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What is the Difference Between Alcohol Use Disorder and Alcoholism?

man discusses alcohol use disorder and alcoholism with counselor

For many years, if you had a drinking problem, you were quickly labeled an “alcoholic”.  This term has been thrown around carelessly for generations and described everyone from the weekend binge drinker to the man asleep in the alley clutching his bottle.  The word is not only heavy with lifelong stigma, but once you identify with it, it grows to completely define who you are. In recent years there has been a push-back against this term, and an initiative to use the term “Alcohol Use Disorder”, or AUD, instead.  If you are questioning your relationship with alcohol, you may be wondering what that means and where you fit among these descriptions. The terms “alcoholism” and “alcoholic” have largely been popularized by the organization Alcoholics Anonymous.  The 12-step program endorsed by AA requires that you self-identify as an alcoholic at the beginning of every meeting, and therefore admit that you are powerless against alcohol.  While AA has had success with this method for many people, this model has also turned people away because they are unwilling to accept the stigma that comes with identifying as an alcoholic.  Those who are labeled as alcoholics are often considered weak or even morally inferior, and are considered to have been born with a disease for which there is no cure. Alcohol Use Disorder, as opposed to alcoholism, is a medical term that describes a physical addiction to alcohol.  The truth is that while some individuals may be predisposed to developing AUD, everyone has the ability to develop AUD if they drink enough alcohol over an extended period of time.  Alcohol is a very addictive drug and has the insidious cultural advantage of appearing harmless. People who develop AUD are not weak or immoral, but are simply having a physical reaction to a substance that is designed to change the way their brains function.  If you choose to seek help for your addiction to alcohol, you will not be forced to change your identity or declare powerlessness.

At Arbor Behavioral Healthcare, you will meet knowledgeable, compassionate professionals that understand addiction in all its forms.  The Arbor uses an integrative and holistic approach to treat addiction and mental health issues. No treatment is one-size-fits-all, and at The Arbor you will have a team of experts prepared to create your customized treatment plan.  We offer care for your mind, body, and spirit, so that you can heal from the inside out and look forward to a lifetime of sobriety and wellness. If you are ready to take the first step in your recovery, please call us at 844-413-2690.