It's not the same as excessive drinking, although many people use the two interchangeably. "Excessive" drinking is largely a social idea and social standards change. Many historical figures drank amounts that would see them called alcoholics today. In the 17th century Royal Navy sailors were issued a gallon of beer a day because it was considered (probably correctly) healthier than water on long voyages; in 1655 this was replaced by a pint of strong rum. The daily rum ration was well over what is now recommended as the alcohol limit for a week, but together with daily mugs of lime juice was recommended as a cure for scurvy and a way of sterilizing dirty water. Alcohol abuse has a medical rather than a social meaning; it's a pattern of drinking that affects health, relationships or ability to work and it's defined in medical publications like the DSM-IV.
Australian Government policy directed towards reducing the incidents of alcohol-related victimisation has been primarily concerned with regulatory responses that target entertainment precincts, licensed premises and liquor outlets (Loxley et al 2005). Licensed premises are a high risk setting for alcohol-related violence, with a significant proportion of assaults occurring in or within close proximity to hotels and nightclubs (Haines & Graham 2005). Drinking establishments have been linked (both as the location of assaults and for the consumption of alcohol) with much higher rates of alcohol-related aggression and violence, particularly among males, than any other setting (Poynton et al 2005; Teece & Williams 2000; Wells et al 2005). Australian research indicates that over 40 percent of all assaults occur in or around licensed premises (McIlwain & Homel 2009). Both patrons and staff of licensed premises are at heightened risk of becoming involved in a violent incident when compared to other locations (Graham & Homel 2008).