According to estimations provided by the National Council On Alcohol and Drug Dependence (NCADD), almost 14 million adults in the United States are alcoholics or abuse alcohol. Twenty percent of them can be categorized as high-functioning alcoholics. What separates high-functioning alcoholics from the rest, and can alcoholics be categorized this way? An alcoholic who is considered to be highly-functional does not typically look like the stereotypical alcoholic. These high-functioning alcoholics are not badly-dressed or bums on the street. They aren’t begging for cash or hermits who stay home and drink all day. These individuals are cleanly cut, working men and women employed in college-required positions in our society. They drive nice cars, live in fine homes, and have normal families.
How High-Functioning Alcoholics Differ from Non-Drinkers
The key difference to them and non-drinkers — their addiction to alcohol. Many alcoholics are physically dependent on it, and notwithstanding the ongoing addiction, they continue the appearance of a well-rounded, and typically healthy individual. Although some drink throughout the day, a lot of them clinch to after hour drinking.
What differentiates this type of alcoholic is in essence their ability to maintain, continue working, and sometimes achieving success; this in spite of their daily bond with alcohol. Regardless of the external appearance of functionality, still, alcoholism always takes its toll. According to NCADD, alcohol-related complications include:
- Nearly 90,000 deaths every year
- The 3rd top cause of death — lifestyle-related in the U.S.
- Nearly 40% of all hospitals in the U.S. – bed individuals with alcohol-related complications
Though alcoholism will occur across all scopes of life, it is in large part due to high pressures of the corporate environments and the boundless race to achieve more, and make more money. Further, high-stress issues are due to high demands in fields like medicine, as a significant amount of alcoholics in the medical field continues to function well in their careers. In addition, within many industries, over-drinking is not only acceptable, it is typically encouraged as a form of entertainment and comradery. This information solidifies the misconception that drinking is a proper reward for a hard day’s work.
Many are extremely intelligent go-getters, and temporarily, the alcohol works for their favor, allowing them to endure the stress and sometimes work even harder. However, this approach has a fatal flaw. At first, alcohol appears to alleviate stress. At the same time, though, it’s making them less resistant to stress and inhibits their ability to withstand the pressure. In time, their ability to cope declines and more alcohol will be needed. This need for more alcohol begins the destructive cycle of stress and the intensifying need for more and more.
Is High-functioning Alcoholism a Problem?
If workers are completing their work, does it really matter what they are doing when they are not at work? While employers can’t regulate or control their employee’s personal behavior outside of work, alcoholism is certainly problematic, even the high-functioning types. As a progressive disease, alcoholism typically requires heavier drinking – the body needs more to accommodate. And even though high-functioning employees may perform adequately, there will come a time where the disease will control their body and interrupt their performance.
Complications with High-functioning Alcoholics
They often remain in denial of their condition. Because of their visible success, they feel that everything is fine and going well.
•They appear to maintain performance on the job, but they present a liability – attending functions drunk, missed work days from hangovers, etc….
•The National Council on Alcoholism shows that the cost of alcoholism can range anywhere from $34 billion to $69 billion each year.
As seemingly harmless as everyday drinking can appear, alcoholism and the workplace do not work. Yearly, many companies lose billions because of under-productivity, absenteeism and unpredictable patterns of these high-functioning alcoholics.
The Benefits of Treatment for High-functioning Alcoholics
Treatment is essential for any individual in regards to their home and workplace performance. Inpatient programs have a tendency to be more intense, and offer better results over outpatient treatment programs. Clients in inpatient programs receive many benefits, and here are a few:
•Opportunity for daily therapy. Rehabilitation program clients will typically have a therapy session once per day. They will also have the chance to participate in group therapy.
•Structure. Structure aids in assisting newly sober individuals to feel safe and persist drug or alcohol-free.
Statistics show that those who commit to 30-days or more at an inpatient treatment program will nearly double their success rate for lasting sobriety, and are generally not as prone to a setback as outpatient treatment program clients.