Difference Between Alcoholics and Problem Drinkers

Humans have been consuming alcohol since ancient times. People initially fermented fruits to prevent spoiling to preserve them for winters. The wine was the first beverage made. Consuming alcohol on special occasions and celebrations is crucial in some cultures. Overconsumption of alcohol can cause ill effects. It also leads to major health defects.

Alcoholics vs Problem Drinkers

The main difference between Alcoholics and Problem Drinkers is that problem drinkers are not physically addicted to alcohol but alcoholics are. Problem drinkers don’t suffer when they stop drinking but, alcoholics experience many adverse symptoms of quitting alcohol. Problem drinkers can quit drinking easily while alcoholics cannot do so without proper guidance.

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Alcoholics are people who consume a large amount of alcohol. They are addicted to it and keep on drinking. They also develop many health problems. Alcoholics cannot go even a day without drinking. Alcoholics are one of the reasons for the crimes happening in society. They need medical care to recover.

Problem drinkers are people who consume alcohol in a higher amount. They also have the chance to develop health problems. But, Problem drinkers are not fully addicted to alcohol. Problem drinkers may experience failing to attend classes or jobs and other personal life issues due to drinking. Unlike Alcoholics they can stop drinking for some time or permanently without severe effects.

Comparison Table Between Alcoholics and Problem Drinkers

Parameters of Comparison Alcoholics Problem Drinkers
Definition Alcoholics consume alcohol in an addictive mannerProblem drinkers consume more alcohol than the stipulated amount
Addiction They cannot go a day without drinking They don’t crave alcohol too much
Withdrawal They can’t give up drinking easily. They need proper medical and moral support They can quit drinking without any severe effects
Health issues Liver cirrhosis, pancreatitis, cancer, ulcers, etc. Binge drinking, nausea, headache, anxiety, and stress
Psychological issues Cognitive function disability, depression, abusive behavior, and low self-esteem Hurtful behavior towards loved ones, blacking out, etc.

What is Alcoholics?

Alcohol harms the mental and physical health of a person. A person who is fully dependant on Alcohol is called an Alcoholic. But this term was used as a label and had a bad effect on them. So, now Doctors replaced the term alcoholic with Alcohol use disorder. But, the term alcoholic is commonly used among people.

After a certain period, this can become toxic and even lead to the death of the person. Alcoholics usually start this habit as social drinkers. They start drinking on occasions and gradually increase the amount of alcohol they consume without their knowledge. They keep on drinking and think about alcohol most often. As years pass they become completely dependant on alcohol.

They do not recognize that they are drinking excessively. They start to drink alone, they cannot decrease the amount of alcohol they drink, they pass out and don’t remember anything, they get tensed if anyone comment on their habit, they lose interest in normal activities, their main goal becomes drinking and craving for alcohol.

Alcoholics develop psychological issues. When they consume alcohol the increase in dopamine level gives them a satisfying feel. Genetics also play a role in alcohol addiction. People who drink at an early age may also develop an addiction. People with stress, bipolar disorder, depression and, other personal issues are also more prone to addiction.

What are Problem Drinkers?

Problem drinkers are people who consume more alcohol but do not require medical attention. However, problem drinkers can easily become alcoholics. They are not addicted to drinking but they drink more than social drinkers. They can quit drinking if they decide. They don’t need the help of others to stop their drinking habits.

Problem drinkers don’t develop any severe effects when they stop drinking. Though, they don’t develop any health issues they may miss important events getting over drunk. Problem drinking also spoils a person’s character. Problem drinkers experience nausea and headache after drinking too much. Problem drinkers may not consume alcohol every day but when they do they drink excessively.

They may also drink and drive, hurt their loved ones and pass out. They may also experience stress and depression when drunk. They eventually develop alcohol tolerance. Problem drinkers can go back to normal if they decide. Since, they don’t have symptoms like shivering, weakness, and cravings once they stop drinking they can easily quit this habit.

Problem drinkers usually don’t realize that they are overdrinking and going into a cycle. They keep on repeating their habit without knowing. Gradually they get addicted and become alcoholics. Some problem drinkers try to quit their habit and decrease the amount of alcohol they consume and the number of days they drink in a week. They can successfully decrease or completely quit alcohol.

Main Differences Between Alcoholics and Problem Drinkers

  1. Alcoholics are addicted and physically dependant on Alcohol but, Problem drinkers are not addicted
  2. Alcoholics cannot resist their cravings for alcohol but problem drinkers can go for days or months without drinking
  3. Alcoholics develop health issues like liver and kidney problems while Problem drinkers do not develop any health issues unless they become an alcoholic
  4. Alcoholics cannot quit drinking without moral, spiritual, or medical help whereas, problem drinkers can stop drinking on their own
  5. Alcoholics get symptoms like shaking, loss of appetite, anxiety, insomnia and, increased heart rate when they stop drinking a while, problem drinkers don’t have any severe effects on quitting alcohol.


Alcoholics and Problem drinkers are people who drink alcohol excessively. But, alcoholics are addicted to it and problem drinkers are not. Alcoholics may experience worse health issues like brain and liver damage. Liver cirrhosis, pancreatitis, cancer of the digestive tract, ulcers, brain damage, etc. Alcohol is a depressant of the Central nervous system and thus it affects cognitive function.

Problem drinkers don’t drink every day but they consume more alcohol at different times. Problem drinking is also a bad thing and it can affect the normal functioning of a person. Though they are not addicted to alcohol they can cause a nuisance to others and make accidents by drunken driving. Alcohol consumption is not good for health no matter the amount of alcohol consumed.


  1. https://psycnet.apa.org/record/1993-18021-001
  2. https://www.ojp.gov/ncjrs/virtual-library/abstracts/problem-drinkers
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