All about Alcohol Dependency

When the phrase ‘Alcohol Dependency’ is used or we talk about someone having an alcohol problem, it doesn’t always mean that the person is an alcoholic. There are varying levels of problems of alcohol, ranging from occasional drinking at high, harmful levels through to extremely regular drinking of vast quantities of alcohol.

Not everyone who is alcohol dependent is an alcoholic, also a person doesn’t need to have reached an alcoholic level of drinking to benefit from treatment. Someone with a drinking problem doesn’t always show all the symptoms you’d expect someone with a dependency to have.

In the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM–5), under the diagnosis guidelines published by the American Psychiatric Association, there are 11 symptoms of alcohol use disorders. It states if someone displays only 2-3 of the 11 symptoms they can be diagnosed with a mild alcohol use disorder.

If a drinker exhibits 4-5 of the symptoms they are considered to have a moderate alcohol use disorder, and if they exhibit 6 or more symptoms, they are considered to be diagnosed with a severe alcohol use disorder.

Alcohol Abuse & Dependence

Mild, moderate, or severe alcohol use disorders is the terminology used in official medical diagnoses. You may be more familiar to the below terms for the three main types of alcohol problems:

  • Binge drinking
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Alcohol dependence (alcoholism)

Binge Drinking

This is the most common type of alcohol problem. Binge drinking is drinking harmful amounts of alcohol in one drinking session. Binge drinking is officially defined as drinking 4 or more standard alcohol drinks in one session for females and 5 or more for males.

This level of drinking is considered a problem as scientific research has discovered that consuming alcohol at the level can cause harm to your health. There are multiple ways that binge drinking can affect your health, from vomiting through to dehydration.

As such, engaging in binge drinking, even rarely, classes you as having an alcohol problem. Your drinking is considered hazardous to your health, though it doesn’t necessarily mean you have a severe problem or are an alcoholic.

University Binge Drinking

Binge drinking is common with 18 – 21 year olds attending university, this has resulted in the majority of research on binge drinking revolving around the drinking habits of university students. Research has showed that students who binge drink are:

  • They have more problems with law enforcement
  • They miss more classes
  • They are more likely to damage property
  • They increase they’re chances of getting injured
  • They experience more hangovers

The research has also suggested students who attend universities with higher rates of binge drinking experience more physical assaults and unwanted sexual advances.

Types of Binge Drinkers

University students are certainly not the only binge drinkers though. Researchers have discovered there are 9 distinct types of binge drinkers, all of those types drink at least twice the recommended daily amounts of alcohol for various reasons.

Alcohol Abuse

It’s common within young people to on occasion go out with friends and have too many drinks, this is classed as an alcohol problem. However, its when those drinking session begin causing you real problems in your life, and you begin to continue to drink dangerous amounts in spite of the negative consequences, is when your drinking turns into an alcohol abuse.

It is considered you have an alcohol abuse problem if you continue to drink in spite of:

  • Poor performance at school or work
  • Neglect of your responsibilities
  • In trouble with the law
  • Drinking while driving

If your drinking begins causing you problems in other areas of your life like socially or personal problems, and you continue to drink despite those reoccurring problems, then your level of alcohol consumption is considered to become abusive.

Alcoholism is considered a progressive disease, as a result of this, if you do not get help for your alcohol problem at this stage, you could be headed for much more severe problems.

Alcohol Dependence

Alcohol abuse can turn into alcohol dependence very quickly and usually does so along a predictable path. Not only do you continue to drink despite growing problems in your life, but continue after your alcohol consumption begins to affect you physically.

People who are alcohol dependent:

  • Continue to drink despite physical or psychological problems
  • Begin to crave alcohol when not drinking
  • Develop a tolerance for the effects of alcohol
  • Have withdrawal symptoms when not drinking

Once someone reaches the alcohol-dependent—or severe alcohol use disorder—stage, it is much more difficult for them to try to get and stay sober, because they have developed a physical addiction to and psychological dependence upon alcohol.

In short, they have become alcoholics. It is much easier to quit drinking before reaching the alcohol dependence stage, but unfortunately, many drinkers do not reach out for help until their drinking causes them overwhelming negative consequences, a phenomenon known as hitting bottom.

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