Prosperity Haven Ohio

COVID-19 UPDATE: Our facilities remain open as we continue our mission of providing men with a safe, supportive space to find peace & recovery. Learn More.

What’s the Difference Between Alcoholism vs. Problem Drinking?


The terminology surrounding alcohol use can make it difficult to differentiate between alcoholism and problem drinking. The terms binge drinker (strictly defined as consuming around 5 drinks in a few hours), problem drinker (meaning broadly, a tendency of drinking in a way that defies normal and expected behavior, though not a scientific or objective term, and is understood differently in varied settings), high-functioning alcoholic (generally defined as someone who manages to maintain a seemingly mostly normal life in spite of a drinking disorder),  social drinker (meaning, not consumed with drinking but participates when in a social drinking setting), and alcoholic (usually defined as one addicted to alcohol) are sometimes used interchangeably, and the distinction between them isn’t always clear.

However, there are differences between alcoholism vs. problem drinking. While both can have a negative impact on your life as well as the lives of those around you, it’s important to understand the main differences between alcoholism and problem drinking.

What Is Alcoholism?

An alcoholic is someone addicted to alcohol, and this addiction is typically physical and mental, creating the conditions of alcoholism. For alcoholics, the lure of the next drink is overwhelming, and people with alcoholism are usually unable to stop drinking following that first glass.

Although alcoholics can successfully become sober, usually with the assistance of an alcohol treatment program, they may exhibit withdrawal symptoms when they detox. As their body is physically addicted to alcohol, reducing their intake can result in physical symptoms occurring. In part, this is why it’s so important for alcoholics to have professional support and alcohol treatment when they give up drinking as these symptoms can be overbearing and even dangerous.

Generally, alcoholics find it difficult to go without alcohol for any length of time, and their thoughts may be focused on when and how they can have their next drink. Despite clear evidence to them of the negative impact of their drinking and alcoholism, alcoholics may ignore the effects of their alcohol consumption, however catastrophic they might be -the definition of an alcohol addiction or Alcohol use Disorder.

Am I A Problem Drinker? What Is Problem Drinking?

Problematic drinking usually describes one who is often drinking in an unbalanced manner, and beyond the norm often referred to as “heavy drinking”. Problem drinking does not typically involve physical addiction to alcohol, but it can still have a detrimental impact on the individual and the people around them. While problem drinkers may be able to go weeks or months without consuming alcohol, when they do drink however, it tends to have negative consequences, including, but not limited to some of the following problems.

A problem drinker may miss work after a night of drinking, for example, or they may get into unnecessary arguments with people when they’ve consumed alcohol. Similarly, problem drinkers may feel depressed or angry after consuming alcohol, and they may exhibit violent behavior. Meanwhile, problem drinkers may engage in reckless spending or other negative conduct, such as driving under the influence of alcohol alienating friends and family missing important events.

Is There A Real Difference Between Alcoholism vs. Problem Drinking?

Both alcoholism and problem drinking clearly have detrimental effects, and are technically the definition of alcohol abuse, so what are the differences between the two? And how do you know if you’re an alcoholic or if you have a drinking problem? One of the major differences between alcoholism vs. problem drinking is a physical dependency. Typically, problem drinkers are not physically addicted or dependent on alcohol, whereas alcoholics are. As a result, a problem drinker is less likely to experience physical withdrawal symptoms when they stop drinking or access alcohol treatment.

Many people also cite the frequency of drinking as a differentiating factor between problem drinkers and alcoholics. As problem drinkers do not usually experience physical withdrawal symptoms, they may go for relatively long periods of time without drinking. A problem drinker may not consume alcohol for weeks, for example, but will exhibit harmful or unwanted behavior when they do.

In contrast, alcoholics are not typically able to resist drinking for long periods of time. As they are physically addicted to alcohol, they may continue drinking on a daily basis in order to avoid experiencing physical withdrawal symptoms.

A further distinction between alcoholism vs. problem drinking may be the way in which individuals approach their alcohol consumption. Alcoholics may continue to drink, despite any consequences which arise. If an alcoholic loses their jobs, alienates their family and/or loses their home as a result of their behavior, for example, they may still continue to drink, despite the harm it causes.

On the other hand, problem drinkers may feel more able to overhaul their lifestyle once they acknowledge and accept the negative consequences of their drinking. If a problem drinker receives a DUI or receives a warning at work due to repeated lateness, for example, this may prompt them to reduce their alcohol consumption or to obtain alcohol treatment in order to give up drinking altogether.

Does Problem Drinking Lead to Alcoholism?

Problem drinking by definition does not mean that a problem drinker is addicted to alcohol and is suffering with an AUD -meaning an Alcohol Use Disorder. Not all problem drinkers will become alcoholics, particularly if they recognize the impact their drinking has and obtain appropriate alcohol treatment. However, problem drinkers who continue to consume alcohol frequently may be at risk of developing alcoholism.

As the body becomes used to consuming alcohol, the risk of dependency increases and physical addiction can occur. And although a problem drinker may not currently be physically addicted to alcohol, continued drinking could lead to physical dependency and, therefore, alcoholism.

Am I In Need Of Treatment Help For My Drinking Problem or Alcoholism?

Both alcoholics and problem drinkers can benefit tremendously from alcohol treatment. The vast majority of alcoholics will require alcohol treatment in order to successfully detox and become sober. Due to the effects that withdrawal symptoms can have on the body, alcoholics are always advised to seek medical advice when altering their consumption and professional alcohol treatment is usually recommended.

As well as assisting alcoholics with the physical withdrawal symptoms associated with detoxing, alcohol treatment focuses on many other areas.

When receiving treatment, for example, individuals may be encouraged to examine the root cause of their drinking, as well as identifying the negative consequences their drinking has. Problem drinkers do not typically experience physical addiction to alcohol, however, they can certainly be emotionally and mentally reliant on alcohol.

If an individual lacks confidence in social settings, for example, they may consume alcoholic in an attempt to relax or appear more confident, for example. Despite the negative consequences which arise from their drinking, a problem drinker may continue to consume alcohol for reasons similar to this.

By obtaining alcohol treatment, however, both problem drinkers and alcoholics can address the causes and effects of their drinking patterns, and successfully become sober. Although some problem drinkers may feel able to give up alcohol without professional intervention, alcohol treatment can be extremely beneficial for both alcoholics and problem drinkers.

With the right support and assistance, problem drinkers and alcohols can successfully give up drinking, begin to repair the damage their alcohol consumption has caused, improve their health, reconnect with loved ones and become sober.

Where can I find help with problem drinking and alcoholism?

If you or someone you love might be struggling with alcohol abuse, it is important that you seek expert help at an alcohol addiction treatment center. While some may understandably be skeptical of the prospect of properly being healed of a alcohol drinking problem, especially after a history of unbalanced drinking and emotional or social struggles, the truth is that quality addiction care at a proven rehab program has completely changed many lives.

It is important to never give up hope on full recovery and a balanced, productive life which we all seek, regardless of circumstances or set backs. Alcohol addiction treatment has grown to include highly sophisticated therapies and treatment modalities which have proven to bring remarkable long-term results and relief for those struggling with alcoholism. Reach out to a qualified alcohol treatment center to learn which treatment level suites you best, and how you can chart a new path forward with confidence and inner peace.

Prosperity Haven of northeast Ohio serves the region with high skill and compassionate care, helping transition many clients previously caught in the grips of alcohol misuse into lasting recovery. Join our unique program today with a phone call to 440-253-9915 and get started with one of our kind staff guiding you through the process and keeping you at ease throughout your recovery path. Prosperity Haven is where men break free from addiction -in comfort.