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Difference Between Alcoholism and Drug Addiction



While alcoholism and drug addiction often go hand in hand, both problems have their own definitions.


What is Alcoholism?

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:

  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms like sweating, shaking, and nausea when one attempts to stop drinking.

  • Drinking so much one blacks out.

  • Creating rituals around drinking.

  • Binge drinking.

  • Chugging drinks in order to get drunk rapidly.

  • Being unable to limit how much alcohol one consumes.

  • Drinking secretly.

  • Feeling one needs to drink in order to function normally.

  • Continuing to drink in spite of problems it may be causing with one’s family, job, with the law or life in general.

  • Requiring more and more alcohol in order to feel an effect.

  • Stashing alcohol in odd locations “just in case” one runs out.

  • Lying about drinking habits.

  • Craving alcohol continuously.

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.


What is Drug Addiction?

Drug addiction and Substance Use Disorder are commonly considered the same thing in medical circles. Substance Use Disorder is a generalised 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.


The Nature of Addiction

Alcoholism is a specific term referring to addiction to alcohol, while drug addiction indicates a generalised 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 characterised by:

  • Craving a particular drug.

  • Having to take more of the drug to get the same affect.

  • Being unable to stop taking the drug consistently.

  • Feeling withdrawal symptoms when one attempts to stop using the drug.

  • Inability to control behaviour with regard to the drug.

  • A need to use the drug in order to solve or face problems.

  • Taking risks in order to obtain the drug.

  • Using the drug despite any problems it creates (health issues, legal tangles, financial difficulties, familial strife).

  • Consuming the drug to excess.

  • Keeping stashes of the drug.

  • No longer participating in hobbies or other activities one once enjoyed.

  • Abandonment of goals and aspirations.

Pop culture often identifies alcoholism and drug addiction as different. However, the generalised 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 is a Form of Drug Addiction

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.


Solutions for Alcoholism and Drug Addiction

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.


Journey is an upmarket, professional drug and alcohol rehabilitation centre located in Atholl, Sandton Our luxurious premises offers comfortable accommodation, spacious gardens, professional treatment, WiFi and entertainment for inpatients and outpatients.


Our treatment programme is premised on the principles of support, love and understanding where the patient is allowed the opportunity to learn and recover from mistakes in our recovery focused environment.


Contact Journey at 011 786 0326 / 082 447 6727 | admin@journeycentre.co.za | www.journeycentre.co.za

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