There’s a big difference between people who drink socially and responsibly and those who struggle with true alcoholism. Significant though this difference may be, it’s not always easy to identify. Some social drinkers may occasionally become intoxicated, while an alcoholic can be very good at holding his or her booze and maintaining full functionality.

It’s worth spending just a moment to explore these two different categories and to outline the warning signs that you, your friend, or your loved one have crossed over from social drinking into something more problematic.

Social Drinking

The basic definition of a social drinker is someone who consumes alcohol in small doses, usually fairly infrequently; the typical social drinker will have a drink just once or twice a week, usually in the company of others. Some additional hallmarks of social drinkers:

  • They know when they have had too much and should stop drinking;
  • If they become a little intoxicated, they find a sober friend to drive them home;
  • When they drink, they try not to get drunk.


An alcoholic, meanwhile, may appear to be very high functioning but inwardly their drinking is causing them lots of problems. Those with alcoholism are prone to problems at work, school, or home, and may also have bad finances, mounting legal problems, and crumbling relationships. Some hallmarks of alcoholics include:

  • They have been told by others that they drink too much;
  • They have attempted to stop drinking but are unable to do so;
  • They have intense physical or mental withdrawal symptoms if they go too long without drinking.

As you can see, the difference is significant, even if it’s not always immediately obvious. If you believe that you fit the definition of an alcoholic, or worry about a friend or family member who drinks excessively, reach out to Seacliff Recovery to hear about alcohol detox treatment options.

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