to tremors.  The symptoms tend to be alleviated by consumption of alcohol, in ever increasing doses.  Yet the person does not appear to show psychological compulsion or craving to drink alcohol.

Alcohol Addiction

Alcohol Addiction on the other hand, as far as the medical definition goes, implies that a person displays the symptoms of the physical dependence to alcohol.  As well as the compulsive psychological urge to drink alcohol.

However, in reality, these terms tend to get confused depending on who we are talking about.  And yet there are very significant connotations for what we mean when we use the terms.

Alcoholic conjures up negative connotations of the negative outcomes of excessive use of alcohol.  And the appearance of someone to whom we’ve used the term.  When you hear the word alcoholic, unpleasant images may pop into your mind.

Functional Alcoholic just doesn’t sound as severe as someone who has been stricken by their addiction to alcohol.  But nevertheless, a functional alcoholic is at severe risk of becoming completely debilitated excessive consumption of alcohol.

Often we are inclined to use the words alcohol dependence in connection to someone who is drinking too much alcohol. But we are only really choosing to avoid the connotations of a much more negative outcome for the person.

Psychological Dependence vs. Physical Dependence

Alcohol Dependence How to Stop Binge Drinking

So the conversation seems to center around two different kinds of effects caused by alcohol:  physical and psychological.

Physical dependence is when you feel withdrawal symptoms that are severe enough to stop from quitting alcohol.  This can encourage you to have another drink of alcohol to make the withdrawal symptoms go away.  This is a vicious cycle caused by alcohol.

Psychological dependence occurs in because alcohol is a psycho-active chemical which interacts with the pleasure receptors in the brain.  These receptors suffer from a chemical imbalance in the brain such that you no longer derive happiness from everyday events.  This means that you are left with emotions that drive the search for happiness by drinking more alcohol.  Again, alcohol has created another vicious cycle, which will not stop when alcohol is involved.

So is Alcohol Dependence difference from Addiction?

If you want to use the term “alcohol addiction”, then that is up to you.  If you want to describe the problem as “alcohol dependence”, then that is okay also.  The problem here is not what we might choose to label it.  And not whether we choose to use words with bad connotations such alcoholic.  The problem is how we recognize someone who has become forever trapped by this insidious drug.

The problem with alcohol dependence is not with you and me – the problem is alcohol.

There is no need to label any differently those who are playing around the edge of the alcohol trap.  And there is no point in labeling those who have already fallen in.  We need to be able to recognize the risk of drinking too much alcohol for all of us.  We need to be able to objectively recognize the risk of alcohol dependence vs alcohol addiction.

And what we need to do to escape from the vicious cycle caused by alcohol

If you would like to read more about an easy way to quit alcohol.  Click here to download a free booklet about “How to stop drinking on your own”.

Also published on Medium.