An alcoholic is a person who suffers from alcoholism – they have a distinct physical desire to consume alcohol beyond their capacity, regardless of all rules of common sense. According to Alcoholics Anonymous UK, who say they have no unique definition for alcoholism, it may be described as a physical compulsion, together with a mental obsession. Apart from having an enormous craving for alcohol, an alcoholic often yields to that craving at the worst possible times. The alcoholic knows neither when nor how to stop drinking.
Definition – an alcoholic is a person, while alcoholism is an illness. An alcoholic suffers from alcoholism. Alcoholism is a long-term (chronic) disease.
Alcohol abuse generally refers to people who do not display the characteristics of alcoholism, but still have a problem with it – they are not as dependent on alcohol as an alcoholic is; they have not yet completely lost their control over its consumption.
Moderate alcohol consumption will not generally cause any psychological or physical harm. However, for some individuals, social drinking eventually leads to heavier and heavier alcohol consumption, which does cause serious health and psychological problems.