Alcohol dependence is the most serious drinking problem and describes a strong and often uncontrollable desire to drink.
People who are alcohol dependent can suffer from varying degrees of alcohol dependence that don’t always involve excessive drinking levels. If you realise that you ‘need’ to share a bottle of wine with your partner most nights of the week, or always go for a few pints after work just to unwind you’re likely to be drinking at a level that could affect your long-term health.
Alcohol abuse refers to regular excessive drinking, which has a more tangible negative effect on people’s lives. Examples of this include failing to go to or fulfil work, family or social obligations due to recurrent drinking, encounters with the law or emergency services arising from excessive alcohol use, or regularly combining alcohol with physically hazardous situations, such as driving or operating machinery.
The terms alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence are often used interchangeably when, in fact, there is a clear distinction between the two. Both involve the misuse of alcohol which could lead to real damage to health and wellbeing. But while people with alcohol abuse problems usually manage to carry on their lives with some semblance of normality, once the dependence begins, the alcohol takes over.
The destructive numbers of alcohol dependence
The consequences of alcohol dependence contribute to 3 million deaths each year globally and to the disabilities and poor health of millions of people. Overall, the harmful use of alcohol is responsible for 5.1% of the global burden of disease.
The harmful use of alcohol is accountable for 7.1% (males) and 2.2% (females) of the global burden of disease, respectively. It is also the leading risk factor for premature mortality and disability among those aged 15 to 49.
Which country consumes the most alcohol?
Belarus, a small landlocked country in Europe, consumes the greatest average number of litres of pure alcohol per capita. On average, its citizens consumed 14.4 litres each year, over 1.5 times more than Americans. Switzerland, on the other hand, hovers at around 11.5 litres each year per capita.
Belarus is also among the countries with the most years of life lost due to annual alcohol consumption. Brazil’s average consumption was exactly half of the Belarus figure while Belize, Kazakhstan, Thailand, Moldova, Peru, Mexico and Mongolia all consumed less than half of Belarus’ 14.4 average litres yearly.
European countries that consume the most alcohol per capita include Moldova, Lithuania, The Czech Republic, Germany and Ireland.
Alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence are two separate but similar problems that can be seen in an individual. Alcohol causes millions of deaths and does immeasurable damage to individuals every year.