Alcohol Abuse Basics


Alcohol Abuse Facts. One of the alcohol abuse facts is this: alcohol abuse is a pattern of drinking that can result in ongoing alcohol-related relationship difficulties and the failure to attend to important responsibilities at home, school, or work.

Furthermore, alcohol abuse can result in the experience of recurring alcohol-related legal problems (such as multiple DUIs) and alcohol-related physical injury during a twelve-month time frame.

Interestingly, many people need to be presented with alcoholism and alcohol abuse statistics so that they can grasp the negative consequences of alcohol abuse and alcoholism. Indeed, various alcoholism and alcohol abuse statistics paint a dreary picture of the devastation and destruction caused by chronic hazardous and excessive drinking.

If you abuse alcohol, you could be gambling with your life. How is this possible, you ask?

Similar to what happens when people abuse other drugs, many individuals who drink excessively, who binge drink even a few times per year, or who regularly abuse alcohol for whatever reason and in any fashion can, unfortunately, ultimately become addicted to alcohol.

Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism

Many people mistakenly think that alcohol abuse and alcoholism are the same. This is incorrect. While alcoholism and alcohol abuse are similar in many ways, there are significant differences between these two forms of problem drinking.


The main difference between alcohol abuse and alcoholism is that alcohol abuse, though similar to alcoholism, does not necessarily include a strong craving for alcohol, tolerance, and the loss of control. Additionally, alcohol abuse, unlike alcoholism, does not include physical dependence.

In fact, perhaps the main difference between alcoholism and alcohol abuse is the existence of alcohol withdrawal symptoms when the alcoholic suddenly stops drinking. These alcohol withdrawal symptoms, conversely, do not usually take place when an alcohol abuser who is not alcohol dependent quits drinking.

An Alcohol Abuse Definition

As a result of the misunderstanding about the relationship between alcohol abuse and alcoholism an alcohol abuse definition is in order.

  • Experiencing habitual alcohol-related legal problems such as multiple DUIs.

  • Drinking in situations that can lead to physical injury. Examples include drinking while driving a vehicle or operating machinery.

  • Repeated drinking despite ongoing alcohol-related relationship problems.

  • Failure to attend to important responsibilities at work, school or college, or home.

A Definition of Alcoholism

To understand the differences between alcoholism and alcohol abuse, a definition of alcoholism will be provided.

Also known as alcohol dependence or alcohol addiction, alcoholism is a disease that includes the following four components:

  • Tolerance: The need to drink more and more alcohol in order to experience the "buzz" or the "high."

  • Craving: A strong and recurring urge or need to drink.

  • Loss of control: The lack of control to limit one's drinking on any given occasion or over time.

  • Physical dependence: the experience of withdrawal symptoms when drinking is abruptly stopped. The following represent some of the more common alcohol withdrawal symptoms: anxiety, headaches, sweating, "the shakes," nausea, and vomiting.

Some Causes of Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse

Many individuals have openly wondered why some individuals can drink alcohol without experiencing any major problems or effects while others cannot. In short, what are some of the causes of alcohol abuse and alcoholism?

One answer to this thorny issue involves genetics. More specifically, as found in the alcoholism and alcohol abuse literature, researchers have uncovered the fact that people who have an alcoholic family member have an increased risk of developing alcohol abuse and alcoholism.

In fact, there might be a genetic predisposition for certain individuals to become "problem drinkers."

Furthermore, alcohol abuse and alcoholism researchers have uncovered the fact that certain environmental aspects can interact with one's genetics--the result being that both of these factors can influence various alcohol-related consequences such as alcoholism and alcohol abuse.

Examples of these environmental aspects include the following: peer pressure, an individual's culture, where and how a person lives, an individual's family and friends, and the relative ease of obtaining alcohol.

Sadly, once alcohol abuse and alcoholism starts, in many cases, they continue and frequently result in social, health, and legal problems. It is also regrettable to point out that in many instances, it is our youth and teens who experience alcohol abuse and alcoholism, especially those who attend high school and college.

Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse Statistics

Regrettably, the full impact of the damaging and devastating consequences of alcoholism and alcohol abuse are not usually comprehended until people are introduced to some of the relevant alcoholism and alcohol abuse statistics. As a consequence, the following alcoholism and alcohol abuse statistics are provided.

  • Alcohol dependence and alcohol abuse cost the United States an estimated $220 billion in 2005. This dollar amount was more than the cost associated with cancer ($196 billion) and obesity ($133 billion).

  • In the United States during 2004, 16,694 deaths occurred as a result of alcohol-related motor-vehicle crashes. This amount was approximately 39% of all traffic fatalities. This amounts to one alcohol-related death every 31 minutes.

  • Every year, 1,400 American college students between the ages of 18 and 24 die from alcohol-related inadvertent injuries, including motor vehicle accidents.

  • 9.6% of adult alcoholics drink 25% of the alcohol that is consumed by all adult drinkers.

  • 25.9% of underage drinkers who are alcohol abusers and alcohol dependent drink 47.3% of the alcohol that is consumed by all underage drinkers.

  • Every day in the U.S. more than 13,000 children and teens take their first drink.

  • Every year in the U.S. more than 150,000 college students develop health problem that are alcohol-related.

  • American youth who drinking before the of age 15 are four times more likely to become alcoholics than young people who do not drink before the age of 21.

Clearly, the above mentioned alcoholism and alcohol abuse statistics substantiate the fact that alcohol abuse and alcoholism are major problems in the U.S. that require immediate attention.

Binge Drinking

More Alcohol Abuse Facts. One of the key alcohol abuse facts that the alcoholism and alcohol abuse research literature highlights is that many individuals apparently do not realize that getting drunk "only" a few times per year can result in serious problems such as alcohol poisoning. In fact, this sort of drinking behavior is so common that it has received it own term: binge drinking.

Binge drinking is defined as having four or more drinks during one sitting for women and five or more drinks during one sitting for men.

That is, when a person drinks an excessive amount of alcohol over a short period of time, or drinking is continued for many days or weeks, this is called binge drinking, bingeing, or intensive abuse.

It is interesting to point out that hangovers are frequently experienced more by light to moderate drinkers than by heavy and chronic drinker.

This alcohol abuse fact strongly indicates that binge drinking can be as dangerous as chronic drinking. The moral of the story, therefore, is this: any woman who has more than four drinks in one sitting and any man who drinks more than five drinks at one time is at risk for a hangover.

Binge drinking not only substantially increases the risk of alcohol-related injury and of contracting sexually transmitted diseases, but it can also lead to alcohol poisoning.

Indeed, the fact that 60 percent of American men between the ages of 18 and 25 binge drink indicates that binge drinking is a dangerous and potentially fatal drinking pattern that affects millions of teens, pre-teens, and young adults.

Alcohol Abuse Intervention and Treatment

Due to the significance of the debilitating and unhealthy consequences of binge drinking and alcohol abuse, the following statement is important: if you see your family members or friends displaying a dangerous drinking pattern, consider this behavior as alcohol abuse "warning signs."

And if your family members or friends in fact do display some of these signs, they may require alcohol abuse intervention and/or treatment.

Alcoholism Videos

We have included some alcoholism videos so that you can see and hear directly from various people about their struggles with this disease.

If you, a family member, or one of your friends has a "drinking problem," seeing what others have gone through and how they attained successful recovery is much more "real" than any information you can read about.

Furthermore, watching these videos may help you understand what others with a drinking problem are experiencing. So make sure you look at these excellent videos!

Conclusion: Alcohol Abuse Basics

Alcohol Abuse Facts. As mentioned above, alcohol abuse and alcoholism are commonly seen as synonyms. Due to this misperception, it is important to articulate an alcohol abuse definition.

Alcohol abuse is a drinking pattern that leads to recurring alcohol-related legal problems; ongoing alcohol-related relationship difficulties; drinking that can result in physical injury; and irresponsible behavior at work, home, or at school.

Stated differently, unlike alcoholism, alcohol abuse does not include an increase in tolerance, craving, and physical dependence. Nor does alcohol abuse necessarily include a loss of control.

Another way of stating the relationship that exists between alcohol abuse and alcoholism is this: while all instances of alcoholism involve abusive drinking, alcohol abuse does not mean that a person craves alcohol, is alcohol dependent, has developed a tolerance for alcohol, or necessarily exhibits a total lack of control regarding his or her drinking behavior.


There are many different factors regarding alcohol abuse that warrant closer inspection. Indeed, there are psychological, health, social, physical, and legal aspects of alcohol abuse that ironically lead to and also result from this drinking pattern.

One of the more significant alcohol abuse facts, however, is this: when individuals abuse alcohol on a regular basis, they increase the risk of becoming alcoholic.

Alcohol Statistics. Bringing various alcoholism and alcohol abuse statistics into the "drinking" conversation provides a better understanding of the debilitating and destructive consequences of chronic alcohol abuse and alcoholism.