Alcohol addiction

Drinking problems: alcoholism or alcohol abuse?

Two basic forms of addiction to alcohol are alcohol abuse and alcoholism.

Alcohol abuse is when psychological dependence does not involve a physical addiction.

Alcoholism is defined as a state of psychological as well as physical dependence. Then the alcohol takes control of the patient’s life and his/her relationships with others.


Do I have a drinking problem?

There are a number of questionnaires that are used to confirm the loss of control over the consumption of alcohol. The sum of the points obtained in some of them reflects the scale of the problem.

The four questions CAGE questionnaire is one of the examples that can be used by the physician to quickly get an overview of whether a patient has a problem with drinking. Two “yes” responses indicate that the possibility of alcoholism should be investigated further. The questionnaire asks the following questions:

Have you ever felt you needed to Cut down on your drinking?

Have people Annoyed you by criticizing your drinking?

Have you ever felt Guilty about drinking?

Have you ever felt you needed a drink first thing in the morning (Eye-opener) to steady your nerves or to get rid of a hangover?



Some people that are abusing alcohol are able to reduce the amount. The process is called drinking in moderation. If this method no longer works, the optimal goal of treatment is to completely stop drinking alcohol. This condition is called abstinence.

Total avoidance of alcohol is very difficult for many people suffering from alcoholism. However, try to avoid drinking for as long as possible. Supporting family and friends play a very important role in this process.


Deciding to quit

Many people with alcohol problems do not realize that their drinking gets out of control.

The first step in treatment is to help the addicted person that his/her drinking has a destructive influence on his/her live and close relatives.

Studies show that alcohol addicted people more willingly decide to treatment when their family members or employer support them.

Alcohol withdrawal is best done in a controlled manner. Sudden and unattended shutdown can be life-threatening.


Long-term therapy support

Support groups for alcohol dependence may help to stop drinking completely. Typically, they consist of:

  1. Discussing the effects of alcoholism
  2. Advice on controlling your thoughts and behaviors
  3. Mentalhealth support
  4. Medical care

The treatment can be performed in a hospital or outpatient setting. Hospitalization (stationary stay in the ward) may take several months. Outpatient treatment consists of regular weekly meetings in the treatment groups.

Medications are sometimes prescribed to prevent you from drinking again.

These include:

Campral (acamprosate) is a drug that has been shown to lower relapse rates in those who are alcohol dependent.

Anticol (disulfiram) produces very unpleasant side effects if you drink even a small amount of alcohol within 2 weeks after taking the drug.

Adepend (naltrexone) decreases alcohol cravings. It is available in an injectable form (Vivitrol).