What are the Signs of a Functioning Alcoholic?
By: Lakeview Health Staff
Published: June 23, 2016

A functioning alcoholic is much harder to identify than those who have lost much of themselves and their lives to substance abuse. Functioning alcoholics seem reasonably in control of life, both personally and professionally. They are typically responsible, employed and productive members of society. But Dr. Robert Huebner of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism warns that functioning alcoholism is a limited-time state of being. Huebner said, “[No one] can drink heavily and maintain major responsibilities over long periods of time. If someone drinks heavily, it is going to catch up with them.”

Signs of a Functioning Alcoholic

A functioning alcoholic usually appears at face value to have a great home life, a successful career and an active social life. A person may become a functional alcoholic, yet others enable that person by making excuses for the excessive drinking. This enablement is often due to the individual’s reputation as an upstanding member of society. This is also where the downward slide into a more detrimental phase of alcoholism begins. Up to 20% of people abusing alcohol are functioning alcoholics. A woman who drinks more than three drinks each day or seven per week is at risk for alcoholism. A man drinking four drinks each day or 14 per week is also at high risk. When such frequency and volume of beverages consumed are accompanied by other symptoms, an assumption of that person as a functional alcoholic can be made. A functional alcoholic often:

  • Makes jokes about being an alcoholic
  • Misses important events, work or school
  • Gets into fights, loses friends
  • May have one or more DUI arrests
  • Drinks in the morning
  • Drinks alone
  • Forgets their behavior during periods of drinking
  • Denies drinking or hides alcohol
  • Is protected by friends and family who make excuses for the drinking

Risky Behaviors of a Functioning Alcoholic

People with a functioning drinking problem appear to have control over their lives. But they frequently are in chaos under that cloak of “control,” engaging in behaviors that are extremely risky for themselves and others. Functional drinkers may drive while drunk, engage in high-risk sexual activities and black out. There are other risks associated with functional alcoholism. These include ailments heavy drinkers tend to have, many of which are fatal. Some of those diseases and conditions include:

  • Liver disease
  • Pancreatitis
  • High blood pressure
  • Cancer
  • Car accidents
  • Brain damage
  • Major memory loss

Functional alcoholism also leads to other problems, including:

  • Car accidents
  • Suicide
  • Murder
  • Child abuse
  • Child neglect
  • Domestic violence
  • Fetal alcohol syndrome

Rehab Is the Right Choice for Overcoming Functional Alcoholism

Although some patients are functional in their alcoholism, they are still suffering ramifications of the disease. These destructive behaviors may not have yet made them lose everything to substance abuse, but that result will come if recovery isn’t achieved. Lakeview Health in Jacksonville, Florida recognizes that patients suffer their substance abuse to varying degrees. But the underlying issues associated with substance abuse still exist, regardless of how far along patients are in destruction of their personal and professional lives. Making the choice to gain recovery before such destruction is a much better option to waiting until the “aftermath.” Call Lakeview Health today at 866.704.7692 for more information about how programs and treatment modalities can address functional alcoholism for yourself or your loved one. Each day you wait is another day down the path toward greater risk. Call us. We can help.