Not All Those Who Drink Heavily Are Alcoholics
There is a clear distinction between alcohol abuse and alcohol addiction that can make a big difference in how treatment is approached. Knowing this difference is important if someone you know has a problem with alcohol.
There are various levels of drinking, starting with the casual social drinker. This person doesn’t have a problem with alcohol but rather has a reasonable drink every so often with friends or colleagues. Then there are the excessive drinkers and this is where we get into alcohol abuse. Binge drinking when you do have a glass is the first sign of a problematic relationship with alcohol. And studies have shown that this is where most alcohol problems exist. Actual alcoholism or alcohol addiction is a physical bio-dependency on the alcohol in order to avoid withdrawal symptoms and to continue feeling somewhat “normal” and healthy.
A study conducted by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health reviewed over 138,000 adults with various levels of alcohol trouble and found that 9 out of 10 heavy drinkers are not actually alcoholics.
They don’t have physical dependency issues and can be more easily treated. This tells us that most heavy drinking problems are not physical addictions but, rather, behavioral problems. These behaviors are often based on the social environment of drinking, in which our culture convinces us that heavy binge drinking is a requirement to have a good time.
Dr. Robert Brewer who led the study suggests that this calls for a renewal in our culture of a more positive relationship with alcohol, one that doesn’t reward excess but rather moderation. These results are not meant to suggest that it’s easy to change a behavioral pattern of unhealthy drinking, but rather that the detox won’t be as medically difficult in nature. It’s still going to be a struggle for someone with a drinking problem to make changes in their lives. But with the right understanding of their situation, we can all help them to improve their lives.