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What is the Difference Between Alcoholism and Problematic Drinking?

In the United States, alcohol is one of the most widely available and widely abused substances. For anyone over the age of 21, it is possible to obtain alcohol. The problem is that alcohol is addictive, and over time, occasional drinking can become problematic drinking. Most people, however, don’t know the difference between when drinking has become a problem and when a person has full-blown alcoholism. This makes it difficult to get proper treatment and to give the person the proper help and support they need to recover from their addiction. 

At Hillside Mission Recovery, we know that problem drinking and alcohol addiction goes hand in hand, and that’s why we want to do everything we can to give our clients and their families the tools they need to not only recognize the difference between alcoholism and problematic drinking, but how to know when you need help, and how to get alcohol addiction treatment near you. 

What is Alcoholism? 

Alcoholism or alcohol use disorder is defined as a chronic disease wherein a person cannot control the urge to drink alcohol or is preoccupied with thoughts of alcohol. Alcoholism, like any addiction, is a lifelong battle that many people struggle with every day. Alcoholism is not characterized by a specific number of drinks per day, but rather a compulsion to continue drinking or to drink despite the potential consequences. 

A person with alcoholism may exhibit severe withdrawal symptoms if they stop drinking, even if they have only been drinking for a short time. For these reasons, alcoholism can affect different people differently, with some individuals developing alcoholism after only a few drinks. 

The primary factor that determines if someone is suffering from alcoholism is their dependency on alcohol. Once a person has become dependent on alcohol in order to function on a daily basis, they are likely addicted to the point that they will need professional treatment. It is important to look for the signs like drinking every day or going out of the way to obtain alcohol if you suspect that a loved one may have alcoholism. 

What Defines Problematic Drinking? 

Problematic drinking occurs when a person goes over what is considered safe drinking standards on a continual basis. Depending on gender, it is typically considered safe to have one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men. Any more than seven drinks per week for women and 14 drinks per week is considered problematic drinking. 

Problematic drinking usually occurs as a gradual step up from usual or “safe” drinking. Problematic drinking can also occur if a person binge drinks, such as going out one night a week and consuming large amounts of alcohol. 

What is the Difference Between Alcoholism and Problematic Drinking? 

The difference between alcoholism and problematic drinking is that problematic drinking occurs as a person is on the way to developing alcoholism. In other words, problem drinking is the stepping stone to full-blown alcohol addiction. As the amount of alcohol increases, the risk of dependency increases, and the individual ultimately develops the addiction. 

The process can be gradual, or it can happen immediately, which is part of what makes alcoholism so difficult to detect.  

How Do I Know if I Need Help With My Drinking? 

As we’ve discussed, alcoholism is different for everyone, and it is not always easy to tell if you or someone you know has a problem with drinking, but there are some signs to look out for that act as early warning signals of a problem. 

If you notice yourself drinking more heavily as time passes, moving from one or two drinks to several when you go out, binge drinking instead of drinking naturally, or craving alcohol even when you wouldn’t normally be drinking, these are all signs that you are developing alcoholism. 

How to Get Alcohol Addiction Treatment Help Near Me

If you realize that you have a drinking problem, then the first thing to do is find a licensed treatment facility like HIllside MIssion Recovery. The only true way to get sober and stay that way is to get professional treatment. 

Hillside Mission is a luxury inpatient treatment facility that works with clients to deal with the root problems of the addiction rather than just treating the alcoholism itself. Through a variety of therapy options and medically supervised detox, we can put clients on a stable path of sobriety that they can continue long after treatment at our facility ends. 
If you or someone you know is suffering from alcoholism, contact us today!