The 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health reported 85.6 percent of individuals 18 years, and older drank alcohol at least once in their lifetime. The survey also reports 25.8 percent of individuals 18 and older binge drank. Additionally, 14.5 million people aged 12 and older had alcohol use disorder (AUD), including high-functioning alcoholics.
What Is A High Functioning Alcoholic?
A high-functioning alcoholic is an individual who believes they do not have AUD. This means they do not fit the stereotypical image of an alcoholic. They can keep a job, maintain their finances, have relationships and friendships, and enjoy hobbies and activities. They also can have a happy family life.
In addition, their drinking patterns could involve drinking five or more drinks daily or frequent binge drinking. For example, someone could avoid alcohol during the week yet binge drink every weekend. Alternatively, they could binge drink every night or every other night.
A high-functioning alcoholic could also drink throughout the day to avoid alcohol withdrawal symptoms. Unfortunately, it can be difficult for the person to realize they have a drinking problem and need help. Furthermore, their friends and family may not even see the signs their loved one is a high-functioning alcoholic.
Signs You Could Be A High Functioning Alcoholic
Since high-functioning alcoholics do not believe they have AUD, they live with the false sense that they have a productive life and are managing their drinking effectively. However, there are certain signs one should know when they are concerned they may be a high-functioning alcohol, including the following:
- Alleviating the symptoms of a hangover by drinking. When someone experiences a hangover and alcohol withdrawal symptoms, they may have a drink or day drink to lessen those effects, such as headaches, nausea, and vomiting. Having a drink upon waking or throughout the day is a sign of AUD.
- Becoming defensive when friends and family question one’s drinking. When someone becomes defensive about drinking, it often indicates they should examine their drinking habits as others have noticed they seem out of control.
- Lying or hiding the amount one drinks. Another sign to look for is when someone lies about how much they drink or attempts to conceal their drinking from others.
- Experiencing blackouts and memory problems. When someone cannot account for what they did when drinking or remember interactions with others, this indicates the person has AUD.
- Increasing the amount of alcohol consumed. As the body builds tolerance to alcohol, more is needed to maintain the desired effects. Tolerance is a clear indication that one has become dependent on alcohol.
- Unable to stop drinking or reduce the amount consumed. When someone cannot go without alcohol or regulate their drinking, so it is less, these are signs of AUD. In addition, the inability to stop drinking once a person starts is also another warning sign.
- Taking risks or engaging in risky behaviors. Alcohol lowers one’s inhibitions, so when they are under the influence of alcohol, one can make decisions that put themselves and others at risk, like driving a car or having unprotected sex with multiple partners.
- Every social situation is a reason to drink. If someone drinks at every social setting, even when it may not be appropriate, this is a sign of a high-functioning alcoholic.
Why Is It Hard For High-Functioning Alcoholics To Seek Treatment?
The primary reason many high-functioning alcoholics do not seek treatment for their AUD is that they do not believe they have a drinking problem. Instead, they believe their drinking habits are normal since they have a job, good family life, and enjoy spending time with family and friends.
Additionally, their family and friends may not even recognize the signs of a high-functioning alcoholic. This may lead to them t not being concerned or urging their loved one to get help.
Furthermore, most high-functioning alcoholics never hit rock bottom. Instead, they often develop health problems later in life from the damage alcohol has done to their kidneys, liver, and other organs.
What Should You Do If You Think You Are A High-Functioning Alcoholic?
You should first examine your drinking habits, how much you drink, and how often. Be honest with yourself, even if you are uncomfortable admitting you drink too much or too often.
The next step is to undergo alcohol detox at a medical detox center. Supervised detox is needed because the withdrawal symptoms from long-term alcohol use can be very intense and even life-threatening.
Supervised detox provides access to doctors, addiction specialists, and other healthcare professionals. This is to help monitor your withdrawal and alleviate intense and life-threatening withdrawal symptoms.
Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) can also be used as part of your detox. There are different medications that help reduce the intensity of withdrawal symptoms, and others can help reduce alcohol cravings.
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Admitting you are a high-functioning alcoholic and need help is a significant first step to recovery. When you are ready to take this first step, DCF and Joint Commission-accredited Retreat of Broward in Pompano Beach, FL, is here to help. Contact us today to start your detox treatment in a caring, safe, and supportive environment.