Addiction is a disease that requires specialized treatment that does not develop in someone overnight. There is a widely held misconception that anyone who drinks to excess on a regular basis is an alcoholic when in fact; there is a considerable difference between having a drinking problem and having full-blown alcoholism. The reason it is important to establish a person’s relationship with alcohol is that problem drinkers can become alcoholics if they don’t get the treatment they need. Early, responsive treatment at an alcohol rehab center can successfully prevent someone with a drinking problem from becoming an alcoholic.

Here, we identify the warning signs and symptoms of someone with a drinking problem that are particularly important to address with professional treatment:

  • Missing important events and functions at school or work
  • Withdrawing from family and friends and becoming isolated
  • Symptoms of depression including angry or violent mood swings
  • Financial difficulties as a result of spending money on alcohol
  • Disruption to close relationships with family and friends
  • Reckless behavior that endangers the person, such as unsafe sexual relations with strangers
  • Possible arrests due to minor criminal acts
  • They are unaware of the risks of driving under the influence
  • Potential for blackouts and lack of concentration at work or school

As with alcoholism, problem drinking is a negative pattern of behavior that is likely to become more heightened unless treatment is sought. It is often the final stage before the addiction disease has control of someone, which is why it is so important to address problem drinking through attending a program at a recovery treatment center.

One of the main differentiators between a problem drinker and an alcoholic is a physical dependency. Dependency is something that develops over a prolonged period of time of misusing alcohol and often depression acts as a catalyst to escalate problem drinking into alcoholism. Self-medicating in the face of difficult situations at work or with the family can lead to someone using alcohol as a response to certain events. Once there is this kind of emotional reliance on alcohol, physical dependence is rarely far behind.

When Problem Drinking Turns into Alcoholism

In the same way as alcoholism, problem drinking is very destructive and needs to be taken seriously. Although significantly different from alcoholism as a disease, problem drinking is often the precursor to physical dependence and a distinct sign of a need for professional treatment at an alcohol rehab center. In other words, not all problem drinkers are alcoholics but every single alcoholic starts out as a problem drinker.

There is a delicate balance between problem drinking and alcoholism and a common denominator for many sufferers is the conviction they are able to stop drinking when they choose. However, it is more likely that the longer alcohol is abused, the less chance there is of safely and successfully stopping. Once physical dependence has developed, sudden abstinence from alcohol can present significant dangers to a person’s health, which is why detox at an established recovery treatment center is essential.

If someone has developed alcoholism after prolonged problem drinking, they require full medical supervision through the detox process. Many people are tempted to detox on their own but because of the medical dangers, this is very ill-advised. The reason a structured alcoholism program is recommended is that full medical support is given not just for detox, but through rehab and into a life of sobriety.

Problem Drinking or Alcoholism, the Enemy Is the Same

Regardless of a person’s issues with alcohol and how severe they have become, if treatment isn’t received the disease can develop to become life-threatening. The destruction to the body’s organs after prolonged alcohol misuse can be devastating but if treatment is sought in the early stages, the outlook is usually extremely positive. Kidney and liver damage and even diseases of the brain are all possible as a result of alcohol dependence, which gives an indication of how dangerous alcohol really is.

For people with concerns about their relationship with alcohol, there are rehab centers in California such as Ranch Creek Recovery offering specific treatment programs for all stages of problem drinking and alcoholism. The most important benefit of professional rehab is the sense of relief someone gets from knowing they are not on their own. Individual and group therapy sessions are a positive way of bringing people together who face similar issues and can provide extra motivation for patients to overcome their issues with alcohol. California rehab facilities also provide a tight support network for patients returning to daily life after treatment, so that they are able to lean on others who understand their situation completely for a better chance of achieving sobriety.