Alcoholism and alcohol dependence are two terms that are often used interchangeably, but they actually have different meanings. Alcoholism is a more general term that describes a pattern of excessive alcohol use that may or may not lead to addiction. Alcohol dependence, on the other hand, is a medical diagnosis that is characterized by a physical and psychological dependence on alcohol.
Alcohol dependence is diagnosed when a person meets three or more of the following criteria:
Tolerance to alcohol (needing more to achieve the same effects)
Withdrawal symptoms when alcohol use is stopped or reduced
Drinking more or for longer than intended
Unsuccessful efforts to cut down or control alcohol use
Spending a lot of time drinking or recovering from its effects
Giving up important activities in order to drink
Continuing to drink despite knowing it is causing problems
So, while alcoholism and alcohol dependence are related, alcohol dependence is a more severe form of alcoholism that meets specific diagnostic criteria.