Alcoholism vs. Unhealthy Drinking: Is there a difference?

You may have heard someone once say,” I’m not an alcoholic; I’m just a lousy drunk,” and rolled your eyes. Is there a difference? You may have asked yourself. Well, there is.

This article will examine the difference between alcoholics and unhealthy drinkers and common signs to look for in an alcoholic.

If you picture yourself when reading the signs of an alcoholic and live in Indiana, please reach out to an Indianapolis alcohol rehab center.

What is Alcoholism?

Alcoholism is a disease where a person has a physical and mental dependence on alcohol; they are addicted to the substance.  A severe alcoholic will not be able to function without alcohol, and they will feel physically and mentally weaker without the substance.

This alcohol dependence can lead to various problems in an alcoholic daily life, such as emotional instability and a constant urge to have another drink. As alcoholics get deeper into their addiction, they build a higher tolerance to alcohol and consume more and more.

Alcoholics can go into withdrawal if they are denied alcohol for a period of time. Some of the withdrawal symptoms you may see are uncontrollable shaking, sweating, nausea, anxiety, depression, and insomnia.

Common Signs of Alcoholism

  • A constant urge to intake alcohol.
  • Drinking alcohol in dangerous situations, such as when you are driving.
  • Avoiding social activities and hobbies you used to enjoy to continue drinking.
  • It takes more and more drinks to satisfy your cravings.
  • You experience withdrawal symptoms when you stop drinking for a short time.

What is Unhealthy Drinking?

Unhealthy, or problem drinking, differentiates from alcoholism because an unhealthy drinker is not dependent on alcohol to function normally. Unhealthy drinking can still have a negative impact on the individual, however.

An unhealthy drinker experiences negative emotions and consequences as soon as they partake in alcohol. For example, an unhealthy drinker might be prone to fighting and arguing after drinking, or they may be more likely to fall into a deep depression. An unhealthy drinker may also be more likely to miss work or other important events and responsibilities after a night of a drink because they are more prone to intense hangovers.

Most concerning is that unhealthy drinkers may be more inclined to engage in reckless behavior such as driving under the influence, or fighting, which could have severe legal consequences.

However, unlike an alcoholic, an unhealthy drinker can go weeks or even months without consuming alcohol. They are not physically dependent on the substance, so they will not experience any withdrawal symptoms. But when they do drink, it can have a detrimental impact on their lives because they are unable to handle the mood changes alcohol provides.

Alcoholics and Unhealthy Drinkers Need To Be Careful

Just because we have established a difference between alcoholics and unhealthy drinkers doesn’t mean unhealthy drinkers should not worry about consuming alcohol. In fact, unhealthy drinkers who recognize their negative behaviors when under the influence but continue to partake in alcohol regularly are more likely to develop into alcoholics. If you classify yourself in any of these categories, please reach out to an Indianapolis alcohol rehab center.