“Alcohol Abuse”: A Useful Concept?

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“Alcohol abuse” is one of the most common ways of referring to harmful, chronic or excessive uses of alcohol. This term is included in the title of the federal agency dealing with alcohol problems (NIAAA), and it was one of the main diagnostic categories for alcohol-related disorders in the DSM-IV. However, many people who are involved in alcohol research and treatment believe that the concept of “abuse” should be abandoned or replaced with other terms that are more clearly defined, less judgmental, and more meaningful scientifically. In fact, the new criteria for alcohol use disorders in the recently published DSM-V eliminate the concept of “abuse” altogether (see the Online Review, Unit 2).

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What do you think about the concept of “alcohol abuse”? Do we really need this term in our academic vocabulary? What do you see as the strengths or limitations of this concept? Would other terms be more useful, such as “alcohol misuse,” “alcoholism,” “alcohol addiction,” “alcohol use disorder,” “deviant drinking” or something else? In 200 words or more, state your position on this issue and base your defense of that position on material from the readings on the Online Review.

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