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According to a government survey, about 20% of alcoholics in America are high-functioning alcoholics. They take care of their families, always pay their bills, and avoid trouble with the law. Most high-functioning alcoholics are mature, middle-aged adults. In fact, their families and friends might not even know they are alcoholics if they show no signs of having a substance use disorder. Some high-functioning alcoholics will even keep their alcoholism a secret or fail to recognize it themselves. People who live fully functional lives can still have AUD and can benefit from treatment and support.

What Are the Effects of Alcohol on the Body?

A substance abuse counselor, family therapist or spiritual advisor may also attend to provide an objective presence and keep the agenda on track. If someone close to you is a high-functioning alcoholic, it’s just as important to seek support for yourself as it is to get help for your loved one. You likely have questions about how to deal with an alcoholic, or how to help an alcoholic.

More on Substance Abuse and Addiction

By getting help for your loved one, you may be able to avoid further consequences of alcoholism and build a healthier future for your family. gary jackson author at sober-homes will rarely admit that they have a problem. But if someone in your life has three or more alcoholic beverages per day (two or more for women), they are consuming more than the recommended amount. Dietary Guidelines define moderate drinking as one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men.

  1. A high-functioning alcoholic will usually appear healthy despite consuming large amounts of alcohol.
  2. Spouses and family members of high-functioning alcoholics sometimes makes excuses for them as well and continue to keep alcohol at home.
  3. Sometimes, only the people close to them will notice their problematic drinking patterns.
  4. Negative life experiences, such as grief, abuse, or living in poverty, can also increase the odds.
  5. People who binge drink or drink heavily may notice more health effects sooner, but alcohol also poses some risks for people who drink in moderation.

What Are the Signs That an Alcoholic Is No Longer Functioning?

Although you might not hit all the criteria for the condition, and the impact on your life may appear minimal, AUD is a chronic and progressive condition. This means the negative impact on your life will likely grow, and the condition will not get better on its own without treatment. There is research showing that about 19.5 percent of people with AUD are middle-aged, well-educated, and have stable jobs, homes, and families.

Certain factors may increase your chances of experiencing alcohol use disorder. Long-term alcohol use can affect bone density, leading to thinner bones and increasing your risk of fractures if you fall. These effects might not last very long, but that doesn’t make them insignificant.

That’s because drinking during pregnancy doesn’t just affect your health. The connection between alcohol consumption and your digestive system might not seem immediately clear. The side effects often only appear after the damage has happened.

Liver damage is the most talked about physical consequence and that is a concern almost immediately. Alcoholics can go on to develop heart, respiratory and gastrointestinal disorders. There can also be declines in their mental and overall health, especially if they’re not eating healthy diets or engaging in physical activity. In the short term, alcohol use increases the risk for alcohol poisoning, fetal alcohol syndrome, accidents, injuries, violence, and risky sexual behavior.

The signs and symptoms listed above should be a good indicator of high-functioning alcoholism. BetterHelp can connect you to an addiction and mental health counselor. Because of this appearance, their problem doesn’t seem as severe as other types of alcoholism. However, they usually meet the criteria of alcohol use disorder. A high-functioning alcoholic will usually appear healthy despite consuming large amounts of alcohol. Although they can live a perfectly normal life, they can still benefit from professional help.

They drink alcohol with every meal and often carry alcohol with them. Alcohol becomes a daily necessity, almost a part of who they are. Your doctor may also conduct imaging tests if other laboratory studies come back abnormal. For example, a computed tomography (CT) scan tests for liver enlargement, which can occur after years of chronic drinking. Your doctor may order this test if your blood tests indicate abnormal liver functioning.

It is important to know that an AUD is a chronic but treatable disease. Early intervention and treatment can help reduce the severity of the disease and prevent further physical or mental complications from developing. More recently, a 2020 study found that people who used alcohol to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic were more likely to drink alone and drink to excessive amounts.

Unfortunately, many how to deal with an alcoholics tend to believe they don’t need treatment. They might also isolate themselves from other people to spend time drinking alone. Sometimes, only the people close to them will notice their problematic drinking patterns. Recovery from substance use disorders (SUDs) is an ongoing process and those fortunate to have long-term recovery share one thing in common—an ability to recommit. Sarah Allen Benton, M.S., LMHC., LPC, is a licensed mental health counselor and author of Understanding the High-Functioning Alcoholic. It passes slowly when times are tough and moves too quickly when life is smooth.

For the functional alcoholic, the denial runs deep, because they have yet to encounter significant negative consequences. The term “currently-functioning” may be used since it’s not likely they will remain functional (and not misuse alcohol) indefinitely. While the term “alcoholic” was used in the past but is now viewed as outdated and stigmatizing. can i attend a meeting online or by phone Today, healthcare professionals would say that a person has an alcohol use disorder (AUD). There are many rehab centers and support groups, both online and in-person, for people who are working to achieve sobriety. If you’re ready to get started, contact a treatment provider today to learn more about your treatment options.

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