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Alcohol & Health
Helping Alcoholics
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Updated on June 16, 2023
4 min read

Social Drinking

What is a Social Drinker?

A social drinker is someone who drinks in social situations. These situations include events such as:

  • Work outings
  • Parties
  • Friend or family gatherings

Social drinkers often consume moderate amounts of alcohol and are within their safe drinking limits. But their habits can vary depending on their situation and culture.

Some people consider themselves social drinkers but drink more than once a week with friends, coworkers, or family. Others could be social drinkers and only drink once every few months.


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Is Social Drinking Acceptable?

Social drinking can be acceptable. However, it depends on the person and the amount of alcohol consumed during social drinking experiences.

Society considers social drinking acceptable because of the reasons people list for doing it, which include:

  • Relaxation in social situations
  • Fitting in and sharing the drinking experience with peers
  • Celebrating milestones and special occasions
  • Improving health

Moderate social drinkers don’t use alcohol to self-medicate mental health conditions, nor do they experience physical cravings for alcohol. However, problem social drinkers can experience these issues, especially if they consume alcohol excessively.

Signs Social Drinking is Becoming a Problem

Social drinking can become a problem when a person shows signs of AUD. These include:

  • Not knowing when to stop drinking
  • Not being able to stop drinking even if you know it is time to do so
  • Drinking to the point of drunkenness before a social gathering
  • Multiple instances of binge drinking
  • Including many heavy drinkers in your social circle
  • Blacking out multiple times
  • Experiencing physical withdrawal symptoms when not drinking
  • Engaging in risky behavior when drinking
  • Issues with friends and family members
  • Problems at work or school
  • Feeling shame over alcohol intake
  • Using alcohol to escape or to self-medicate
  • Denial of a problem with drinking when confronted by loved ones
  • Spending money, time, or other resources on alcohol if it causes a problem
  • Needing to increase the number of drinks to achieve the same effect
  • Spending a lot of time with a hangover or feeling poorly after drinking

A person does not need to show all these signs to have a problem. It’s wise to seek help if you think your alcohol consumption is problematic.

Social drinking can also be a problem if you are:

  • Pregnant
  • Breastfeeding
  • Driving
  • In a dangerous situation
  • Taking medications that do not mix with alcohol
  • At risk of alcohol use disorder (AUD)

Though moderately drinking alcohol offers some health benefits, it can also be dangerous.7 A person can be at risk of:

  • Cardiovascular issues
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Liver health problems
  • Some types of cancer
  • AUD
the health effects of alcohol

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Social Drinkers vs. Moderate Drinkers

Moderate drinkers, regardless of the occasion, only consume alcoholic drinks moderately. Social drinkers, regardless of the amount of alcohol, only drink when they are with people.

Some social drinkers can be moderate drinkers because they don’t drink excessively when socializing. But some social drinkers drink excessively.

There are cases where the amount of alcohol a social drinker consumes can become problematic. If they drink excessively too often, regardless of the company they keep, they can potentially develop a dependence or addiction to alcohol.


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Treatment for Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD)

Heavy drinking and displaying other unhealthy drinking patterns may signify substance abuse. 

Here are some ways to overcome AUD:

Behavioral Changes

If you have concerns about drinking too much, but the problem has only occurred for a short time and hasn’t interfered with anything in your life, behavioral changes can help. For example:

  • Avoid social settings where you know people are drinking, especially if they are binge drinkers
  • Make sure you have a response ready for when someone offers you a beer
  • Drink non-alcoholic beverages in social settings
  • Consider taking up a new hobby
  • Focus on improving your health
  • Don’t keep alcohol in your home

Professional Treatment

If you’re struggling with alcohol addiction, professional treatment can help. Treatment options include:

  • Inpatient Treatment involves staying in a facility for a certain period, usually 30 days or more, to receive medical care and counseling to manage your addiction
  • Outpatient Treatment ⁠— allows you to stay home while receiving treatment; often more affordable than inpatient programs and can be tailored to your needs
  • Medication-Assisted Treatment ⁠— combines counseling with medications to reduce alcohol cravings and withdrawal symptoms
  • Support Groups ⁠— provide a safe and supportive environment to discuss your addiction; you can also receive help from others who have gone through similar experiences


Social drinking can be fun but can lead to serious problems if not done responsibly. Several treatment options are available if you’re concerned that your drinking is becoming an issue. Behavioral changes and professional treatment can help you manage your alcohol consumption and get back on track.

Updated on June 16, 2023
7 sources cited
Updated on June 16, 2023
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