Entries tagged with “alcoholism”.


TeensThe term high functioning addict refers to someone who is outwardly successful while inwardly struggling with addiction. In contrast to the stereotypical vision of an addict as someone who is disheveled in appearance, struggling financially, and frequently in trouble with the law, a high functioning addict appears to have it all together.

People of all ages can be high functioning addicts, but this problem is most often seen with teens abusing drugs or alcohol. Teens can be high functioning simply because they have fewer responsibilities to juggle. However, once a teen heads off to college or the workforce, it will likely become more apparent that a problem exists.

Signs of a High Functioning Teen Addict

Learning to identify the signs of a high functioning addict can help you get treatment for your teen before drug or alcohol abuse takes over his or her life. Here’s what to watch for:

Seeming ill or irritable in the morning. Many teens dislike waking up early for school, but a teen with a drug or alcohol problem may complain of constant headaches, irritability, and fatigue during the morning hours. This could be the signs of withdrawal, which occurs when an addictive substance leaves the body.

A new group of friends with drinking or drug issues. Hanging out with a crowd that likes to “party” indicates that your teen is likely engaged in risky behaviors. Peer pressure can be a powerful motivator for young people.

Avoiding time with parents or concerned adults. A teen who is hiding an addiction may make excuses to avoiding spending time with people who have expressed worry about his or her drug or alcohol use. Your teen may wish to avoid a confrontation or be trying to protect others from knowing the truth.

Unexplained finances. A teen who has no job, but suddenly seems flush with cash may be dealing to support a drug habit. Items that go missing in your home or cash that disappears from your wallet may also indicate your teen is abusing drugs or alcohol.

Losing interest in sober hobbies. If your teen suddenly stops wanting to participate in extracurricular activities at school or past hobbies at home, this may suggest a preoccupation with drugs or alcohol.

An extreme desire for privacy. Although teens are entitled to some privacy, a teen who won’t answer basic questions about his or her whereabouts may have something serious to hide. Monitoring phone and computer usage may be necessary for your teen’s safety.

Convincing an Addicted Teen to Seek Help

A young high functioning addict is likely to be in deep denial. He or she may think that everything is under control, especially when school work and relationships with friends seem to be fine. However, the following signs indicate a problem regardless of how things appear to the casual observer:

  • Your teen believes drugs or alcohol are necessary to relax.
  • Your teen forgets what happened while he or she was under the influence.
  • Your teen makes poor decisions while under the influence, such as drinking and driving.
  • Your teen drinks or uses drugs when he or she didn’t intend to.
  • Your teen develops a tolerance or needs more of the abused substance to experience the same effects.
  • Your teen feels ill or experiences other designs of withdrawal when unable to use.

Planning an intervention is an excellent way to encourage a teen to seek treatment. An intervention is a structured meeting where parents, grandparents, siblings, teachers, coaches, friends, and other concerned parties come together to express their concerns and present a plan for treatment. This is done without judgement or accusation, but consequences are given for refusal. Review our post on How to Plan an Intervention to learn more.

How Treatment Promotes a Lasting Recovery

Addiction treatment depends on specific substance being abused and if a teen has any special considerations such as a co-occurring mental health disorder. However, the process typically begins with medical detox to clear the body of the addictive substance. During detox, a team of medical professionals provide 24/7 supervision and emotional support.

After detox, a teen will enter residential treatment. Individual and group therapy helps a teen learn the coping skills necessary to lead a fulfilling sober life. Holistic treatments such as music or art therapy help reinforce key lessons. Family therapy can help promote positive communication and break patterns of enabling or codependency.

Residential treatment is followed by a detailed aftercare plan that involves outpatient therapy, 12-step groups, and various community-based recovery resources. This helps create the support system necessary for a lasting recovery.

If you’re concerned about your teen’s drug or alcohol use, St. Joseph Institute for Addiction can help. Contact us today to learn more.

By Dana Hinders

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What is a functioning alcoholic?Alcoholism can take many forms. While some people end up on the streets or incarcerated as a consequence of their addiction, many others continue to lead outwardly successful lives while struggling with their inner demons.

About High Functioning Alcoholism

Someone with high functioning alcoholism is able to hold down a job, socialize with friends, and maintain intimate personal relationships while demonstrating a pattern of dysfunctional drinking behavior. High functioning alcoholics still suffer from an addiction, but it’s harder to see evidence of the problem unless you’re looking very closely.

A functioning alcoholic may be able to hide the signs of a drinking problem by restricting drinking only to certain times or in certain situations. However, many functioning alcoholics are successful in hiding the signs of their addiction because they have someone in their life who is unconsciously encouraging or enabling the addiction by allowing them to avoid the consequences of their behavior. For example, this person may loan them money when they’ve overspent on alcohol or make excuses on their behalf when they’re too hungover to go to work or attend a social engagement.

High functioning alcoholics are more common than you might expect. Studies estimate that nearly 20 percentĀ  of alcoholics meet these criteria. Of these functioning alcoholics, about 1 in 3 have a multigenerational family history of substance abuse.

High functioning alcoholics are often intelligent, hardworking, and educated people who are actively involved in the community. They may be your coworker, your next-door neighbor, or your best friend.

Problems Associated with High Functioning Alcoholism

Alcoholism is a progressive disease. Over time, tolerance to alcohol increases. This leads to increased consumption, eventually to the point where a high functioning alcoholic starts to experience the adverse lifestyle consequences we all traditionally associate with alcoholism.

In cases where a high functioning alcoholic works in a professional role responsible for the safety and welfare of others, the consequences of substance abuse could be disastrous. For example:

  • A doctor could make a mistake that harms a patient.
  • A lawyer’s mistake could land his client in jail.
  • A CEO’s poor business decisions could put the entire company in jeopardy.

It’s also worth pointing out that even someone who drinks excessively while maintaining the outward trappings of a successful life is still causing a great deal of physical damage. Some of the many health problems associated with alcoholism include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Stroke
  • Obesity
  • Liver disease
  • Pancreatitis
  • Mouth, throat, liver, breast, and/or colorectal cancer
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Gout
  • Seizures
  • Anemia
  • Depression
  • Nerve damage

Signs of a High Functioning Alcoholic

Traditionally, substance abuse disorders are defined by having alcohol-related problems with your personal relationships, career, finances, and/or the law. However, identifying a high functioning alcoholic requires taking a closer look at drinking-related behaviors.

Signs a person may need substance abuse treatment include:

  • Engaging in binge drinking, defined as four or more drinks in a two-hour period for women or five or more drinks in a two-hour period for men
  • Relying on alcohol to feel powerful, confident, and in control
  • Drinking to handle mental health issues such as anxiety and depression
  • Drinking alone
  • Drinking in the mornings
  • Frequently finding yourself drinking more than you intended to
  • Experiencing cravings for alcohol
  • Saying things you didn’t mean while you were drinking
  • Having trouble remembering the details of what happens when you were drinking
  • Being secretive or defensive about alcohol use

Dealing with Denial

Denial is the most common challenge associated with getting a high functioning alcoholic to seek treatment. These individuals honestly believe their alcohol use is under control. Since they’re not unemployed or in trouble with the law, they don’t feel they meet the same standard as the alcoholics portrayed in popular culture. In many cases, they think only someone who has hit “rock bottom” meets the criteria for alcoholism.

Staging an intervention is one tactic that may be effective in getting a high functioning alcoholic to seek treatment. An intervention is a structured meeting where friends and family present their concerns to the person who is abusing alcohol or drugs, offer treatment options, and state the consequences for refusing treatment. For example, a wife may share that she is worried about her husband’s alcohol-related health problems and concerned that the children have noticed their father is absent from social events when he’s been drinking. As a consequence, she might state that she wants a separation if her husband doesn’t seek treatment.

Interventions are not 100 percent effective, but a well-planned intervention using the services of a licensed counselor, social worker, psychiatrist, or psychologist could be just the push your loved one needs to get help.

By Dana Hinders

To learn more about our programs, please visit our website.

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The relationship between binge drinking and alcoholism is often misunderstood. The majority of binge drinkers are not physically dependent on alcohol, but binge drinking is considered a significant risk factor for developing an alcohol use disorder.

What Is Binge Drinking?

Binge drinking refers to consuming large quantities of alcohol in a short period of time. There is some disagreement as to what constitutes binge drinking, but many addiction professionals use the guidelines established by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). For men, binge drinking is defined as consuming five or more drinks on the same occasion at least once in the last 30 days. Since women process alcohol differently due to their smaller size and different biological makeup, binge drinking for women is defined as drinking four or more drinks at least once in the last 30 days.

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), this level of alcohol consumption in a 2-hour span of time is enough to place an average sized person’s blood alcohol content (BAC) at .08. This is the level at which drunk driving penalties apply if you get behind the wheel.

Motivations for binge drinking vary. Binge drinking is most common in social settings, with many people viewing alcohol consumption as a way to have fun and temporarily forget their problems. Teens and young adults may view binge drinking as a way to test their tolerance and rebel against authority.

Moderate drinking is generally considered safe for people with no underlying medical conditions, but binge drinking offers no health benefits. Some of the negative effects associated with binge drinking include:

  • Alcohol poisoning
  • Blackouts
  • Falls
  • Increased risk of motor vehicle accidents
  • Risky sexual behavior with an increased risk of unplanned pregnancy and/or STDs
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Potential for dangerous interactions with prescription medication

How Common Is Binge Drinking?

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), binge drinking is very common. About 1 in 6 adults in the United States engages in binge drinking 4 or more times per month, consuming an average of 8 drinks in each binge.

Binge drinking behavior strongly varies by age and gender. Men are twice as likely to binge drink as women. People ages 18 to 34 are more likely to engage in binge drinking than older adults.

Surprisingly, binge drinking is more common among upper income adults. People with household incomes of $75,000 or more likely to engage in binge drinking than lower income individuals. However, lower income individuals consume more drinks on average when they do engage in binge drinking.

How Is Binge Drinking Related to Alcoholism?

Binge drinking does not necessarily mean that a person suffers from an alcohol use disorder, although many people who enter treatment for alcoholism have a history of binge drinking.

A formal diagnosis of an alcohol use disorder is made based on the specific problems that drinking causes in a person’s life. This can include:

  • Drinking more alcohol than you originally intended
  • Feeling powerless to stop drinking
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when you are unable to drink
  • Craving alcohol
  • Requiring larger quantities of alcohol to feel impaired
  • Continuing to drink despite experiencing alcohol-related health problems
  • Failing to meet your responsibilities at home or work due to your drinking
  • Lying to friends and family about your alcohol consumption
  • Giving up activities you once enjoyed to spend more time drinking
  • Feeling as though drinking is the only way to cope with stress, sadness, anger, anxiety, or other uncomfortable emotions.

The relationship between binge drinking and addiction is strongest in adolescents, with teens who report frequent binge drinking having nearly triple the risk of developing an alcohol use disorder as adults.

What Type of Help Is Available?

If you believe that your binge drinking may be a sign of an alcohol problem, help is available. Alcoholism is a treatable disease, but you can’t beat it alone.

Treatment for an alcohol use disorder typically includes individual and group therapy to focus on learning coping strategies for handling cravings and managing emotions without drinking. Experiential therapies such as equine therapy, art therapy, or music therapy can also be used to encourage people who have trouble talking about their feelings to process the issues that are contributing to their substance abuse.

It is common for people who suffer from an alcohol use disorder to also meet the criteria for mental disorders such as anxiety, depression, or PTSD. When someone has a dual disease or co-occurring disorder, treating both conditions simultaneously is vital to providing a solid foundation for a sustained recovery.

By Dana Hinders


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