There are three general types of problem drinking, according to the University of Michigan. These include binge drinking, alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence. Each form of problem drinking has its own unique risks, although alcohol dependence is considered the most serious form of problem drinking. Individuals who binge drink and abuse alcohol are at risk for developing dependency.
Binge Drinking: Excessive Drinking in a Short Span of Time
When an individual binges on alcohol, he drinks a large amount within a short span of time, usually with the intention of becoming intoxicated. Various factors affect how much drinking qualifies as a binge.
The National Institute on Alcohol and Alcoholism (NIAA) defines binge drinking as when a person consumes enough alcohol to bring his blood alcohol concentration to 0.08 grams of alcohol per liter of blood. Blood alcohol concentrations usually reach this level within five or more drinks for men and four or more for women. The size of the drink and potency of the alcohol can affect whether or not a person is technically binging, however. For example, two large, potent drinks could qualify as a binge instead of several smaller ones.
Risks of Binge Drinking
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), many individuals who engage in binge drinking are not alcohol dependent. However, this does not mean that binge drinking is not harmful. In fact, individuals who binge are at risk for the following problems:
- Alcohol poisoning
- Unintentional and intentional injuries
- Neurological damage
- Liver disease
- High blood pressure, stroke and other cardiovascular disease
Even if a binge drinker does not eventually become alcohol dependent, he can still seek help for his drinking problem, in order to avoid the negative consequences of binging.
Alcohol Abuse: Drinking Heavily Despite Negative Consequences
Alcohol abuse occurs when an individual continues to drink even though doing so causes him to experience significant difficulties. Alcohol abuse often begins when a person turns to alcohol to help himself cope with personal problems such as stress, anxiety or depression.
Risks of Alcohol Abuse
Individuals who abuse alcohol start to experience a shift in priorities in which alcohol becomes increasingly important to them. They continue drinking even when their drinking habits cause issues within their personal relationships, careers and home life. Risks of alcohol abuse include the following:
- Legal trouble related to drinking, such as being pulled over for driving under the influence
- Difficulty fulfilling personal responsibilities such as work, school and family care
- Poor decision making that puts the individual who drinks and others at risk
According to Helpguide, one of the major differences between alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence is that alcohol abusers do have the ability to set limits on their drinking. However, alcohol abuse is still a destructive behavior, and it can eventually escalate into alcohol dependence, at which point the individual loses all control over his drinking. Alcohol dependence can develop gradually. An individual who abuses alcohol may have not realize he is becoming dependent until he already needs help.
Alcohol Dependence: An Addiction to Alcohol
Commonly referred to as alcoholism, alcohol dependence is a chronic disease in which a person drinks excessively on a regular basis and is unable to stop doing so until he receives help. Individuals who are dependent on alcohol feel that they need to drink in order to function normally and make it through their daily lives.
Risks of Alcohol Dependence
Alcohol dependence poses many of the same risks as binge drinking and alcohol abuse. However, individuals who are dependent on alcohol are at an increased risk for these consequences due to consuming alcohol more frequently and with less control. Health risks of alcohol dependence include liver disease, heart disease, brain damage, automobile accidents and alcohol poisoning. Other risks include job loss, damaged personal relationships and financial problems.
Treatment for Alcoholism
Professional addiction treatment can help a person who is dependent on alcohol find a way to restructure his life in such a way that alcohol no longer has a hold over him. Treatment beings with detoxification and from that point combines various forms of therapies including individual and group counseling sessions. Many rehab centers utilize holistic treatment methods as well. Alcohol dependence affects all aspects of a person’s life and various types of therapies help to address all of the unique issues that are associated with problem drinking.