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The Difference Between Heavy Drinking & Being An Alcoholic

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What is the difference between heavy drinking and being an alcoholic? Heavy drinking falls under the category of alcohol abuse, which is the overuse of alcohol or binge drinking. Heavy drinking after a period of time may or may not lead to alcoholism. Heavy drinking is more of a social problem, but can become a medical problem if not addressed. According to American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM)  Alcoholism  is a chronic progressive disease which is defined by the psychological and physical dependency on alcohol despite adverse effect to one’s health or life consequences. The alcoholic usually cannot stop drinking once they start, and if they stop, they cannot stay stopped for long. There is an utter dependence on alcohol both physically and mentally.

Heavy Drinking

Heavy drinking can and does cause physical as well as mental health complications if done too fast or over a period of time. Someone who engages in heavy drinking may run the risk of developing a dependency to alcohol, medical and social problems, or even death. The heavier drinker may suffer consequences, both physical and mental, but they usually have the choice to stop drinking. The heavy drinker can drink alcohol or not; they do not have the phenomenon of “craving”. They are not dependent upon the liquor and lack the physical allergy, as well as the mental obsession. The heavier drinker has the power of choice over alcohol, where the alcoholic has lost their power of choice.


The alcoholic has a physical allergy to alcohol, which means that the body processes the substance differently than the normal drinker. Once the physical allergy is set in motion, the cravings are difficult to stop. When the alcoholic attempts to stop drinking on their own, the mental obsession to drink again usually takes priority over all else. If the alcoholic has been engaging in heavy drinking for some time, a medical detox is usually needed. Alcoholics run a great risk of relapse without help because the physical and mental withdrawal symptoms are not only painful, but dangerous. Like cancer, alcoholism is considered a primary disease, meaning that alcoholism is not a symptom of any other disease. Being an alcoholic does not mean the person has a personality flaw, moral weakness, or lack of willpower; they suffer from a progressive and chronic disease. There is no cure for alcoholism, but it can be treated and thousands of men and women are free from the obsession to drink, and live life without the use of alcohol long-term. If you or someone you love is suffering from alcohol abuse or alcoholism, please give us a call today at 1-800-861-1768, we can help.

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