Do You Know a Functioning Alcoholic?

You might presume that an alcoholic is a person who is mostly drinking, has no hope of earning a good life, and is a total failure, but this is a common misconception. That's not the case with a functioning alcoholic.

But what is a functioning alcoholic?


A functioning alcoholic abuses alcohol but is still successful in maintaining their life, family, and career. The National Council on Alcohol and Drug Dependence (NCADD) concluded that 20% of the alcohol addicts in the U.S. are functioning alcoholics.


A functional alcoholic is a tricky and intelligent person who has a stable life, family, successful career and yet drinks like there's no tomorrow.


Research by the National Council on Alcohol and Drug Dependence (NCADD) concluded that 14 million adult citizens of the United States– one out of every 13 – have an Alcohol Abuse Disorder. The surprising fact is that, out of these alcoholics, a whopping 20% are the functioning type.


You might want to ask yourself, "Am I a functioning alcoholic?"


The first answer that comes to your mind is NO.


Well, the majority of functional alcoholics have a firm belief that they are not alcoholics as they are in denial. These individuals come out of denial on facing a situation that usually is heartbreaking.


They think having a stable and prosperous life is a clear indication that they are not alcoholics. However, that may not be the case.


These individuals drink a lot as soon as they finish work. Functioning alcoholics are invisible as they have developed resistance to alcohol and usually show no sign of being drunk, making it much harder to spot an alcoholic in this case. They are intelligent, well-educated, and hardworking, which is one reason for not showing the signs of being drunk.


You're a functioning alcoholic if you have the following signs:

  • Alcohol is the first thing on your mind after work.

  • You end up drinking more than one glass of alcohol.

  • You experience blackouts.

  • You feel shaky in the morning.

  • You hide your alcohol.

  • You have hangovers.


How to Find Out if You're a Functioning Alcoholic

Several functional alcoholic signs can tell you if you're one or not:

  1. First of all, ask yourself what the first thing that comes to your mind after finishing work or reaching home? If your answer is consuming alcohol, you might want to consider the odds.

  2. Do you sit down to have just one glass and end up consuming far more than one?

  3. Do you have blackouts? It means you forget what you said and did.

  4. Do you feel shakiness in the morning?

  5. Do you hide your alcohol?

  6. Do you experience a hangover?

If you reply "yes" to several of the above questions, then I would advise you to consult a doctor as soon as possible. Do you know that being a functional alcoholic doesn't only put you at risk of harming yourself but your family and loved ones as well?


These individuals usually start increasing their alcohol intake due to stress, a relationship problem, or losing a cherished one. Later on, this can become a habit of beer abuse or any other alcohol dependence and then changes to a medical condition that puts them in a denial stage.


In 2013, N.Y. Times published a story: A 'Perfect Mother,' a Vodka Bottle and 8 Lives Lost about a 39-year old mother named Diane Shuler, who died in an accident as she was under the influence of alcohol. She was a high-functioning alcoholic.


In this sad incident, her son and three nieces also died. The story shows how functioning alcoholics can risk their lives and the lives of others around them.


Can I control my condition of functioning alcoholism?

This might come as a blow, but the answer is NO!


Most of the individuals who try to stop or reduce alcohol intake end up drinking more as they get depressed, and sometimes they end up causing severe damage to someone's life. Take Diane's example; had she lived, she would never have forgotten the sad outcome of the accident that she caused.


With time, the body tolerance to alcohol increases, and the consumer is drinking more and more due to increased stress caused by career growth (enhanced responsibilities). There comes a time when performance and health damages begin to deteriorate. Profound alcohol dependence is visible at this stage.


Living With A Functioning Alcoholic

They were wondering how it would be to live with an alcoholic? Usually, families of such people are not satisfied with them. A functioning alcoholic can be an aggressive person who rarely gives time to others. Living with an alcoholic husband often results in either a broken marriage or relationships. The individual usually suffers from depression, social phobia, anxiety, and eating disorders. They may seem sociable while at work but prefer to drink alone at the bar or home drinking.


Is functioning alcoholism sustainable?

Functioning alcoholism is not sustainable. A functioning alcoholic who tries to quit drinking may only end up drinking more to cope with withdrawal symptoms. In the long run, functioning alcoholism will only lead to increased alcohol consumption, and eventual deterioration in the workplace, home life, and overall well-being are inevitable.


The functioning alcoholic is dangerous, so the person should be encouraged to figure out a way to reduce the consumption with the support of loved ones or family. Conversations on drinking habits are vital in this process. If the patient is receptive to his loved one's concern and is willing to curb the habit of drinking, then you should seek help. The first and foremost thing to do is encourage him/her to consult another specialist.


Functioning Alcoholics at the workplace

An alcoholic is a danger to not only himself but also to his employer. A functioning alcoholic is often absent from work, and his duties are either handled by coworkers or remain pending. This is a significant loss for the firm. It is recommended that the patient be given medical treatment even at the firm's expense.


Best Potential Solution

Alcohol withdrawal is very challenging, so it's a better choice to opt for medical detoxification. Medical detoxification means providing medicines, specific diet plans, and vitamins to make the withdrawal process less painful.


Help is available at different government awareness sights. National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence provides support and assistance to alcoholics.


Different medical options are available in the United States of America. National Council of Alcoholism offers medical attention to the five different types of alcoholics. A strong will is essential for the individual to recover from functioning alcoholism.


Treating functioning alcoholism is comparatively easy as the person is still in control of their life, and rehab is hardly ever needed. But depending on your situation, you may consider talking to your doctor or health professional for a customized solution to your condition in the alcohol treatment facilities. It may be alcohol abuse counseling, inpatient or outpatient rehabilitation facility or any other individualized approach.


Another Solution can help by providing the client with a free Clinical Evaluation and Assessment. While we typically don't offer financial aid, we do aid the patient by matching the treatment plan with their diagnosis and guiding them in placement


Dr. Gregory Okhifun

Medical Reviewer

Dr. Okhifun is a passionate medical doctor with over five years' experience as a general practitioner. His passion for medical education led to his journey in medical writing. He has a wealth of experience writing for hospitals and medical centers, health organizations, telemedicine platforms, wellness organizations, medical tourism publications, addiction websites, and websites focused on nutrition and nutraceuticals.

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