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What's the difference between alcohol abuse and alcoholism?

Alcohol abuse is a clinical diagnosis that differs from alcoholism (alcohol dependence) in that it does not generally include an extremely strong craving for alcohol, loss of control or physical dependence. In addition, alcohol abuse is less likely than alcoholism to include tolerance (the need for increasing amounts of alcohol to get "high"). Alcohol abuse is defined as a pattern of drinking that is accompanied by one or more of the following situations within a 12-month period:

  • failure to fulfill major work or home responsibilities
  • drinking in situations that are physically dangerous, such as while driving a car or operating machinery
  • recurring alcohol-related legal problems, such as being arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol
  • continued drinking despite having ongoing relationship problems that are caused or worsened by the affects of alcohol

This content originally appeared on HealthyWomen.org.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.