Alcoholism and drug addiction are both serious problems here in America. According to government statistics, around 17 million American adults (18 years or older) had an alcohol use disorder in 2012. Another government survey shows that in 2012 an estimated 22.2 million people were classified with substance dependence or abuse problems. 2.8 million of these Americans used both alcohol and drugs, while 4.5 million only used drugs and 14.9 million only used alcohol.
While alcoholism and drug addiction often go hand in hand, both problems have their own definitions.
Alcoholism is associated with a distinct physical desire to consume alcohol. There is no rationality or common sense entered into this desire. Alcoholics feel they cannot stop their drinking or they will state they can stop anytime but do not choose to. Alcoholism causes problems with the individual’s health and well-being, at home, with fiends, at work, financially, and with the law.
There are many symptoms of alcoholism, including:
One of the easiest ways to understand if you are an alcoholic is to try and stop drinking. If you feel withdrawal symptoms or are constantly thinking about getting another drink, it is a good idea to get help.
Drug addiction and Substance Use Disorder are commonly considered the same thing in medical circles. Substance Use Disorder is a generalized term for overuse, dependence or addiction to any legal or illegal drug. When a person is addicted to drugs, they feel unable to control their use of the drug. If their “drug of choice” is unavailable, they may try other, similar drugs to keep withdrawal symptoms at bay, but they are still likely to attempt to obtain the specific drug to which they are addicted. For example, a heroin addict may take oxycodone or methadone to try and level off any craving, but he or she will seek out heroin whenever and wherever possible until a fix has been obtained.
When an addicted person tries to quit, he or she will experience withdrawal symptoms. They will continue to abuse drugs even if it is completely unreasonable and destructive to do so. People addicted to methamphetamine will still use meth even when they look 20 years older than they really are, their face is pockmarked and their teeth are falling out.
Alcoholism is a specific term referring to addiction to alcohol, while drug addiction indicates a generalized condition wherein one can be addicted to any substance – from alcohol to heroin to Ritalin. The main difference here is how general the term is. Drug addiction is characterized by:
Pop culture often identifies alcoholism and drug addiction as different. However, the generalized term of drug addict can cover an alcoholic. In fact, one way people who are addicted to drugs cope with quitting one drug is to take on another addictive substance. A former morphine addict might start heavily using alcohol instead of morphine or other opiates. A former alcoholic might use marijuana in lieu of booze. This is one reason why so many addiction programs like AA insist upon complete sobriety when one has completed detox and/or rehab. One former user summed it up best when he stated his “drug of choice” as “MORE.”
Alcoholism and drug addiction have similar symptoms and can be treated using the same techniques. Alcohol addiction is simply a sub category of the larger category: drug addiction. Alcohol is simply another type of drug. While not all addiction causes the same feelings or withdrawal symptoms, all substance abuse stems from similar sources, such as the desire to numb physical or emotional pain, to fit in with a crowd, to conform to peer pressure, to escape or “solve” problems one encounters in life, to quell boredom, to experiment, and other reasons.
Many people suffering from addiction are attempting to block something out that they are having difficulty facing. The drug or alcohol masks or numbs the problem. After detox, rehabilitation is vital for any type of addict. Once the drugs or alcohol are removed, the individual needs help to sort through the emotions and problems he or she has been avoiding. When this isn’t done, the person is likely to start using again, whether it is prescription drugs, illegal narcotics, marijuana or alcohol.
If you or someone you know is an alcoholic or addicted to drugs, get help today. The longer one lives with alcoholism or any form of addiction, the more dangerous and all-consuming it becomes. It’s no injury to pride to ask for help. No one goes it alone in this world.
It is our responsibility as members of the human race to help one another make it through the trials and challenges of existence and emerge victorious on the other side.