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What Is a High-Functioning Alcoholic?

Experience clinician-run addiction treatment at Red Oak Recovery® in the pristine Blue Ridge Mountains

What Is a High-Functioning Alcoholic?

A high-functioning alcoholic pauses at his laptop.

Social drinking is a long-standing human tradition. From ancient practices of beer and winemaking to the modern happy hour, alcohol has always played a role in social life. Alcohol may seem relatively harmless because it’s legal and easy to get. Unfortunately, despite its benign reputation, alcohol is highly addictive. People from all walks of life struggle with alcohol every day. Alcohol addiction treatments can help those struggling with alcohol addiction stay sober.

If you or a young man in your life is struggling with alcohol consumption, Red Oak Recovery® can help. Our Asheville, NC programs serve young men battling addiction, mental health concerns, and trauma. Learn more about our men’s alcohol addiction treatment center in North Carolina today by calling 866.457.7590.

What Is Alcohol Addiction?

Like any addictive substance, alcohol alters the brain’s chemistry. When alcohol enters the bloodstream, it slows the nervous system, which changes a person’s balance and reaction time. This is why people who drink may often find themselves feeling unsteady on their feet or unable to react quickly in situations that demand swift responses. It can also cause someone to slur their speech, making communication more difficult and often leading to misunderstandings or misinterpretations.

As alcohol depresses the nervous system, it can temporarily relieve physical, emotional, and psychological stress, making the user feel more relaxed and less burdened by their worries. This effect, however, is short-lived and will fade as the alcohol is metabolized by the body. Long-term alcohol use can have severe consequences, including damage to vital organs such as the liver and kidneys. It can also lead to chronic dehydration, which affects overall bodily function and well-being, and ultimately, it can shorten the user’s lifespan by contributing to a range of health issues, including heart disease and certain types of cancer.

While many people drink socially with friends or loved ones, frequent social drinking can often develop into a drinking habit. This habit can become so ingrained that it becomes a regular part of one’s daily routine, making it harder to recognize the line between habitual drinking and alcoholism.

Other Signs of Alcoholism

  • Mood swings
  • Erratic behavior
  • Alcohol cravings
  • Secretive drinking
  • Confusion and irritability without alcohol
  • Shaking and profuse sweating
  • Changes in skin color and luster

Some people’s alcohol addiction may be evident to those around them. Others may not. High-functioning alcoholics drink just as much alcohol without seeming drunk.

What Is a High-Functioning Alcoholic?

A high-functioning alcoholic has a high tolerance to alcohol, which means they can drink a large quantity of alcohol before appearing drunk. High-functioning alcoholics appear normal while intoxicated. They may secretly put alcohol in their morning coffee or drink throughout the day. To achieve such a high tolerance, high-functioning alcoholics need to drink frequently to avoid withdrawal symptoms. Unlike social drinkers, they may drink alone. Alcohol is not just a part of their daily routine or social practices. Instead, it’s a form of self-medicating. Unlike social drinkers, high-functioning alcoholics need and crave alcohol daily to function without experiencing withdrawal.

It can be hard to spot a high-functioning alcoholic. Because they maintain jobs, home life, and school life, it may appear they have their drinking under control. Any form of alcoholism, however, is detrimental to physical, emotional, and psychological health. Detoxing at home and quitting cold turkey is especially difficult and dangerous for high-functioning alcoholics because their tolerance is high. They are at an increased risk for overdose and death during detox.

How Professional Alcohol Addiction Treatment Can Help

Alcohol addiction treatment can provide the tools necessary to break the cycle of alcohol abuse and start a new life. Treatment typically begins with detoxification, followed by individual or group counseling sessions designed to help individuals understand their struggles and develop healthier coping strategies. Addiction treatment also often includes support groups to provide encouragement and offer accountability for those in recovery.

In some cases, medication such as antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications may be prescribed to help manage withdrawal symptoms and reduce cravings. With a combination of therapy, support groups, and sometimes medication, individuals can learn how to better handle their addiction and make positive changes in their lives. The ultimate goal is to achieve long-term sobriety, which can be a difficult journey for some but is ultimately worth it. Treatment can help individuals find new purpose, hope, and a chance to start living again.

No matter how long an individual has been struggling with alcohol addiction, help is available, and recovery is possible.

Discover Your Treatment Options at Red Oak Recovery®

Sometimes it’s hard to know when social drinking has turned into alcohol addiction. If you’re worried about the drinking habits of a young man in your life, call Red Oak Recovery® today. Our Asheville, North Carolina clinic helps young men living with addiction heal in the beautiful wilderness of NC. We treat alcohol, drug, and process addictions. We also help young men struggling with depression and disordered eating.

Our team specializes in trauma-informed therapy and providing dual diagnosis treatment for those suffering from addiction and mental health disorders. With a focus on wilderness therapy, young men come to Red Oak to disconnect from urban stress and reconnect to themselves through Asheville’s scenic wilderness. If you’re ready to learn more about our alcohol rehab programs, reach our staff today at 866.457.7590 or by filling out our online contact form to get started.