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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”