High Functioning Alcoholics

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High Functioning Alcoholics

Reflections - Definition of Addiction Types

A high-functioning alcoholic (HFA) is a person that maintains jobs and relationships while exhibiting alcoholism. Numbers from the Harvard School of Public Health show that 31 percent of college students show signs of alcohol abuse and 6 percent are dependent on alcohol. Thus, about 37 percent of college students may meet the new criteria for alcoholism defined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). Doctors hope that the new definition will help identify severe cases of alcoholism early, rather than when the problem is fully developed.

 

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Many HFAs are not viewed by society as alcoholics because they do not fit the common alcoholic stereotype. Unlike the stereotypical alcoholic, HFAs have either succeeded or over-achieved through their lifetimes. This can lead to denial of alcoholism by the HFA, co-workers, family members, and friends. Functional alcoholics account for 19.5 percent of total U.S. alcoholics, with 50 percent being smokers and 33 percent having a multigenerational family history of alcoholism.

Functional alcoholics make up 19.4 percent of alcohol-dependent individuals. This group tends to be older (average age 41 years), has a later age of first drinking (average 19 years), and a later onset of alcohol dependence (average age of 37 years). They tend to drink alcohol every other day (an average of 181 days per year), and they consume five or more drinks on an average of 98 (54 percent) of those days. On drinking days, they tend to consume a maximum of 10 drinks.

About 62 percent of functional alcoholics work fulltime, 3.6 percent are in school fulltime, and 5 percent are retired. Nearly 26 percent have a college degree or higher, and average household income is almost $60,000, the highest among any of the subtypes. Approximately 40 percent are female, and nearly 50 percent are married.

About 31 percent of functional alcoholics have a close family member who also has alcohol dependence. They have moderate rates of major depression (24 percent) and smoking cigarettes (43 percent), and low rates of anxiety disorders, other substance use disorders, and the lowest rates of having legal problems (fewer than 1 percent). Fewer than 1 percent of these individuals have antisocial personality disorder.

Only 17 percent of functional alcoholics have ever sought help for their alcohol dependence. Those who do tend to make use of 12-step programs and private health care professionals.Functional alcoholics make up 19.4 percent of alcohol-dependent individuals. This group tends to be older (average age 41 years), has a later age of first drinking (average 19 years), and a later onset of alcohol dependence (average age of 37 years). They tend to drink alcohol every other day (an average of 181 days per year), and they consume five or more drinks on an average of 98 (54 percent) of those days. On drinking days, they tend to consume a maximum of 10 drinks.

About 62 percent of functional alcoholics work fulltime, 3.6 percent are in school fulltime, and 5 percent are retired. Nearly 26 percent have a college degree or higher, and average household income is almost $60,000, the highest among any of the subtypes. Approximately 40 percent are female, and nearly 50 percent are married.

About 31 percent of functional alcoholics have a close family member who also has alcohol dependence. They have moderate rates of major depression (24 percent) and smoking cigarettes (43 percent), and low rates of anxiety disorders, other substance use disorders, and the lowest rates of having legal problems (fewer than 1 percent). Fewer than 1 percent of these individuals have antisocial personality disorder.

Only 17 percent of functional alcoholics have ever sought help for their alcohol dependence. Those who do tend to make use of 12-step programs and private health care professionals.

 

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