What is the difference between alcohol abuse, alcohol dependence, and alcohol addition? Many cultures and societies around the world involve alcohol use, but when this substance is consumed on a regular basis or in excess it leads to problems. Alcohol abuse refers to drinking patterns and habits which are unhealthy or that can be dangerous. This includes alcohol consumption on a daily basis or binge drinking where an excessive number of drinks are consumed in one sitting. This does not mean having a drink on social occasions once in a while, but when alcohol use is frequent and gets out of hand it becomes alcohol abuse. Alcohol dependence refers to a pattern of alcohol abuse, and the individual develops a physical or mental tolerance for this substance. It may take more alcohol to get the same effects, and not drinking can lead to unpleasant symptoms.
Alcohol addiction occurs after a tolerance has developed. In this situation cravings for alcohol can become severe, and abstaining can cause severe physical and mental complications. If you do not consume alcohol when you have an addiction you may experience anxiety, nausea, profuse sweating, constant cravings for this substance, shakiness, and other withdrawal symptoms. If the alcohol abuse is extensive then withdrawal can cause delirium tremens or DTs, which can lead to hallucinations, seizures, and other serious medical complications which can be life threatening. In these situations a medically supervised detox may be required in order to minimize the risks of medical complications and allow comprehensive treatment options.