By Dr. Brian McDonough, Medical Editor

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – The numbers are startling – 22 million Americans over the age of 12 have a substance abuse problem and there is no doubt that alcohol can be a drug of choice. If that isn’t bad enough, only about 2.3 million receive treatment for the issue.

One of the best ways to attack this problem is to ask the correct questions – we as physicians need to talk about substance abuse with patients in an open and frank manner.

Questions like, “do you find yourself looking forward to your next drink? Have you ever blacked out as a result of drinking? Have you found yourself in positions where you’ve lost control or could be harmed as a result of alcohol abuse?”

All of these questions are very important.

The other issue is abuse of over-the-counter and prescription medications. All of these things can be obtained legally and many people think “if it is legal, why not use it.”