Alcoholism’s Thin Line
According to current diagnostic guides, alcohol use disorders are split into two categories: alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence, or alcoholism. But recently, an argument has been made for adding a third category classified as hazardous drinking. Hazardous drinking has been defined as drinking more than the recommended amount.
So, what is the difference between alcohol abuse and hazardous drinking and do we really need a third classification on the road to alcoholism?
Finnish studies have shown 5.8% of the population to engage in hazardous drinking. According to the study, men are defined as hazardous drinker if they consume 24 or more alcoholic drinks in a week’s time and for women, the number is 16 or more drinks in a week. These numbers seem to be high for one person’s consumption in a week and may imply a drinking problem that needs attention, but yet they are classified as hazardous drinking numbers, not alcohol abuse numbers.
If there is a line between alcohol abuse and hazardous drinking, it seems to me that it’s mighty thin and perhaps we’re just better off calling a spade a spade. If a man is regularly drinking what averages to just over 3 alcoholic beverages every day, that’s indicative of a problem, as is a woman consuming just over 2 alcoholic beverages every day.
Micro-analyzing alcoholism is pointless when alcohol abuse, hazardous drinking, and alcohol dependence are all problems that require attention and change. The degree of intensity of attention depends on the severity of the problem, no matter what researchers want to call it or how they chose to classify it.