Even though alcohol is legal and widely accessible, roughly 15 million adults in the United States struggle with an alcohol abuse disorder. Alcoholism is a progressive disease that can cause liver damage, neurological issues, and mental health problems. Many times, the signs of a functioning alcoholic can be difficult to spot since those struggling with a drinking problem often conceal their symptoms.
Because alcoholism has no timeline, meaning it can take anywhere from several weeks to several years to develop an alcohol dependency, it can quickly accelerate. When you develop alcoholism, it can lead to both a psychological and physical dependence, both of which require treatment.
Signs of a Functioning Alcoholic
Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant that creates relaxing and calming effects. When you drink, your brain releases a rush of pleasurable neurotransmitters, such as GABA. The rush of neurotransmitters creates the positive effects of intoxication. Although drinking in small amounts creates positive feelings during intoxication, abusing alcohol can lead to anger, depression, and anxiety.
Although social drinking is common, the signs of a functioning alcoholic demonstrate abusive alcohol use. Some common signs of a functioning alcoholic include:
- Drinking before work or going to work or school drunk
- Drinking in order to get intoxicated daily
- Missing work or school because of hangovers
- Drinking alone
- Drinking in dangerous or inappropriate situations
Another important thing to remember if you or a loved one is showing signs of a functioning alcoholic is that alcoholism is a disease. That means that believing that you are a functioning alcoholic is dangerous because your drinking can quickly turn in to a physical dependency.
How Alcoholism is Treated
Alcohol can lead to physical dependency, which causes your body to depend on alcohol in order to function. When you develop alcoholism and immediately stop drinking, you can encounter serious and potentially life-threatening detox symptoms. Since alcohol detox can cause delirium tremors, which is fatal if left untreated, connecting with an alcohol addiction treatment center is an essential first step in your recovery.
You can choose to complete an inpatient or an outpatient program, with inpatient providing the highest level of care. Residential treatment programs typically are for at least 28 days, with some rehabs also offering long-term programs that can last for 90 days or more.
Outpatient treatment can include options like partial hospitalization programs and intensive outpatient programs. Outpatient programs offer a great way to continue treatment when you complete an inpatient program and can help you adjust to life following discharge. Another benefit of outpatient treatment is that you can continue working or going to school during your program.
Finding Help Today
When you struggle with alcoholism, it can seem difficult to regain control of your life. Since signs of a functioning alcoholic are sometimes hard to spot, it is important to connect with a treatment center as soon as you notice that alcohol is a problem. To find out more about your treatment options, reach out to us today at 855.786.1978. Get the help you need today.
Licensed Physician and Surgeon
Dr. Beth Dunlap, a board-certified addiction medicine and family medicine physician, and is the medical director at Northern Illinois Recovery Center. She is responsible for overseeing all the integrated medical services at both campuses. Beth completed medical school, residency, and fellowship at Northwestern University, where she continues to serve on the faculty as a member of the Department of Family and Community Medicine. She has extensive experience in addiction medicine at all levels of care, and her clinical interests include integrated primary care and addiction medicine, harm reduction, and medication-assisted treatment.