Alcohol Use and Older Adults

Frequently Asked Questions

17. What's the difference between alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence?

Alcohol abuse occurs when a person drinks too much and too often but is not physically dependent on alcohol. People who abuse alcohol often continue to drink, even though they know it may cause problems with personal relationships, at work, or at home. Alcohol dependence (also called alcoholism) is a serious, lifelong disease in which people have a strong need to drink, cannot control their drinking once they start, and need to drink greater amounts of alcohol to get "high." Many, but not all, older adults with this disease physically depend on alcohol. When they stop drinking, they can get nauseated, sweaty, shaky, and restless.