Social drinking is widely practiced because many people turn to alcohol when they’re feeling stressed. A co-worker may ask you to drink with him if he’s having troubles in the office. A friend may seek relationship advice over a few beers.
Unfortunately, many people don’t recognize the fine line between social drinking and alcohol abuse. And when alcohol is abused, it becomes just a mere step away from becoming full blown alcoholism.
What’s dangerous about alcohol abuse is that you may not know you have a problem until it’s transformed into something serious. By the time you’ve become an alcoholic, you have already developed dependence for the substance. It’s an addiction. You’re going to need more and more of it just to get the same effects. And once you become dependent on alcohol, it’s going to be hard to recover.
Withdrawal symptoms abound for alcoholics that try to quit on their own. Their body forces them to drink more. It’s no longer a matter of willpower, as many people believe. Some people think alcoholism is something you can just drop any day of the week. But it’s a disease that requires detoxification and rehabilitation.
So what then is a high functioning alcoholic? We’ve heard of this term before, but what is it exactly?
This term is commonly used for social drinkers who haven’t yet realized they have a much bigger problem in their hands. It lands right in the middle of alcohol abuse and alcoholism. It’s an alcoholic that still functions regularly in society. This means they still do their jobs, they still keep their relationships, but the problem is there: they can’t put the bottle down.
That’s when things get tricky. When you don’t realize you are abusing alcohol, that’s when you start rushing into alcoholism. Everything looks fine on the outside: they’re not getting in trouble often. But we know that they drink too much. They drink their problems away. And by doing so, they develop a much larger problem: alcoholism.
High functioning alcoholism does not present itself as the standard images we associate alcoholism with. It does not look like the person is falling apart because of it. It does not fit that mold. In fact, even as the person abuses alcohol, it doesn’t seem like they are.
The high functioning alcoholic will not act the way you would expect an alcoholic to act. Success, productivity, and responsibility may cause others to overlook their excessive drinking. One thing they do have in common with a regular alcoholic is that they tend to be in denial of their drinking habits.
People who abuse alcohol don’t always suffer from the common setbacks of drinking. But that does not mean they are doing fine. For starters, their health may suffer greatly because of their unchecked habits. Experts see high functioning alcoholism as a pre-set to developing full blown alcoholism. Major responsibilities and heavy drinking do not typically mix well, and so the high functioning alcoholic may find himself spiraling as soon as things don’t go as they normally should. The habit may catch up to them.
For men, the limit for alcohol consumption is loosely four drinks a day or 14 a week. If a person drinks more than either daily or weekly limits, they are at risk of becoming alcoholic (numbers vary based on height weight age etc.
As for women, the limit (again depending on other factors) is three drinks a day or seven a week. Statistics show that up to 20% of alcoholics may be highly functional. It is only a matter of time before they experience the adverse effects of the habit.
If a person often jokes about alcoholism, saying they have a “problem” with it, it’s time to take the joke a bit seriously. If they get arrested for driving under the influence, that’s a clear indication of high functioning alcoholism.
People who need alcohol to relax or feel confident, as well as those who drink alone or in the morning are likely to be high functioning alcoholics. Even if someone functions well, if their loved ones are starting to worry about their alcohol consumption, they may be having this problem.
High functioning alcoholics may seem to be in control, but they are prone to making risky decisions. They may drive while drunk, participate in risky sex, or drink to the point of blacking out.
Alcohol abuse is dangerous for the person’s health. Risky behavior can also put other people’s lives in danger. If someone you know is displaying signs of being a high functioning alcoholic, it’s time to talk to them about it and encourage them to seek help. It’s not too late to recover from this disease. Seek a medical professional and look for a rehabilitation program that can benefit them most.
Enroll in an alcohol detox and then rehab program at Detox of South Florida. Our medical detox and rehab programs are designing to help cleanse your body, as well as prepare you to take on the world free of alcohol.
Dr. Vikram Tarugu, M.D, is the CEO of Detox of South Florida, Inc and medical professional focused on addiction. A veteran in the medical field with over 25 years of professional experience. He is a consultant for many South Florida Rehab centers. Patients travel from allover the US to seek his help with addiction and Hepatitis C treatment.
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