Josh Chandler | February 25, 2019

How to Know If Someone is a High Functioning Alcoholic

It can be very difficult to spot a high functioning alcoholic. Learn about the top signs of someone who may be living with high functioning alcoholism.

We all know someone who drinks a little bit too much, but do they secretly have a problem? Are they missing work or showing up drunk to family parties?

Every year, more than 85,000 people die of alcohol-related causes. That includes car accidents due to drunk driving, cirrhosis of the liver, and heart disease.

Surprisingly, more people die from alcohol each year than from opioids. If you don’t think that alcoholism is a crisis in this country, keep reading.

We’ll give you the rundown on how to spot a high functioning alcoholic. We’ll also teach you how to stage an intervention and help you find a good option for rehab.

What Is High Functioning Alcoholism?

One of the problems with alcoholism is that many people don’t see alcohol as a drug. It’s legal and easily obtainable, unlike black market pills.

In some states, people can buy alcohol at their local supermarkets. Some bars also open at 6 or 7 am to accommodate people who start drinking early.

Getting ahold of alcohol isn’t difficult, but consuming too much can be deadly. Alcohol is a contributing factor to more than one-third of all criminal activities.

While most people drink recreationally, alcoholics regularly drink to excess. That’s defined as more than 11 drinks per week for women and more than 14 per week for men.

High functioning alcoholics may be able to go to work while still slightly drunk from the night before. Their tolerance for alcohol might be so high that they don’t even get hangovers anymore.

If pressed, they will probably deny that they have a problem.

Symptoms of a High Functioning Alcoholic

Secrecy is one reason that it’s very hard to spot a functioning alcoholic. They may drink alone and they may hide their alcohol consumption from friends and family.

There are a few common symptoms that can help you figure out if your friend or family member is a functional alcoholic.

Drinking Too Much

How much is too much? Some of us can go months or even years without a drink, but an alcoholic typically drinks a few times per week.

Going out to bars can be fun, and many alcoholics thrive on the friendships they form while they’re out drinking. They may call themselves a social drinker, but the reality is that they’re spending hundreds of dollars each week on alcohol.

If your loved one has to have a few drinks just to wake up in the morning, however, they might have a serious problem.

Drinking in Secret

There are two types of alcoholics: people who go to bars and people who stay home and drink. You could know someone for years without knowing that they drink alone.

If you suspect that your teenager is drinking, you can get an at-home test. There are some that require them to blow into a breathalyzer, and there are others that test their urine.

Drinking in secret is one of the major indicators of alcoholism. It can be shocking to find out that your friend or loved one has a problem with alcohol, but there are reputable rehab centers that they can attend.

Drinking to Cope with Mental Illness

Surprisingly, undiagnosed mental illness is a major factor in alcoholism. People may be able to keep their jobs and relationships going, but they may not see that they’re headed for a breakdown.

Many people drink to counteract their depressive episodes, not realizing that alcohol is a depressant. It acts as a tranquilizer for manic episodes but could lead to long-term depression.

People with a dual diagnosis might feel isolated, hopeless, and lost. The symptoms of depression and alcoholism can overlap to a considerable extent.

Withdrawal Symptoms

People with functioning alcoholism often become irritable when they don’t drink for a few days. Depending on the amount of alcohol they’ve been consuming, they may also suffer from fatigue, irritability, or insomnia.

In extreme cases, people withdrawing from alcohol can have seizures, hallucinations, or long-term memory problems.

It’s best to enter a rehabilitation facility to detox from alcohol. Rehab centers can monitor withdrawal symptoms and provide medical assistance if necessary.

If your friend or loved one has been drinking alcohol and doing other drugs, they should undergo a supervised rehab process. In addition to physical health care, rehab centers provide therapy and post-rehab planning services.

How to Stage an Intervention

If you’ve recently found out that a loved one is a high functioning alcoholic, you might want to organize an intervention.

Interventions don’t have to be traumatic, but they can come as an unpleasant surprise to people who struggle with addiction. You’ll need to gather together friends and family who are committed to your loved one’s recovery.

Take the time to write down what you want to say. Try to keep it brief, but put your heart into your words.

You should try to time your intervention to occur when your loved one is sober. They may not be ready to hear what you have to say, but it’s important to talk to them about their rehab options.

Smart Recovery for Alcoholics

Any smart recovery plan for a high functioning alcoholic should include rehab. If your loved one is struggling with a mental illness, a rehab center can help them get the right medication.

Rehabilitation from drugs and alcohol doesn’t happen overnight, but going to rehab is a great first step. In fact, insurance often covers the majority of the treatment costs.

We offer individual and group therapy, medication-assisted recovery, and sober living counseling to our clients. If you think that your friend or loved one could benefit from our services, give us a call and we can schedule a tour.

Intervening in another person’s addiction isn’t easy, but it’s the right thing to do. Their mental and physical health is at stake, along with their jobs, relationships, and peace of mind.

If you can’t call, you can fill out our form online. Our addiction specialists offer confidential help to patients and their families. They can help you verify your insurance information.

Addiction,Alcohol Addiction,Alcohol Rehab,Mental Health,
Josh Chandler
Josh Chandler
After growing up in Chicago and North Carolina, Josh chose to get help with substance use disorder and mental health in California because of the state's reputation for top-tier treatment. There, he found the treatment he needed to achieve more than five years of recovery. He's been in the drug and alcohol addiction rehab industry for four years and now serves as the Director of Admissions for Resurgence Behavioral Health. Josh remains passionate about the field because he understands that one phone call can alter the course of a person's life.

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