The term alcohol abuse can be applied to any dangerous or harmful use of alcohol. Alcohol abusers drink despite the frequent financial, legal, social or relationship problems their drinking causes. Continued abuse of alcohol can sometimes lead to dependence.
People who are alcohol dependent also use alcohol in a risky way and exhibit additional symptoms such as a high tolerance for alcohol, a compulsion to drink, the inability to follow through on plans to quit or cut back on drinking, withdrawal symptoms and drinking to alleviate withdrawal symptoms. People who are alcohol dependent are also referred to as alcoholics.
Alcoholism is a chronic disease and often requires medical treatment. However, both drinkers who are alcohol abusers and those who are alcohol dependent can benefit from treatment by a qualified mental health professional.