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Alcoholics vs Social Drinkers

Alcoholics vs Social Drinkers

Are you concerned about yourself or a loved one’s drinking? There are distinct differences between alcoholics and a person with a healthy relationship with drinking. In this article, we will go over the key differences that can help you pinpoint if someone is struggling with alcohol abuse. If you or a loved one are concerned about alcohol abuse, please seek medical attention as soon as possible. 

Firstly, let’s define the 3 basic categories of people who drink below. 

Social Drinkers

Also described as casual drinkers, are individuals who drink occasionally, and rarely overindulge. A casual drinker doesn’t typically drink to the point of ‘blacking out,’ but instead enjoys alcoholic beverages responsibly and in moderation.

Problem Drinkers

Problem drinkers are individuals who have an unhealthy relationship with drinking, but are not necessarily alcoholics. These actions can be described as “alcohol misuse” or “alcohol abuse”. 

These individuals may consume alcohol often, tend to over indulge, and may have regrets after drinking. They may have some negative health effects, but are able to quit drinking either on their own or with some professional support. Problem drinkers do not need a medical detox.


An individual who is an alcoholic, will typically drink daily and have trouble controlling their consumption. Generally, they will experience repercussions in multiple aspects of their life, including health, work, and personal relationships due to drinking. Most alcoholics will also need professional help in order to detox. Including rehabilitation or AA meetings to stay sober. 

What if I Don’t Fit into One Category?

Keep in mind not everyone will fall perfectly into one category. Think of this as more of a spectrum where someone could fall in between categories. It is important to know that any stage of alcoholism is dangerous. The only way to safely consume alcohol is in moderation, but even moderate drinking can be unsafe for some people. 

If you’re concerned about yourself or a loved one’s drinking, there are self-assessments and questions you can ask yourself to see if your drinking is problematic. However, this cannot substitute a medical diagnosis from a professional. 

Alcohol Abuse Self-Assessments


There are two self assessments you can do at home to better understand your relationship with drinking. One assessment is the AUDIT, which stands for Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test. If you want to take the AUDIT assessment, you can find that here.

  • CAGE

The second one is CAGE, which stands for the four questions in the test. This assessment is a simple questionnaire that you can ask yourself in just a few minutes. 

  1. Do you feel like you need to Cut back on your drinking?
  2. Have friends or family Annoyed you by disapproving of your drinking?
  3. Do you feel regretful or Guilty about your drinking?
  4. Have you ever had a drink early in the morning to ease a hangover (Eye-opener) or calm your nerves?

When a medical professional uses the CAGE assessment to screen patients for Alcohol Use Disorder, receiving two or more positive answers indicates further testing is needed. This screening is useful, but this cannot substitute a medical diagnosis from a professional. If you or a loved one needs help with Alcohol Use Disorder please seek help from Harm Reduction Center in South Florida. Harm Reduction Center has individualized treatment plans that can help individuals at any stage of recovery. 

What if I Don’t Feel Like I Have a Problem?

One of the biggest challenges with individuals who struggle with drinking is that sometimes they are fairly “functional”. An informal term often tossed around is “High-Functioning Alcoholic”. This defines someone who meets the criteria for Alcohol Use Disorder but may be somewhat successful at hiding it from loved ones and continuing to work. 

Alcoholism when left untreated, just like any addiction, will likely only worsen. Many people with alcoholism also suffer from psychological problems and have an increased risk of suicide. The worse the addiction becomes, the harder it can be to overcome. Don’t wait, and seek help as soon as possible if you or someone you know is suffering. 

Long-Term Risks for Alcoholics

  • Liver damage and cirrhosis of the liver
  • Heart disease
  • Brain damage
  • Malnutrition
  • Mental health disorders
  • Suicide or death

Talk to your doctor, or the experts at Harm Reduction Center to get help or more information.