"Alcohol abuse" is defined as use that repeatedly contributes, within a 12-month period, to the risk of bodily harm, relationship troubles, problems in meeting obligations and run-ins with the law. "Alcohol dependence" includes those symptoms, plus the inability to limit or stop drinking; the need for more alcohol to get the same effect; the presence of withdrawal symptoms; and a consumption level that takes increasing amounts of time.
With that as a starting point, everyone who enjoys beverage alcohol should frequently monitor both their own actions and those of the people close to them. The good news in the latest research is that most people can and do address their own alcohol use issues without drastic action, without outside intervention, and often without giving up alcohol.
This is not some kind of self-serving revisionism that denies alcohol abuse is a problem. For some it is a very big problem, a problem for which the only solution is complete abstinence. But not for everyone; not for most people.
To learn more, read Shari Roan's article in today's Chicago Tribune.
Popular beliefs about alcohol always have been driven more by ideology than science, in part because ideology provides unambiguous answers. We also have in this country a virtual industry dedicated to demonizing alcohol and stigmatizing drinkers, with a goal of reviving Prohibition or something like it. The facts are that most adults drink and have little or no trouble related to their alcohol consumption. Now there is science showing that most people who have problems solve them themselves, without a lot of drama. Good to know.