There is a difference between casual drinkers, binge drinkers and alcoholics. In trying to determine whether someone needs treatment for their drinking habits, it's important to first understand how the three types of drinkers differ from each other.
Casual and social drinkers are people who are in control of their consuming behavior. In other words, they don't feel the need to drink or substitute food with drinking. Casual drinkers also don't consistently display outward signs of alcoholic behavior, which includes problems focusing at work, drinking and driving or legal issues. Further, they usually don't face severe health issues such as depression, liver failure, heart issues or withdrawals when not drinking on a consistent basis.
Binge drinkers are considered alcohol abusers, but not necessarily alcoholics. The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc. defines binge drinkers as healthy men who "drink four drinks on any day or 14 per week and women drinking more than three drinks on any day or seven per week."
The two types are further different in that binge drinkers usually don't suffer from the same chronic health issues because of their consistent drinking. Alcohol abusers also have some ability to control their drinking. For example, they may only drink on the weekends and not drink during the school or work week.
Unlike social drinkers who are in control of their actions and binge drinkers who display some signs of control, alcoholics are completely and blindly controlled by alcohol. Unaware that alcohol has suppressed their true self and produced a false self — the addict — the alcoholic becomes defensive and shows alcoholic-related symptoms. Unlike social and binge drinkers who may not drink during the week, alcoholics become reliant on the liquid to feel gratification. And they feel little in regard to the consequences of their actions.
However, there does exist a number of similarities between alcoholics and binge drinkers, namely that the two can not only be as destructive as the other, but they lack awareness to correct their problems. Binge drinkers have a tendency to blackout, face legal problems because of public intoxication or drunk driving and act dangerously. Due to their dependence on alcohol and the ensuing effects of the substance on the body, alcoholics have a tendency to display similar behavior.
While these three types of drinkers have distinct differences, they also have one common trait that ties them together: a lack of awareness. Social drinking can progress into binge drinking just as binge drinking can develop into alcoholism. Staying aware of how much you drink and when you drink is important to suppress progression.
Fairwinds Treatment Center, located in Clearwater, Florida, has over 25 years of experience in diagnosing and treating alcoholic related problems. Under the leadership of Dr. M.K (Khal) El-Yousef, Fairwinds has grown into one of the country's leading centers in using dual diagnosis as a technique to treat individuals with addictive behaviors. In using this approach, El-Yousef and his staff of full-time psychiatrists, nursing professionals and licensed therapists work to first understood the root of disease and then look to treat it using therapeutic counseling and clinical practices.