The Most Widely Available In-Your-Face Drug: Alcohol

Last October, a study released by University of Michigan researchers reported that nearly one in five Americans turned to “heavy drinking” to cope with the pandemic Covid-19.  While the liquor business was declared “essential business,” and consequently could remain open during this time, the national list for people seeking liver transplants rose by 50%.  Alcoholic hepatitis is a condition that can develop after short periods of excess.

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism says that there are roughly 18 million people who struggle with alcohol use disorder in the United States.  What is alcohol use disorder?  Is it different from alcoholism or alcohol dependence?

According to, alcohol abusers are separate from alcoholics who need alcohol to get through the day. The majority of college students drink alcohol and almost half report binge drinking in the past two weeks yet they are not necessarily alcoholics; they would qualify for the title as alcohol abusers because they are not dependent on alcohol although they drink too much on occasion and their drinking habits often result in poor judgement and risky behavior.

The college students fit the category of being “almost addicted,” “when the problems falls outside of normal behavior but falls short of meeting the criteria for a particular diagnoses such as alcoholism, psychopathy or substance dependence.”  J. Wesley Boyd, M.D., Ph.D., with Eric Metcalf, MPH, authors of Almost Addicted (Hazelden: 2012)

How does “almost addicted” differ from full-blown addiction?  Addiction, as defined in The Complete Family Guide to Addiction by Thomas F. Harrison, Hilary S. Connery, M.D., PhD., (Guilford Press:2019) is a chemical process in the brain.  This process changes the way the brain reacts to drugs and it impairs the person’s decision-making ability.  It is considered both a complex brain disorder and a mental illness.  Which comes first:  does the “addict’s”distorted thinking cause an addiction or is it vice-versa? It’s the chicken or egg theory!

Once those with substance abuse disorders compulsively seek continued use of the illegal drug/drugs, they have difficulty regulating or moderating their consumption despite the harmful consequences and long-lasting changes in the brain. Under the influence of substances, they tend to disregard their behavior.

Here are some terms referencing drinkers:

“dry drunk:” a person who refrains from alcohol or drugs, but still has all the unresolved emotional and psychological issues which may have fueled the addition in the first place.

“functional alcoholic:” Someone who performs well at the office on a high level, but his home life may be in shambles.  Functional alcoholics may not even drink daily but instead engage in frequent episodes of binge or heavy drinking every few days.  Source:

The Diagnostic And Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders IV widely used by psychiatrists in 1994 and the DSM-V published in 2013 integrated the two DSM-IVD Disorders: alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence into a single disorder called alcohol use disorder, according to the National Institute on Alcohol adn Alcoholism.

What is considered “heavy drinking:”

  • 3 drinks per day or 7 per week for women.
  • 5 or more a day or 15 a week if you’re a man.

To curtail excessive drinking habits, the Centers for Disease Control recommend the following for moderate drinking:

  • 1 drink for women per day
  • 2 drinks for men per day
Wesley Cullen Davidson

Wesley Cullen Davidson

Wesley Cullen Davidson is an award-winning freelance writer and journalist specializing in parenting. Currently, she is targeting her writing about recovery to parents whose children have substance abuse disorders.

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