- Alcohol abuse:
- The use of alcohol to an extent that it has an adverse effect on performance, conduct, discipline, or mission effectiveness and the user's health, behavior, family, community, and DoN; or leads to unacceptable behavior as evidenced by one or more acts of alcoho-related misconduct.
- Alcohol dependence or alcoholism:
- The psychological or physiological reliance on alcohol.
- Responsible drinking:
- Is self-imposed limitation on time, place and quantity when consuming alcohol.
Abuse vs. Dependence
Alcoholism is a term commonly used to describe the medical disorder of alcohol dependence. Many health professionals prefer more precise language that distinguishes between alcohol dependence and alcohol abuse.
Alcohol dependence is an illness with four main features:
- Physical dependence, with a characteristic withdrawal syndrome that is relieved by more alcohol (e.g., morning drinking) or other drugs;
- Physiological tolerance, so that more and more alcohol is needed to produce the desired effects;
- Difficulty in controlling how much alcohol is consumed once drinking has begun;
- A craving for alcohol that can lead to relapse if one tries to abstain.
Alcohol abuse is different from alcohol dependence. Abusers are not necessarily physically addicted to alcohol, but develop problems as a result of their alcohol consumption and poor judgment, failure to understand the risks, or lack of concern about damage to themselves or others. Because they are not addicted, alcohol abusers remain in control of their behavior and can change their drinking patterns in response to explanations and warnings. An alcohol abuser either:
- Persists in habitual drinking or occasional binge drinking that causes or exacerbates a persistent or recurrent social, work, financial, legal, or health problem;
- Or uses alcohol repeatedly under circumstances which are physically dangerous, such as driving while intoxicated.
Many people who abuse alcohol eventually become alcohol dependent.
The presence of any of the following indicators suggests that an individual may have a serious alcohol problem or be at high risk for developing one. Any one indicator is not conclusive evidence of a serious problem, but it is relevant circumstantial evidence and should be noted.
- Drinking is causing or exacerbating a persistent or recurring social, work, financial, legal, or health problem. This is the heart of the alcohol issue.
- Individual has tried unsuccessfully to cut down the extent of alcohol use. Or, once the person starts drinking, he/she sometimes loses control over the amount consumed. Both are indicators of alcohol dependence.
- Individual commonly drinks while alone. Regular solitary drinking, as compared with social drinking, indicates potential current or future alcohol dependence.
- Individual drinks to relax prior to social events, as compared with using alcohol at social events. Drinking prior to social events indicates potential current or future alcohol problems.
- Individual drinks first thing in the morning as an "eye-opener" or to get rid of a hangover. This is a strong indicator of dependence.
- Individual claims a high tolerance for alcohol, for example, makes statements such as: "I can drink a lot without its having any effect on me, so I don't have to worry." High tolerance is an indicator of alcohol dependence -- it takes more and more to have the same effect on the body.
- Individual uses alcohol as a means of coping with life's problems. This indicates possible psychological or emotional problems and greatly increases the likelihood that alcohol already is or will become a problem. On the other hand, if motivation is experimentation, peer pressure, or adolescent rebelliousness, this does not necessarily predict future abuse.
- There has been a recent increase in individual's drinking. A change for the worse in drinking pattern may signal the existence of other relevant issues.
- There is a family history of alcohol abuse. Genetic studies indicate that alcoholism tends to run in families and that a genetic vulnerability to alcoholism exists. The disruption of family life in an alcoholic home also plays a role in creating vulnerability to alcoholism later in life. On the other hand, many children react to parental alcoholism by carefully avoiding alcohol themselves. According to one study, the chances the child will follow in the parent's footsteps depend, in part, upon which parent is the alcoholic and the nature of the relationship with that parent. Children of alcoholic mothers are at far greater risk than children of alcoholic fathers.
Source: MCO P1700 - 24B and OPNAV 5350.4C