What Is Alcoholism, Really?

Highest Standards, Nationally Recognized:













By scientific definition, alcoholism is a chemical dependency on alcohol. One becomes alcoholic when they become reliant upon the presence of alcohol in their bloodstream to function. Most often, people who don’t understand alcoholism, think someone they love is struggling with alcoholism, and most likely are curious as to whether or not they might be an alcoholic, have one question: how much alcohol does it take to be an alcoholic? Otherwise put, how do I know if how much I’m drinking makes me an alcoholic?

The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence explains that “Alcoholism has little to do with what kind of alcohol one drinks, how long one has been drinking, or even exactly how much alcohol one consumes.” Alcoholism is not quantifiable, so to speak. The specific diagnostic criteria as listed in the DSM contains specific numerical qualifications, like, experiencing blackouts a certain number of times a month. In some ways, alcoholism can be quantified. As NCADD points out, however, the true discovery in alcoholism is the quality of one’s drinking. More specifically, it’s the reasons why someone has become dependent upon alcohol. “…it has a great deal to do with a person’s uncontrollable need for alcohol,” the organization explains. “The alcoholic is frequently in the grip of a powerful craving for alcohol, a need that can feel as strong as the need for food or water.”

Ultimately, the amount you drink has nothing to do with why you’re an alcoholic. It’s why you drink and the way you drink as well as the reasons you drink for. Alcoholics drink to cope. They drink to function. An alcoholic loses control over their ability to manage their alcohol and drink like a normal person. The quantities some alcoholics have taken are not equal to others. “To be gravely affected one does not have to drink a long time or take the quantities some of us have,” write the authors of Alcoholics Anonymous.

Alcoholism simply means when you start drinking, you can’t stop. When you can’t stop drinking, you drink more, and your life gets progressively worse. You might not hit a “low bottom”. You might not have physical symptoms of craving. You still experience some level of guilt, shame, and misery, because once you start drinking you cannot stop. You cannot control your alcoholism.


You are not alone. Alcoholism is a shared disease by many. You can recover with residential treatment programs which provide trusted results. Avalon By The Sea is a state recognized treatment program for alcoholism and co-occurring mental health disorders. Call us now for a confidential assessment and more information: 888-958-7511

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