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How to Help High Functioning Alcoholic

man consoling woman on a couch demonstrating how to help a high functioning alcoholic

Alcoholism is a familiar and persistent problem in America, but also right here in Massachusetts. Not every person struggling with alcohol use disorder (AUD) is a stumbling drunk or constantly asking for money to buy alcohol. A high-functioning alcoholic can maintain their personal and professional responsibilities despite having a drinking problem. If you or someone you know is a Massachusetts resident struggling with AUD, there is alcohol addiction treatment in Pittsfield at Vertava Health Massachusetts. Call 888.655.0289 for more information.

What Is a High-Functioning Alcoholic?

A high-functioning alcoholic is defined as a person who appears to live a normal life despite drinking alcohol excessively. They are able to maintain their job, social life, and family responsibilities. But make no mistake, just because someone is a high-functioning alcoholic does not mean their drinking problem is any less serious.

High-functioning alcoholics are often able to hide their drinking from others. They may drink heavily but can make it to work and take care of their responsibilities. They may even be successful in their careers. However, high-functioning alcoholics often have many problems in their personal lives. They may have difficulty maintaining relationships and may suffer from financial problems.

High-functioning alcoholics often deny that they have a problem and may not seek help. This can make it difficult for family and friends to guide them to alcohol addiction treatment.

What Is Alcohol Use Disorder?

Alcohol use disorder (AUD) is the diagnosis one gets from a medical professional when someone is struggling with alcohol addiction. AUD is classified as mild, moderate, or severe and occurs when a person has compulsive alcohol misuse, loss of control over the amount of alcohol consumed, and suffers from withdrawals when alcohol isn’t available.

While alcohol is legal in Massachusetts — and safe when consumed in moderation by those looking to relax — drinking it may cause legal troubles, health issues, depression, anxiety, or relationship problems. Many factors can cause alcohol addiction, but a common one is multiple binge-drinking episodes. While binge drinking is not a direct path to alcohol addiction, it does put a person at greater risk for developing an addiction.

Determining the difference between alcohol addiction/misuse and social drinking isn’t always easy because alcohol affects each person differently. A good gauge is following medical professionals’ standards of how much alcohol is considered too much.

How Much Alcohol Is Too Much?

Again, alcohol affects everyone differently. Two beers in one sitting may make one person feel nothing, while others may feel “tipsy.” The gauge isn’t an exact thing. However, the NIAAA, a division of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), describes more than seven drinks per week as heavy drinking for a woman. It also describes more than 15 drinks per week as heavy drinking for a man. One drink is defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as:

  • ​​12 ounces of beer
  • 8 ounces of malt liquor
  • 5 ounces of wine
  • 1.5 ounces of 80-proof (40% alcohol content) distilled spirits or liquor

Do I Have Alcohol Use Disorder?

While only a professional can determine whether someone has an AUD, there are signs that you can look for as outlined below. Alcohol use disorder covers a broad spectrum, but in general, a person living with AUD is facing any mix of the following:

  • Drinking alcohol causes financial, career, or relationship problems
  • Lying to yourself about how much or how often you drink
  • Withdrawal symptoms from going without alcohol
  • Irritability in the absence of alcohol
  • Sweating
  • Nausea
  • Tremors
  • Fever
  • Lack of control around alcohol

Dangers of Living With Alcohol Use Disorder

Living with severe alcohol addiction as a high-functioning alcoholic is dangerous. The short-term and long-term effects on your body, thoughts, feelings, and overall wellbeing become increasingly severe the longer you remain caught in the cycle of addiction. Quite simply, it is not a sustainable situation, and there are countless stories of people who drank themselves to death.

Short-Term Risks

  • Injuries
  • Motor vehicle crashes
  • Drownings
  • Burns
  • Falls
  • Violence
  • Homicide
  • Suicide
  • Sexual assault
  • Domestic violence
  • Overdose
  • Also known as alcohol poisoning
  • Risky sexual behaviors
  • Unprotected sex with strangers
  • Can lead to unintended pregnancy or disease

Long-Term Risks

  • Physical health problems
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Liver disease
  • Digestion problems
  • Cancer
  • Social problems
  • Family issues
  • Relationship troubles
  • Job-related struggles
  • Unemployment
  • Mental health disorders
  • Anxiety
  • Depression

Seeking professional alcohol addiction treatment is almost always necessary for high-functioning alcoholics, and getting them to admit they have a problem and seek help often happens only after a serious health scare.

Call Vertava Health – Massachusetts

Vertava Health Massachusetts offers inpatient and outpatient alcohol addiction detox and treatment options. If you or a loved one needs treatment or simply has questions about what treatment at our facility may look like, call us at 888.655.0289 or contact us online.