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Alcoholism is a harmful and ultimately deadly disease. Yet people consume alcohol every day, and many of them never become alcoholics. What's the difference?
For a "social drinker," the alcohol is not necessary, though it may be enjoyable. A social drinker can refrain from drinking alcohol when it is inappropriate to do so (for instance, if he/she needs to drive or look after young children), and can have one or two drinks and then stop.
Binge drinking is a repeated pattern of alcohol abuse that involves consumption of a large amount of alcohol in a short time period. There are many medical and legal risks associated with binge drinking, in part because it is common among young people, whose bodies are more susceptible to permanent harm from alcohol abuse.
Despite this harm, many people who follow a pattern of bingeing while young do not become alcoholics, and go on to use alcohol responsibly as they get older.
Once a person has become physically dependent on alcohol, it is generally not thought to be possible to return to a "social" level of drinking, and alcohol rehab programs focus on establishing and maintaining abstinence.