Because someone is a “problem drinker” or “heavy drinker“ does not mean that he or she is automatically an alcoholic. You can say that these people abuse alcohol but alcoholism is an addiction with several definition and there is some controversy about how the diagnosis should be made.
We say alcoholism is an addiction primarily because it contains these crucial elements : Preoccupation with acquisition, compulsive use, narrowing of interests, denial and relapse. These factors are seen in addiction in all other drugs.
There is no single correct single definition for “alcoholism” because the disease is so subtle in its progression. The point where heavy drinking becomes alcoholism is often unclear, but applying an overall definition of addiction compulsive use and continued abuse in spite of adverse consequences is a good place to begin.
Any person whose alcohol use has proceeded to the point of addiction as defined above, including serious interface with functional ability is an alcoholic and needs immediate professional help.
Its important to remember that many people who are only moderate drinkers experience some of the early symptoms of alcoholism, such as hangovers that cause absenteeism from work, interpersonal difficulties and medical problems.