Alcohol use can be defined on a continuum-of-use:
No use of alcohol is a choice we've all made for one reason or another. Maybe we needed to get up early in the morning, or had to study for exams, or maybe we just didn't feel like drinking one evening. Abstinence from alcohol might be a long-term lifestyle choice, whether for religious, cultural or personal reasons.
Experimentation is a phase where we are "trying out" alcohol and its effects. This may occur in high school, or for some Stanford students, (especially frosh), it may happen here on the Farm, especially during early fall quarter. Be aware of the special risks of the experimentation phase. Watch out for yourself and others. Inexperience with alcohol consumption can make students more vulnerable to unwanted adverse effects of alcohol.
Social use is the preferred drinking style of most Stanford students. Social drinkers are experienced in knowing their limits and enjoy being social and relaxed. It's difficult to chill if you're stumbling around, slurring your speech and being an obnoxious belligerent drunk.
Alcohol abuse is a term used in two different ways. The term "alcohol abuse" can also refer to a pattern of drinking, even a single episode of heavy drinking, that leads to negative consequences. Examples of problems associated with abusive drinking include vomiting, blacking out, drinking and driving, violence, and/or getting arrested. "Substance Abuse" is a clinical diagnosis that infers that a person has a serious drinking problem and may be approaching alcoholism.
Alcohol dependency, or alcoholism, is a serious medical and psychological condition that may develop over time as a result of chronic abusive drinking. Affecting approximately 12% of the U.S. population, It is a condition where the drinker physiologically needs the substance and may be dependent upon it to function socially. A dependent person may say, and truly believe, that he or she is choosing to drink heavily. In reality, however, they have lost the ability to truly make a personal choice about alcohol. Without support and treatment, students who are alcohol dependent face short and long-term harm to themselves, and perhaps to the campus community.