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There are an estimated 15.1 million adults in the U.S. who suffer from alcohol use disorder, yet, less than 7% of this population receives professional treatment at alcohol rehab. Many of these untreated individuals are living amongst us, and we likely interact with them every day not knowing they’re affected by alcohol addiction. These people may function effectively in their everyday lives as they go to work, raise their families, and engage in social activities, and hide their alcohol abuse well without suffering in these areas. Unfortunately, many of these “high-functioning” users are likely suffering in ways that are greatly affecting their mental, emotional, and physical health. 

There’s really no such thing as a high-functioning addict; anyone who suffers from alcohol addiction is suffering in some way, despite remaining silent about it. 

Knowing how to spot someone who may be suffering from high-functioning addiction can bring you one step closer to helping that person become healthier, happier, and alcohol-free. 

What is High-Functioning Alcohol Addiction?

High-functioning alcohol addiction can be characterized as appearing to be highly successful in one’s work, school, and social lives, but suffering from addiction in private. These individuals may have a loving family, lots of friends, a great job, and a number of hobbies; however, they may rely on alcohol daily. They may be skilled at hiding their addiction from others or be in denial about their alcohol abuse. Though these individuals may seem high-functioning, their health and overall well-being remain at great risk as long as they continue suffering from alcohol addiction without getting help.

Here are 8 signs a person may be suffering from high-functioning alcohol addiction:

1. They Justify Alcohol Use

Some high-functioning users may use a wide range of excuses to justify their alcohol use, such as drinking after a busy day at work or because they are the primary provider of a household with lots of responsibilities. These individuals may also be in denial about their drinking, which is why they may look for reasons to justify it.

2. They View Alcohol as a Reward for Hard Work

Some people reward themselves for a job well done with small prizes like chocolate, dinner at their favorite restaurant, or seeing a movie with friends. High-functioning users may reward themselves with alcohol, and drink more than usual to celebrate accomplishments at work or home, such as getting a promotion, finishing tasks on time, or doing difficult or many household chores.

3. They’re Unable to Limit Their Drinking

People who suffer from alcohol addiction are usually unable to stop or control their drinking despite their best intentions to do so. Before they begin drinking, they may promise themselves or their loved ones that they’ll only have 2 drinks, which may then quickly turn into 4 or 5. High-functioning users are no different from others who suffer from alcohol addiction in this regard. They may have intentions to stop after a few drinks, but won’t be able to control their impulses after they start feeling the effects of alcohol.

4. They Remain Preoccupied With Alcohol

Preoccupation with alcohol is one of the most common signs of alcohol addiction. High-functioning users may constantly make plans to go buy alcohol and may ensure it is included in nearly every activity. For instance, they may suggest the family go bowling so they can enjoy a few drinks at the bowling alley, or suggest shopping at venues near the liquor store. Preoccupation with alcohol can be extremely problematic when it starts cutting into quality time with loved ones, and enjoyment of certain activities.

5. They Try to Cover Up Uncharacteristic Behavior

High-functioning users who are trying to hide their alcohol addiction from others may go out of their way to cover up uncharacteristic behavior. For example, if heavy alcohol use is causing them to slur their speech or lose coordination, they may escape to another room in the house, spend more time alone, or engage in activities that make these signs less obvious. They may lie down to take a nap or settle down to watch television. These individuals may also lie about how alcohol is not causing them to behave uncharacteristically.

6. They Spend More Time with Friends Who Drink

High-functioning users may have a higher number of friends who drink or spend lots of time with people who also drink. They may feel as though they won’t be judged for drinking in the presence of others who are drinking and feel less guilty or ashamed for drinking. If most of your loved one’s friends are drinkers, it’s possible your loved one may have a drinking problem, too.

7. They Have Enablers in Their Lives

Some high-functioning users may have spouses and families who rely on them for income and basic needs. If these dependents are aware of their loved one’s alcohol use, they may support their desire to drink with the understanding it will keep their loved one happy and productive in other areas of life. Individuals such as these are known as enablers, and will often enable alcohol use in an effort to protect their loved one’s feelings and well-being. They may also try to cover up uncharacteristic behavior brought on by alcohol use and accept any related blame or consequences that gets thrown their way, even though it’s not their fault.

8. They Refuse Treatment Because They’re “Doing Fine”

High-functioning users have been given their namesake because they are high-functioning in many ways, with the exception of addiction. These individuals are still able to wake up on time and fulfill important responsibilities without allowing alcohol to destroy their careers, education, or family lives. As a result, high-functioning users may refuse professional treatment at alcohol rehab because they don’t think alcohol is causing problems in their day-to-day lives. They may not recognize or understand that alcohol abuse can have serious long-term effects on their physical and mental health, and increase the risk for problems down the road such as financial hardship, legal problems, and loss of relationships.

How Does Alcohol Rehab Treat High-Functioning Users?

High-functioning users who decide to seek treatment at alcohol rehab can rest assured knowing that today’s treatment plans can be customized for each individual patient. Many alcohol rehab centers also offer their patients luxury amenities and services to make their experiences during recovery more fulfilling and enjoyable. Alcohol addiction treatment for high-functioning users involves alcohol detox, individual and group counseling, and behavioral therapy.

Alcohol detox is the first stage of treatment and helps patients safely and comfortably withdraw from alcohol and recover from physical dependence. This stage of recovery can take anywhere between 2 and 10 days, depending on the severity of symptoms. Medications are often used in alcohol detox to relieve symptoms and to reduce the risk of complications like seizures. Many patients are encouraged to relax and get plenty of rest during alcohol detox so they can easily transition into an alcohol rehab program the moment they start feeling better.

At alcohol rehab, patients learn how to change harmful thoughts and behaviors surrounding alcohol use. They learn how to manage stress more effectively using methods other than alcohol use, and how to navigate everyday life without needing alcohol. Patients who may classify as high-functioning users can discover new hobbies at alcohol rehab, and take part in fun, therapeutic activities such as yoga, meditation, Tai Chi, and more. They may even have the option to join support groups where they can bond with like-minded peers who come from similar backgrounds.

Summer House Detox Center offers alcohol detox in Miami, Florida to help people experience a safe recovery from alcohol abuse and dependence. Contact us today at 800-719-1090 to learn more about our available alcohol detox programs or visit us at 13550 Memorial Highway Miami, FL 33161.