A high-functioning alcoholic may be able to work, socialize and participate in activities without being hindered by their drinking. Some individuals may even seem to be sober and are top achievers and dedicated workers. Even though this presentation of substance use disorder shows up in someone who functions well in society, they still have a substance use disorder and face all the risks associated with excessive or prolonged alcohol consumption. Learning more about this type of substance use disorder can help you recognize the signs in yourself or others and take the first step towards getting them help.
Common Signs of a High Functioning Alcoholic
Someone who is high functioning may not recognize just how much they drink, and will point to the things they do as “evidence” that their drinking is under control. They work, go to school, get along with others and seem to function fine and may deny that they have a problem at all.
They drink to function
Someone with a substance use disorder who is high functioning may need a drink to get through the day at work or school or simply to get out of bed in the morning and face the day.
Strife at work or school
Simply getting there and working is an accomplishment for someone who drinks heavily, but an increase in social difficulties at work or school could indicate a problem, or that they’re no longer able to function as well as before.
Hiding alcohol or drinking
More bottles than expected in the trash, a hidden cash of empties or even a stockpile of full bottles could be a sign that someone is suffering from a substance abuse problem.
They seem to be in control, but a high functioning alcoholic is more likely to take risks such as driving while drunk, having unsafe sex, or use otherwise poor judgement that results in higher risks of accidents.
Consequences of Drinking on the Body
The ability to function after consuming alcohol does not limit the impact that regular drinking has on the body. From liver disease to memory loss and even brain damage, the effects of alcohol on the body can be severe. Someone who can function well after drinking also runs a higher risk of DUI, since they feel confident enough to get behind the wheel of a vehicle.
Treatment Can Help
While the outward signs may be different, the treatment for a high functioning alcoholic is the same as the treatment for anyone suffering from substance use disorder. An immersive, intensive outpatient program can provide you or a loved one with the help and support that is needed to recover.