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June 13, 2024

What Is a Social Alcoholic?

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A social alcoholic may not meet the criteria for alcoholism (alcohol use disorder), but it’s still a damaging pattern of consumption. Social alcoholics usually don’t drink alone and limit their drinking to social settings.

Read on to learn more about social alcoholism, how this form of drinking compares to alcoholism, and how you can get effective treatment.

Signs of Social Alcoholism

Here are some signs that someone might be experiencing social alcoholism:

  • Needing alcohol to socialize: Feeling like you can’t enjoy or participate in social events without drinking.
  • Drinking heavily at social events: Regularly consuming large amounts of alcohol when with friends or at parties.
  • Making excuses to drink: Frequently looking for reasons to go out and drink, such as celebrating small or insignificant events.
  • Feeling guilt or shame: Experiencing guilt or shame about the amount you drink in social settings.
  • Neglecting responsibilities: Allowing drinking to interfere with work, school, or family duties.
  • Hiding drinking habits: Trying to hide how much you drink from friends and family.
  • Difficulty controlling drinking: Finding it hard to stop drinking once you start, even in social settings.
  • Changes in behavior: Noticing negative changes in behavior when drinking, such as becoming more aggressive or depressed.

Recognizing these signs can help you or someone you know identify social alcoholism and seek the necessary help.

Difference Between Social Drinker vs. Alcoholic

Understanding the difference between a social drinker and an alcoholic is important. Here’s how to tell them apart:

Social drinker

  • Occasional drinking: Social drinkers have alcohol occasionally, such as at parties, dinners, or celebrations. They do not drink every day.
  • Control over drinking: They can easily control how much they drink and can stop whenever they want. They don’t feel a strong urge to drink.
  • No dependence: Social drinkers do not rely on alcohol to feel happy or relaxed. They can enjoy social events without needing to drink.
  • No major impact on life: Their drinking does not cause problems in their daily life. They don’t face issues at work, school, or with their health because of drinking. They drink responsibly and in moderation.


  • Frequent drinking: Alcoholics drink much more often, every day, and not just at social events. Drinking becomes a regular part of their routine.
  • Loss of control: They have difficulty controlling their drinking and often can’t stop once they start. They may drink more than they planned or drink at inappropriate times.
  • Alcohol dependence: Alcoholics depend on alcohol to cope with their emotions and daily life. They might drink to handle stress, sadness, or anxiety, feeling like they need alcohol to function.
  • Negative impact on life: Their drinking causes serious problems. They might have health issues like liver damage or memory problems, trouble at work or school due to absenteeism or poor performance, and strained relationships with family and friends. Drinking affects many parts of their life negatively, leading to a decline in overall well-being.

Recognizing these differences can help identify if someone’s drinking habits are problematic. If you or someone you know shows signs of alcoholism, seek help from a healthcare professional or support group.

image of people discussing the difference between a social drinker vs alcoholic

How to Get Treatment for Social Alcoholism

Getting treatment for social alcoholism is beneficial for health and well-being. Here are some steps to help you.

Recognize the problem

The first step is to admit that there is a problem with your drinking. Understanding that social drinking has become unhealthy can help you take steps to change this.

Talk to a doctor

Speak with a healthcare professional about your drinking habits. They can provide medical advice and suggest treatment options.

Join a support group

Groups like AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) offer support to others who are experiencing similar issues. Sharing your experiences and hearing from others can be very helpful.

Seek counseling

Therapy with a counselor or therapist can help you understand why you drink and develop healthier coping strategies.

Consider rehab

Enrolling in an inpatient or outpatient rehab program can provide structured support and treatment in more severe cases.

Build a support network

Surround yourself with friends and family who support your recovery. They can encourage you and help you stay on track.

Avoid triggers

Identify situations or people that make you want to drink and try to avoid them. Finding new hobbies and activities can also help keep your mind off drinking.

If you or someone you know needs help with social alcoholism, don’t hesitate to reach out for support and treatment.

Social Alcoholic | FAQs

What is a social alcoholic?

A social alcoholic is someone who drinks too much alcohol, mainly during social events or with friends. They might not drink alone but still have trouble controlling their intake.

How can I tell if I’m a social alcoholic?

You might be a social alcoholic if you always drink at social events, feel you need alcohol to have fun, or can’t stop drinking once you start. If friends or family are worried about your drinking, that’s another sign.

How is social alcoholism different from other types of alcoholism?

Social alcoholism involves drinking too much in social settings, while other types of alcoholism might involve drinking alone or needing alcohol all the time. Social alcoholics might seem fine in everyday life but still have a drinking problem.

When should I go to rehab for social alcoholism?

You should consider rehab if your drinking is hurting your health, relationships, or daily life. If you can’t cut back on your own or feel out of control when you drink, rehab can help.

image of gratitude lodge | social alcoholism treatment

Get Treatment for Social Alcoholism at Gratitude Lodge

We offer effective addiction treatment at Gratitude Lodge in Long Beach and Newport Beach, California. We can treat all types of alcohol addiction, as well as any mental health issues.

Begin your recovery with our medical detox program. Access medications and 24/7 care and withdraw from alcohol safely and comfortably. After a week of detox, you’ll move into ongoing inpatient treatment at one of our luxury beachside rehabs.

All addictions are different, so all treatment programs at Gratitude Lodge offer tailored treatments, such as:

To get started with our compassion-first treatment program, call our recovery experts today at 800-994-2184.

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Jenni Bussi

Jenni Busse MS, LPCC

Jenni Busse MS, LPSS is the Clinical Director at Gratitude Lodge. Jenni oversees the clinical program and the clinical team at Gratitude Lodge as a whole. Jenni has worked in treatment for almost 14 years. Her background as a licensed therapist and her passion for helping others intersected with addiction recovery when she started working primarily in detox residential treatment.

Drug detox can vary according to the patient’s addiction factors, including the substance abused, how long the addiction has lasted, the patient’s medical condition, if any other disorders are present, and more. Our skilled and credentialed team at Gratitude Lodge work closely with every patient going through drug detox, facilitating the beginnings of a successful recovery at our rehab addiction centers in Orange County, CA.

Drug detox can vary according to the patient’s addiction factors, including the substance abused, how long the addiction has lasted, the patient’s medical condition, if any other disorders are present, and more. Our skilled and credentialed team at Gratitude Lodge work closely with every patient going through drug detox.

Many patients don’t realize the toxicity of prolonged alcohol abuse and how it affects the body. Alcohol detox at the luxurious rehab addiction centers at Gratitude Lodge leeches your body of these toxins in preparation for successful treatment for drugs and alcohol abuse. Alcohol detox may not take as long or produce severe withdrawal symptoms, but it is still an essential beginning to your recovery.

Many patients don’t realize the toxicity of prolonged alcohol abuse and how it affects the body. Alcohol detox at the luxurious rehab addiction centers at Gratitude Lodge leeches your body of these toxins in preparation for successful treatment for drugs and alcohol abuse.
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An essential part of your treatment experience, we offer individual (CBT and DBT talk therapy) and group addiction treatment counseling to help you explore and address the emotional component of addiction, providing you with the tools, self-awareness, and empowerment you need to maintain recovery.
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Joseph Gilmore

Joseph Gilmore has been working in the addiction industry for half a decade and has been writing about addiction and substance abuse treatment during that time. He has experience working for facilities all across the country. Connect with Joe on LinkedIn.

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