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What is an alcoholic?

What is an alcoholic?

What is an alcoholic?  This is quite possibly the most frequently asked question of all.  Everybody wants to know what makes an alcoholic, and there is great interest on how do you define one.

One of the main problems is that we all have a different idea of what an alcoholic.  We all have different definitions that concentrate on one or more characteristics of a particular ‘alcoholic’ that we know.  So that some of us see an alcoholic as someone who is homeless and drinks constantly.  Others may view the alcoholic as someone who, although they hold down a job, still drinks daily, maybe even continually. 

Yet others may view the alcoholic as a binge drinker.  That is some who has spells of drinking and spells of being abstinent.  The issue being that when they drink, they tend to drink heavily and maybe will be drunk for days and even weeks at a time.  Afterwards they will return to being abstinent for another period, until the urge hits again.

All of these definitions are partly true, but only partly.

In this video Lou and John discuss the issue of What is an alcoholic and John talks about his own style of drinking and some of the issues that it raised.

John also discusses why knowing what is an alcoholic is not always helpful, since so many of us have quite different pictures of what an alcoholic is.  Because of that we can end up discussing, or even arguing, about a condition that we have defined in different ways.

For this reason, among others, treatment agencies in the UK and other countries very seldom use the term alcoholic.  In the USA the term is much more common, mainly because many of the treatment agencies found in the USA are 12 step based.  However in the UK and Europe the term that is most widely used is dependent.  This then highlights the drinkers ‘need’ for alcohol and views that need as the main characteristic of being an ‘alcoholic’.

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