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Highly Functioning Alcoholics: Who’s it Really Hurting?

A highly functioning alcoholic is someone who has a severe drinking problem yet manages to maintain a job, family commitments, and in general live a somewhat normal-seeming life. These “professional alcoholics” may drink to excess every night but still get up in the morning and go to work or school as if they did not. They might be completely intoxicated during even very somber or official events or moments, but outside observers are usually unaware. Family members, friends and colleagues may be aware that the problem exists, but because highly functioning alcoholics manage their drinking so well, most people do not recognize what the real consequences are and so either do nothing about it or at the very least act as a passive enabler. However, the fact of the matter is that highly functioning alcoholics kill themselves from the inside out, and few get the help they need when they need it.

Of all the people harmed by the actions of highly functioning alcoholics, children seem to suffer the most. This is due in large part to the fact that children of alcoholics are often genetically predisposed to alcoholism and addiction. Environmental factors such as seeing a parent drink every day can serve to push a genetically predisposed child to use drugs or alcohol earlier and more intently than they would have (or at all) if their parent was not a daily drinker. Genetic likelihood of alcoholism can sometimes be offset by education and proper adult example, but children of highly functioning alcoholics are generally not exposed to the tools and guidance needed to overcome a genetic propensity for alcoholism in addition to environmental associations with the disease.

Highly functioning alcoholics are usually cocksure and believe that their drinking – however severe – doesn’t bother anyone else and therefore they find no reason to discontinue. However, alcoholism comes with significant consequences that can’t be avoided, regardless of how well a person handles their alcohol. These consequences include:

*Physical disease like gout, diabetes, high blood pressure, cirrhosis of the liver, arteriosclerosis, and heart disease. These alcohol-related diseases are what ultimately kill many highly functioning alcoholics.

*Highly functioning alcoholics no longer have the option to stop drinking on their own. Because detox from alcohol can be fatal, people who are trying to quit drinking must seek the help of a professional alcohol rehab center in order to minimize this risk with proper medication and treatment in a detox facility, ideally followed by enrolling in an inpatient substance abuse treatment program.

*Economic impact for daily drinkers can be devastating. Highly functioning alcoholics can spend tens of thousands of dollars on alcohol alone and a great deal more than this on related healthcare expenses.

But while all of these consequences are severe, they often don’t compare to the identity crisis that can develop after years of chronic drinking. People who have been drunk for a good portion of their lives suddenly realize they don’t know who they are anymore. If this sounds like someone close to you and you want to get help for them right now, all you have to do is pick up the phone. Our Florida Alcohol Rehab Center hotline is staffed with caring professionals 24 hours per day to answer your questions during a free, confidential consultation. Don’t wait – call us now.

About The Contributor
The editorial staff of Recovery First is comprised of addiction content experts from American Addiction Centers. Our editors and medical reviewers have over a decade of cumulative experience in medical content editing and have reviewed thousands... Read More