Alcohol Addiction and Abuse: Learn About Alcoholism North Jersey Recovery Center - A middle-aged man is struggling with alcohol abuse and addiction, while sitting alone and drinking liquor at a bar.

Alcohol is the main ingredient that causes a user to feel drunk.

It is often found in beer, wine, or spirits and is formed when yeast ferments.

Compared to vodka or wine, beer usually has the lowest alcohol content by volume (ABV). This does not make it any less dangerous.

Drinking or consuming alcohol is synonymous with a variety of American activities.

College campuses thrive off alcohol, happy hour is a go-to for most office employees, and it would be rare to find a sporting event or concert not serving it.

Additionally, craft beer has blown up in more recent years and made beer and wine consumption fashionable, with microbreweries and home brewing stations. 

Unfortunately, because alcohol is so popular, many people do not understand the risks associated with it.

Alcohol addiction is real, and alcoholism is a serious issue.


Is Alcohol a Drug?


Alcohol is classified as a sedative-hypnotic drug.

It works by depressing the central nervous system at higher doses. In lower doses, it can act as a stimulant. This promotes feelings of euphoria and talkativeness.

Drinking too much has a broad range of effects:

  • Drowsiness
  • Respiratory depression
  • Breathing too slowly, shallowly, or entirely
  • Death

Whether acute or potentially lethal, alcohol has effects on every organ in the body.

These usually depend on blood alcohol concentration (BAC) over time.


What is Alcohol Addiction?


Alcohol addiction is thought to be caused by a mixture of things:

  • Genetics
  • Environment
  • How often you drink
  • What type of alcohol you consume

Although alcohol abuse may not seem serious in all cases, any person who heavily relies on drinking and can’t stay sober has a problem.

Studies have supported potential links to depression and an alcohol addiction.

Others suggest that drinking during a young age promotes a high risk of developing alcoholism.

Alcohol Addiction and Abuse: Learn About Alcoholism North Jersey Recovery Center - A man sitting at home pours a glass of liquor as soon as he returns home from work as he struggles with alcohol abuse and alcoholism.


Examples of the Effects of Home Environment


  • Being raised without adequate supervision — meaning there may be easier access to alcohol available.
  • Relaxed laws within the community environment mean that this can make it easier for minors to obtain alcohol products.

The home environment can play as a prevention method, as well. If someone is raised with proper supervision and support, developing a drinking problem becomes much lower.


Difference Between Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse


There are minimal differences when it comes to recognizing alcohol abuse and alcoholism. Despite this, it is important to understand the variations to get you or your loved one the help they need.


Alcohol addiction changes the brain and its neurochemistry.

It creates more serious and specific problems compared to alcohol abuse.

Some of these issues may include:

  • Developing a tolerance
  • Experiencing withdrawal
  • Cravings
  • Loss of control
  • Physical dependence
  • Drinking alone or in secret
  • Making drinking a priority
  • Mood swings
  • Irritability
  • Drinking first thing in the morning and continuing all-day

Some people can hide their abuse, and nearly half of the individuals struggling with alcoholism are high functioning. This means people suffering from this problem can hide their addiction without it interfering with their day-to-day lives. These people are known as high functioning alcoholics.

Doctors, lawyers, and professors can even be high functioning alcoholics.

Adults who first used alcohol before they turned 15 are seven times more likely to develop alcoholism than adults who first used it at 21. These people usually don’t realize the severity of the problem until they face a serious alcohol-related consequence.


Alcohol Abuse


Alcoholic abuse is when your drinking causes recurring negative consequences.

Some of the issues that people face when abusing alcohol include:

  • Failure to fulfill responsibilities
  • Putting self in potentially dangerous situations
  • Legal trouble
  • Relationship problems
  • 40% of drug-related emergency visits were caused by people under 20 and related to alcohol abuse


Alcohol Abuse Information


The most important information regarding substance abuse and its effects are the following:

  • Different drinks trigger different feelings of intoxication.
  • Social settings impact a person’s perception of intoxication.
  • Drinking with sugar can speed up the process of absorption, making intoxication quicker.
  • Binge drinking can develop into alcoholism.
  • Binge drinking is defined as men who consume five or more alcoholic drinks or women who consume four or more over a two-hour period.
  • Infrequent binge drinkers may be able to stop on their own.
  • Ad campaigns often use women as a target audience for wine advertisements.
  • Women have less body mass, leading to less water in the body, leading to a decrease in tolerance.
  • Women are susceptible to becoming impaired more quickly because bodies use water to diffuse the alcoholic content. It exposes multiple organs of the body to this substance before breaking down.
  • Compared to wine or hard liquor, beer usually has the lowest ABV.
  • Beer’s ABV ranges from about two to 12 percent.
  • Craft beers may have significantly higher amounts of alcohol than the average domestic draft.
  • People who only drink during social activities are still susceptible to a substance use disorder. This can be especially true when “social drinkers” continue to drink when everyone else stopped or feel the need to drink during uncomfortable or boring situations.

If you or someone you love feels like they can’t start the day without a swig of alcohol or an alcoholic drink, there may be a serious alcohol disorder involved.

Regardless of what is being consumed, alcohol of any kind possesses potential addiction problems.




Hard booze is used to describe hard alcoholic drinks, such as:

  • Tequila
  • Vodka
  • Gin
  • Rum
  • Whiskey
  • Moonshine


Short-Term Effects of Alcohol Abuse


  • Lowered inhibitions leading to poor judgment
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Loss of coordination
  • Loss of critical judgment
  • Dulled perception, especially vision
  • Mood swings
  • Reduced core body temperature
  • Raised blood pressure
  • Fainting
  • Vomiting


Long-Term Effects of Alcohol Abuse


  • Ulcers
  • Diabetes complications
  • Sexual problems
  • Birth defects
  • Bone loss
  • Vision problems
  • Increased risk of cancer
  • Suppressed immune function
  • Diminished gray matter and white matter in the brain
  • Memory loss
  • Loss of attention span
  • Trouble learning
  • Alcoholic hepatitis
  • Liver fibrosis
  • Steatosis, known as a fatty liver
  • High blood pressure
  • Cardiomyopathy
  • Stroke
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Death


Mental Illness and Alcohol Abuse Addiction


You may have a genetic predisposition that makes you more vulnerable to this type of addiction.

Additionally, continued use can lead to long periods of depression.

If you have been diagnosed with depression and take antidepressants, you may experience adverse effects due to substance abuse.

Alcohol makes antidepressants less effective, but antidepressants make this substance more effective. This means that when drinking and abusing this substance, your depression may become much worse, and you may also feel incredibly intoxicated.

The abuse of this substance puts you at a higher risk of developing depression than those who do not suffer from substance abuse.

Depression can also induce substance abuse, which means that you can fall into a cycle.

Treatment for depression typically involves antidepressant medication, which means that you will need to stop drinking to ease your depression.

The same can be said regarding anxiety and anxiety medication, such as benzodiazepines.

Alcohol Addiction and Abuse: Learn About Alcoholism North Jersey Recovery Center - A young man is having an initial assessment as part of his rehab intake process with a rehab facilitator to determine whether there are any underlying mental health disorders that are playing a role in his alcohol addiction problems.


Alcoholism is Serious, But Help is Available


These substance abuse disorders extremely dangerous.

If you or someone you love is struggling with alcoholism, it is never too late.

At North Jersey Recovery Center, we are a high-quality care facility offering various programs for every level of treatment.

Contact us today to learn about our many options and learn how to offer you free insurance verification for treatment.

Reviewed for Medical & Clinical Accuracy by Laura Riley

Medical Reviewer

Laura comes to NJRC with 23 years of vast clinical experience in hospital, residential, outpatient, and community outreach settings where she has worked, supervised clinical teams, and volunteered. She has provided substance abuse and mental health counseling, clinical coordination, and advocacy to individuals, families and groups, and specializes in co-occurring disorders for both adults and adolescents.