What is Harmful use of Alcohol and Alcohol Abuse?
Traditionally, any alcohol use pattern which is significantly problematic has been called alcohol abuse. This term is still common use to indicate a destructive pattern of alcoholuse, leading to significant social, occupational or medical impairment.

The International Classification of Diseases (ICD-10), published by the
 World Health Organization, uses the term “harmful use” to indicate a pattern of alcohol use similar to alcohol abuse. Harmful use is described as “a pattern of psychoactive substance use that is causing damage to health”. The damage may be physical (e.
g. liver damage) or mental (e.g. episodes of depression).

“Harmful use” may not necessarily be a result of daily consumption of alcohol. Harm from alcohol could also be due to “binge drinking”, i.e. drinking large quantities of alcohol at a single time. This could result in road traffic accidents, domestic violence, perpetuation of poverty etc. Other patterns of consumption, such as consumption of alcohol by pregnant women, would also qualify under the term “harmful use” in a broad sense.

Alcohol Dependence
ICD – 10 describes alcohol dependence as “a cluster of physiological, behavioural and cognitive phenomena in which the use of alcohol takes a much higher priority for a given individual than other behaviours that once had greater value”. Thus, the central feature of alcohol dependence is the overpowering desire to consume alcohol. If a person has reached this stage of dependence, treatment is needed.

Harmful use of alcohol  A Preventable Behavior