Social Drinking vs. Alcohol Problem

“For the majority of people, alcohol is used safely without apparent consequences,” says Advocate Lutheran General Hospital’s Dr. Lara Segalite.

“However, for others alcohol is a powerfully addictive drug that can contribute to the loss of one’s job, home, family, and ultimately life. It is important for people who are concerned to have a way to identify the extent of the problem to determine the best approach to treatment.”

Approximately 14 million Americans—8.5 percent of the population—meet the diagnostic criteria for alcohol abuse or alcoholism and more than 50% of American adults have a close family member who has struggled with alcoholism.

Sudden life changes—job loss, death in the family, divorce, major depression—may turn a casual drinker into a problem drinker.

Dr. Segalite notes that “Individuals at high-risk often find themselves losing control over the amount of alcohol consumed and unable to keep up with important things in a person’s life like family, school, and work.  Even in the face of apparent problems, alcoholics will plan their lives around the need to use.”

Quick Evaluation

To identify the extent of the problem, you or your loved one can start by taking a quick diagnostic survey. Just one positive answer to this test may indicate need for further evaluation:

  • Have you ever felt you should cut down on your use of drugs or alcohol?
  • Have people annoyed you by criticizing your use of drugs or alcohol?
  • Have you ever felt bad or guilty about your use of drugs or alcohol?
  • Have you ever used drugs or alcohol first thing in the morning to steady your nerves or get rid of a hangover?

Where To Find Help

Traditionally, there are four treatment stages:

  • Stage 1: Identification
  • Stage 2: Detoxification
  • Stage 3: Rehabilitation
  • Stage 4: Aftercare

There are different levels of care for people struggling with alcohol addiction based on their need. Most insurance companies cover some percentage of the cost of care. Several local agencies that offer outpatient services for adolescents and adults in the area include:

1.    Advocate Lutheran General – Park Ridge. Call 847-795-3100
2.    Resurrection Behavioral Health – Lake Bluff. Call 847-493-3585
3.    North Shore University Health System – Evanston. Call 847-570-4633
4.    Gateway Foundation – Chicago. Call 877-321-7326 Also have locations throughout the U.S.

Some people require more intensive inpatient treatment, such as:

1.    Rosecrance— Rockford, IL. Call 888-928-5278
2.    Sierra Tucson, Tucson, AZ. Call 800-842-4487
3.    Hazelden – Chicago. Call 312-943-3534 Also have locations throughout the U.S.

For information about certified inpatient and outpatient treatment programs throughout the United States, please call The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) at 1-800-662-HELP or visit

Dr. Segalite concludes: “The good news is that with the right support, intervention, and treatment, many people recover from alcoholism and go on to lead fulfilling and productive lives.”