Alcohol abuse differs from alcoholism in that it does not include an extremely strong craving for alcohol, loss of control over drinking, or physical dependence. Although alcohol abuse is basically different from alcoholism, many effects of alcohol abuse are also experienced by alcoholics. Alcohol abuse is defined as a pattern of drinking that results in one or more of the following situations within a 12-month period:
-Failure to fulfill major work, school, or home responsibilities;
-Drinking in situations that are physically dangerous, such as while driving a car or operating machinery;
-Having recurring alcohol-related legal problems, such as being arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or for physically hurting someone while drunk; and
-Continued drinking despite having ongoing relationship problems that are caused or worsened by the drinking.
The type of treatment you receive depends on the severity of your alcoholism and the resources that are available in your community. Treatment may include detoxification (the process of safely getting alcohol out of your system); taking doctor-prescribed medications, such as disulfiram (Antabuse®) or naltrexone (ReVia™), to help prevent a return (or relapse) to drinking once drinking has stopped; and individual and/or group counseling. There are promising types of counseling that teach alcoholics to identify situations and feelings that trigger the urge to drink and to find new ways to cope that do not include alcohol use. These treatments are often provided on an outpatient basis.
Because the support of family members is important to the recovery process, many programs also offer brief marital counseling and family therapy as part of the treatment process. Programs may also link individuals with vital community resources, such as legal assistance, job training, childcare, and parenting classes.