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Are you a functional Alcoholic? Do you know someone with an Alcohol Use Disorder?

Posted Aug 02 2013 5:00am

By David Joel Miller



Alcoholics with jobs, families and homes – the functional alcoholic

Most people have a very distorted idea of what constitutes an alcoholic. So much so that the mental health establishment has done away with the label. Like many other of life’s problems the stigma attached makes us avoid the words we need to use to name the problem and the result is that no one calls the thing by the same name for very long.

Today we do not try to distinguish between the person who is chemically dependent on alcohol, psychologically dependent or the person who just drinks occasionally but when they do they end up with a problem.

Truth is that the old stereotype of the homeless alcoholic bum is just that – a stereotype. Most of what people think they know about alcoholics is not true.

Of those who under the DSM-4 criteria, who were alcohol dependent, what some would have called an alcoholic, fully 80% of them had full-time jobs.

For the record it is estimated that 70% of people who are dependent on drugs, drug addicts if you will, have full-time jobs.

So the majority of people who have a severe substance use disorder are still trying to fool themselves that they are not “alcoholics or Addicts because they still have a home to live in and a full-time job.

The truth is that only the most severely dependent people end up homeless.

There are all sorts of problem relationships you can develop with a substance. Alcohol is one of the harder relationships to keep up. Over time the drinker develops tolerance. They need more to achieve the same effect. If you need alcohol to feel good, solve problems or it is simply required to have fun, you are headed for trouble.

You don’t need to drink the hard stuff to develop a problem. Lots of beer and wine drinkers develop problems. You don’t need to drink every day. If you drink once a year for New Years but three years in as row you get DUI’s or end up in bar fights, you have some form of alcohol use disorder.   

So consider that you don’t need to be a full-blown Alcoholic to have an alcohol use problem. Some of you can cut down or control your usage. Some of you will be able to quite all on your own if that is what you chose to do.

But if you have tried to control your drinking or quit on your own and find that your efforts are not working. Or if you quit and find you are miserable, consider counseling or another help strategy.

If you do have an alcohol use disorder there is help available.         

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the  about the author page . For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my  Google+  page or the Facebook author’s page, up under  David Joel Miller . Posts to the “books, trainings and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at .

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