If you think drinking alcohol is a normal and acceptable social activity, you have a lot of company. The vast majority of Americans never think about the potential disaster they might cause by driving home after hoisting a few, let alone the risk of alcohol addiction. That’s something that happens to movie stars and rock musicians who wind up in fashionable country-club alcohol detox centers.

So let me pose a few questions: Why is it okay to get drunk at every party since high school? Get smashed every weekend at college, and keep getting drunk at party after party as life goes on? And even worse, why is it okay to drive home drunk? Why do people laugh about it instead of getting into alcohol detox where they should be?

And here’s another one: Why is drinking at a party any different from going to a friend’s BBQ where everybody shoots up heroin? Or lies around on yoga mats smoking raw opium? Because the only real differences between alcohol and street drugs are not about addiction or danger, they’re about social custom and the fact that alcohol is legal and cheap.

For some 25 million Americans, alcohol has proven every bit as addictive — and far more physically debilitating — than most other addictive drugs. Not only that, although heroin and opium can be difficult and extremely uncomfortable to withdraw from without drug detox, withdrawal rarely kills anyone. Alcohol withdrawal, on the other hand, can actually kill someone unless experienced alcohol detox professionals are on the case.

Every day we read about some person getting busted for DUI, about alcohol-related injuries, crimes and tragic deaths — things we seldom consider when reaching for another drink at a party. If they’re famous, the reporter may add that the person is “entering alcohol detox” or something of the sort, which is commendable and no joke, by the way.

But when was the last time you heard on the news that someone driving under the influence of opium or heroin crashed through a divider and killed somebody? I can’t remember such a story, and maybe it could happen. But millions more people drive while impaired by alcohol than narcotics, and it affects drivers much more severely.

And while most people would have a negative reaction to any suggestion they try heroin or opium at a neighborhood BBQ or anywhere else, many go right on drinking until they’re staggering, and then pick up the car keys and head for the door. They should be taking a taxi, probably to the nearest alcohol detox center.

I’m not sure of any scientific surveys, but I think the people with real alcohol problems are the ones who habitually drink and drive, not occasional drinkers. Such people should have their keys taken away from them and get into alcohol detox and rehab to deal with their problems.

Here’s a case in point. A 32-year-old West Virginia man was convicted recently of felony driving under the influence of alcohol, causing death. Police said Brian Stone of Gans, PA, killed five people from two different families while driving drunk on Interstate 68 in West Virginia last year. Prosecutors said Stone’s car was loaded with beer and his blood alcohol content was three times the legal limit.

Police say Stone killed Courtney Evans, 31, and 12-year-old Sawyer Evans, and injured Sheena Evans, 29, and their youngest son, 3-year-old John. Stone also killed Donnell Perry, 52, and daughters Jacquesha Perry, 13, and Jentil Perry, 15, and injured family members Marcia Perry, 18-year-old Justine Perry,10-year-old Cory Perry, 8-year-old Aynna Perry, and 18-month-old Mia Barnes.

Now here’s the kicker: This was the seventh time Stone had been arrested for DUI, five times in the past five years alone. This is a person who needed alcohol detox and rehab a very long time ago. An alcohol detox could have paved the way for a full alcohol rehab program that actually saved the lives of five adults and children, and rescued the life of young man who is now looking at possibly decades in prison.

The overall cost to society of alcohol abuse dwarfs the costs of all other drugs. If someone you know and care for has a problem with alcohol, talk to an alcohol detox counselor as soon as possible. It’s never too soon to get someone onto an alcohol detox that can open the door to full rehabilitation and a sober life.