When Alcohol Abuse Changes to Alcoholism


People who drink need to know that their drinking behavior, if it becomes more frequent and more intensive, can lead to alcohol abuse, which in turn, can lead to alcoholism.

To avoid this damaging and unhealthy state of affairs, people either need to refrain from excessive drinking via drinking in moderation or get professional help in order to stop drinking altogether.

Changing a Person's Drinking Behavior

Thousands of articles have been written and countless research studies have been undertaken regarding alcoholism.

In spite of this, the one finding that has apparently failed to reverberate throughout the alcohol abuse and alcoholism academic and medical communities is the emphasis on the fact that alcohol addiction has its roots in alcohol abuse.

While this fact has many ramifications, perhaps its key upshot is that millions of non-alcoholic individuals in our society and throughout the world who engage in abusive drinking can address their drinking consumption and make healthy and positive changes in their drinking behavior before they become alcohol dependent.


One school of thought sees alcohol abuse in the following way: alcohol abuse takes place whenever an individual's drinking causes a problem in any aspect of his or her life.

The areas of a person's life where alcohol abuse commonly leads to problems includes the following:

  • Relationships

  • Employment

  • Education

  • Finances

  • Health

  • The law (for instance, receiving one or more DUI arrests)

The Need for Healthy Change

Now that we are aware of the problems that are usually associated with alcohol abuse, it can be seen that in order to overcome these difficulties and issues it is important for the alcohol abuser to look in the mirror and honestly ask himself or herself if alcohol is causing a problem in any facet of his or her life.

As an additional component in the quest for healthy and positive change, problem drinkers need to understand that continued, repetitive, and heavy drinking can and does turn into alcohol addiction.

Stated differently, millions of non-alcoholics in our society who have a drinking problem will, at some point in their lives, experience a transition from alcohol abuse to alcohol dependency.

When this happens, it must be emphasized, the person will no longer simply be an alcohol abuser.

Indeed, at this point, the person will be an alcohol abuser and an alcoholic.

Signs of Alcoholism

The Signs of Alcohol Addiction. How can a person tell if he or she is alcohol dependent?

First, the experience of alcohol withdrawal symptoms when an individual suddenly stops drinking is one of the most predominant signs of alcohol addiction that points to the fact that alcoholism has reared its ugly head.

Second, repetitive and out-of-control drinking behavior is another one of the key signs of alcohol addiction indicating that a person has become an alcoholic.

What this usually means is that after consuming the first drink, the individual lacks control over stopping his or her drinking and therefore continues to drink until he or she becomes inebriated.

Another one of the signs of alcohol addiction is an intense craving or need to drink in order to function throughout the day.

Regrettably, this craving for alcohol can be as strong as the need for food, water, or shelter.

The moral of the story regarding the signs of alcohol addiction is this: if you or a family member or friend is manifesting any or all of the signs of alcohol addiction, please make an appointment with an alcohol abuse and alcoholism professional and get a thorough assessment of your drinking circumstances.

And don't be alarmed if after all the tests are finished it is determined that you need alcohol treatment for your drinking problem.

Alcoholism Has Its Roots in Alcohol Abuse

Perhaps the key in all of this is the following: most, if not all instances of alcohol addiction get their start from alcohol abuse.

Stated another way, it is highly unlikely that a non-drinker will become alcohol dependent simply by having one drink or that a non-drinker will become an alcoholic by getting drunk once.

Indeed, alcoholism does not result from infrequent and sporadic drinking but rather from continuous, excessive, and repeated drinking.

The point: alcoholism doesn't take place in a vacuum. In short, the roots of alcoholism are found in alcohol abuse.

Knowing this and letting this "fact" influence an individual's drinking behavior in a positive and healthy manner is perhaps the single most important health-related bit of information that a problem drinker can learn and implement in his or her life.

Why is this so important? Research shows that alcoholics are masters of denial, deception, dishonesty, and manipulation and often blame their alcohol-related problems on situations and people outside themselves.

Alcoholics also exhibit out-of-control and irresponsible drinking behavior. Not only this, but most alcoholics will lie, cheat, and steal in order to get their next drink.

Why would an alcohol abuser who is not yet an alcoholic want to face such a dreary and destructive set of circumstances?

Self Control and Will Power

What about the alcoholic's will power and self-control? Why can't alcoholics use will power to simply stop drinking?

Simply put, when a drinker has not made the transition from abuse to addiction, he or she can still exert his or her "will" and display strength of character over his or her drinking behavior.

Once the person has made the transition from alcohol abuse to alcohol dependency, however, strength of character, self-control, and will power become non-issues due to the fact that the individual now suffers from an addictive disease.

In fact, it is interesting to note that it is only at the point at which alcohol abuse changes into alcoholism that the term alcoholism "disease" can be employed in an appropriate manner.

That is, until the person becomes alcohol dependent, he or she possesses a relatively great degree of accountability and responsibility for his or her drinking behavior.

When the person becomes an alcoholic, however, his or her problem drinking becomes a "brain disease" that he or she is virtually powerless to control.

The Roots of Change

In order to address their alcohol problems, abusive drinkers need to come to grips with the fact that they abuse alcohol and they need to be aware that excessive drinking can turn into alcohol addiction.

In short, why wait to see if you have the signs of alcohol addiction? Why not get alcohol treatment BEFORE your alcohol abuse turns into alcohol addiction?

In a related manner, they not only need to decide whether or not they want to stop experiencing alcohol related problems but they also need to want to avoid the possibility that they may become an alcoholic.

If people who exhibit drinking problems can overcome these difficulties and issues via a strict plan of moderate drinking, fine.

It would be even better, obviously, if problem drinkers decided to stop drinking altogether.

And if alcohol abusers need help in cutting down on their drinking or stopping drinking altogether, moreover, they need to make up their mind to seek professional help.

Seeking Help From a Substance Abuse Professional

While more than a few substance abuse professionals claim that a person's family doctor is the best person to talk to regarding drinking problems, research has shown that an alcohol abuse or alcoholism healthcare professional may be a better choice when seeking a drinking assessment and facing possible alcohol treatment.

If it is determined that the drinker needs alcohol treatment, he or she may be asked to attend meetings at his or her local Alcoholics Anonymous or become admitted into an outpatient or a residential treatment facility.

Alcohol Abusers Need Treatment Too

Some people seem to think that if problem drinkers simply abuse alcohol and are not alcohol dependent, then they do not need alcohol treatment.

In fact, under this scenario, many alcohol abusers fail to realize that they have a drinking problem in the first place.

The argument entertained in this article, however, runs counter to this view.

Indeed, the main point of this article is that the best, most productive, and healthiest time for problem drinkers to get alcohol treatment is the time when they are still alcohol abusers and not alcohol dependent.

Stated differently, why wait to get alcohol treatment until you suffer from alcohol withdrawal symptoms and have experienced major alcohol-related problems with your education, relationships, the law, finances, employment, or with your health?

Why wait to get alcohol treatment until you are totally out-of-control regarding your drinking behavior?

Why wait until your reasoning ability, your decision-making ability, your character, and your health suffer from alcoholism before getting the treatment you need?

Hope Abounds for Alcohol Abusers

Key Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism Information. Keep in mind that all alcoholics are alcohol abusers but not all alcohol abusers are alcoholics.

This means that there is a great degree of hope for a drinker who has not yet made the transition from alcohol abuse to alcohol dependency.

When an individual makes the changeover from alcohol abuse to alcohol dependency, however, the problem drinker not only has to deal with his or her alcohol abuse but more importantly, with the destructive, debilitating, and life-threatening disease known as alcoholism.

Taking this argument into consideration, why not deal with your drinking problems before they lead to alcohol dependency?

An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure

Does this mean that alcoholics should not get alcohol treatment?

Of course alcohol dependent individuals should get alcoholism treatment. The point, however, is this.

Similar to the old adage that states that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, it seems logical to conclude that treating alcohol abuse before it becomes an addictive disease has much more potential for success than waiting until a person is diagnosed with alcoholism and treated accordingly.

Another point, however, needs to be emphasized: unlike other diseases such as cancer and multiple sclerosis, alcoholism is totally preventable.

Stated differently, with early prevention and knowing how to "read" the signs of alcohol addiction, a deadly disease like alcoholism can be stopped from happening before it becomes a life-changing issue or a major problem.

Conclusion: When Alcohol Abuse Changes to Alcoholism

Millions of non-alcoholic people in our society and throughout the world who engage in abusive drinking can avoid becoming alcohol dependent if they come to grips with their alcohol related drinking problems and make positive and healthy changes in their drinking behavior such as getting professional alcohol treatment.

The Signs of Alcohol Addiction. By taking such preventative measures, the destructive and debilitating consequences of alcohol addiction can be avoided before they become devastating and life-threatening problems.


Indeed, why wait until you exhibit some of the signs of alcohol addiction before you get alcohol treatment?

In the long run, it is almost always easier to successfully treat an alcohol abuse problem than an alcohol addiction problem.

So why wait until your alcohol abuse becomes alcohol addiction before you decide to do something positive about your drinking problem?

Note: If you are concerned about your drinking behavior and you feel the need to talk with a counselor, please call your local drug and alcohol treatment center today and make an appointment.