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How Alcoholism Differs From Social Drinking

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Alcohol is a substance that’s used liberally in our culture. This can be especially true for working professionals who are under a lot of work-related stress and social pressure. However, while alcohol use may be common, there is a significant difference between social drinking and problematic drinking.

If you regularly drink alcohol, it’s helpful to understand this difference. Additionally, if you have a loved one who uses alcohol, you can benefit from knowing the signs of alcoholism. As a serious disease that impacts your brain, alcoholism requires treatment. Getting help will allow you to build new coping skills that will aid in your long-term recovery from alcohol addiction.

Alcohol Use Disorder

Many individuals drink alcohol regularly, enjoying it in a wide range of situations. For some people, however, alcohol use can become out of control. Alcohol abuse, commonly referred to as alcohol use disorder (AUD), impacts nearly 15 million individuals over the age of 12. This disease impacts individuals and those they interact with, including family, friends, and coworkers.

Learning to recognize AUD and its distinction from social drinking is important. It’s essential to know if you or a loved one is struggling with a physical dependence that requires treatment.

Signs and Symptoms

AUD is marked by several signs and symptoms. Although each individual will exhibit a variation, common symptoms include the following:

  • Drinking more than planned regularly
  • Planning or wanting to cut down or quit drinking but being unable to
  • Spending a lot of time drinking or recovering from drinking
  • Consistently thinking about drinking
  • Replacing activities with drinking
  • Continuing to drink even after it has caused problems with work or your personal life
  • Feeling physical discomfort without alcohol
  • Having to drink more and more to feel the effects

The signs and symptoms of AUD are both behavioral and physical. While each person’s experience of AUD can be different, if you notice any of these signs or symptoms in yourself or your loved one, it is time to get help.

How Does AUD Differ From Social Drinking?

Social drinking can occur in many different settings. Whether you’re attending an office holiday party or watching a sports event, you’ll notice easy accessibility of alcohol. However, AUD is quite different from social drinking.

AUD is marked by a need and a drive to consume alcohol. Social drinking, on the other hand, is drinking to participate in a social event. Let’s say you attend a birthday party and enjoy a glass of champagne with a friend. The drive to drink in this situation is to enjoy a social occasion. This is quite different from that of someone who is struggling with AUD.

Compared to AUD, a social drinker often enjoys low to moderate amounts of alcohol. They do not exhibit the same behaviors or have the same feeling of need as someone with an addiction. A social drinker also does not lack the control to stop drinking. They are able to attend a social event without drinking.

Getting Treatment for AUD

AUD is a disease that impacts how your brain functions. If you or someone you love is showing signs of alcoholism, treatment can help. Speaking with your spouse or loved one about their alcohol use can be daunting. However, if you can help them decide to seek treatment, a treatment center can help them detox from alcohol and build the skills they need to live a sober and healthy lifestyle.


AUD treatment often includes a detoxification process and the use of medications that can help you decrease drinking. Alcohol detox, often with the help of medications, can help address your physical addiction to alcohol. As you stop drinking, you may experience certain side effects as your body recalibrates to functioning without alcohol. While withdrawal can be scary, going through detox with the help of medical professionals will ease you into sobriety.

Behavioral Therapies

AUD treatment also includes addressing behaviors that influence alcohol use. Therapeutic options such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and others can help you increase your awareness of your feelings, thoughts, and actions. You can then use this information to change how you interact with others and yourself. In doing so, you will build new ways to manage emotions and stress. Ultimately, this will lead you to be able to function in many situations without alcohol.

Social Support

Peer support can also help you to recover from AUD. While peer support groups are all different, what they have in common is that they provide a place where you can share and learn from other empathetic people. This helps you to learn new methods of managing situations and to recognize what aspects of your life you need to change to maintain sobriety.

Treatment for AUD isn’t the same for everyone. However, entering into a treatment program provides a starting point in exploring what will support you in your unique situation. It’s important to remember that AUD is a disease that impacts your ability to control your drinking. Becoming sober requires more than just willpower. Recognizing the signs of AUD can help you to know if you or your loved one needs a little help.

Alcohol is incredibly prevalent in society. If you are a working professional, you likely will have alcohol at the majority of events you attend. However, while social drinking is enjoyable, AUD is a serious disease with negative repercussions. At Pacific Sands Recovery Center, we work with working professionals who need treatment for alcohol addiction, drug addiction, and mental health disorders. We offer individualized care that can help you learn how to live a sober life and help you to heal both mentally and physically. If you or your loved one is showing signs of addiction, call (949) 426-7962 today to speak with a staff member about how we can help. 


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