12 Minutes

Edited & medically reviewed by THE BALANCE Team
Fact checked

In the UK, moderate alcoholics are the largest group of people with alcohol dependence problems. However, these individuals are at risk of experiencing severe health complications while still being able to perform their work. 

The National Health Service reports that 23% of adults in England are drinking alcohol in a way that is damaging to their health, and many of them are functioning alcoholics. According to the information published in the British Medical Journal, the number of people admitted to hospitals due to alcohol consumption has risen by 63% in the past decade in England, which proves that alcohol abuse is a significant problem. 

The fact that functioning alcoholics can continue with their normal activities makes them less easily identifiable, but their alcoholism does play a role in contributing to larger problems in society, such as higher healthcare costs and decreased productivity at the workplace.

A functional alcoholic is a person who has an alcohol use disorder but continues to work and fulfil family responsibilities and other obligations [1]. While the classic alcoholic is someone who experiences severe problems affecting his or her performance in daily tasks, a functional alcoholic is much harder to detect since he or she can still perform his or her tasks in the workplace, at home, and in other social contexts. They assimilate into society; hence, many people do not even notice that they are hooked on substances.

Functional Vs. Traditional Alcoholics

The only major distinction between functional and traditional alcoholics is the degree to which the effects of the addiction are apparent.

Functional Alcoholics: They can work, support families, and fulfil other obligations as required. It means they drink a lot but are still able to live their lives to the fullest.

Traditional Alcoholics: In many cases, these individuals experience quite severe problems in organizing their daily activities. This ranges from loss of jobs, family breakdowns and physical ailments that manifest themselves in the body. Their addiction usually hampers their normal functioning in society.

Misconceptions about Functional Alcoholics

There are many myths regarding functional alcoholics, primarily because they are not always visibly intoxicated. Such misconceptions may deny them the chance to access the services they require.

They Don’t Have a Problem: While functional alcoholics can perform their tasks, many people do not consider it a major issue since they can handle their jobs. However, they can complete daily tasks, which means that the presence of addiction cannot be ruled out.

They Can Stop Anytime: Some people have the perception that functional alcoholics are capable of stopping the consumption of alcohol at any time they desire. The fact remains that they are as addicted to alcohol as ‘conventional’ alcoholics and it is equally hard to give up on alcohol.

Drinking Is a Reward: This is because some functional alcoholics use work as a reason for their drinking, believing that they deserve to drink. After all, they work hard. This rationalization can help them fail to see the negative consequences of their drinking patterns.

Impact on Health

Functional alcoholics are at a high risk of experiencing severe health complications, even though they can perform their tasks daily. The effect on their health can be serious and permanent.

Physical Health: Long-term consumption of alcohol causes liver diseases, heart disorders, and a compromised immune system. They are prone to illnesses such as cirrhosis, hypertension, and pancreatitis, just like other alcoholics [1].

Mental Health: Drinking alcohol can worsen conditions like depression and anxiety, which are mental health disorders. Functional alcoholics can rely on alcohol to deal with stress and other challenges, thus spiralling into the dependence stage and worsening mental health disorders.

Quality of Life: In the long run, the effects of alcohol on the body cause a general decline in the quality of life due to physical and mental deterioration. These functional alcoholics may begin to experience reduced efficiency at their workplaces, have strained relationships, and have overall lower levels of life satisfaction.

Hidden Risks: One of the reasons why functional alcoholics do not seek help is that they do not feel that they need it because their alcoholism is not as obvious as that of other alcoholics. This denial can cause the client to be left untreated for their health issues and worsen their condition as time goes on.

Drinking is a recreational activity enjoyed not only in the United Kingdom but across the world. That being said, the amount of alcohol that people consume can greatly affect their well-being.

The recommended weekly amount of alcohol consumption for both sexes is 14 units or less per week. According to statistics from 2019, 40% of men and 20% of women between the ages of 55 and 64 are considered to be drinking at high risk [2].

Every day and once or twice a week, one-quarter of the English population consumes alcohol; there has been an increase in the number of teetotallers.

As much as there are laws that bar the sale or serving of alcohol to persons under the age of eighteen in the UK, research studies indicate that children as early as eleven years of age have indulged in alcohol with boys opting for beer, lager, and cider while the girls preferred spirits. While teenagers might think that having a taste of alcohol before the legal age is acceptable, the trend of alcohol consumption among the youth has been reducing in recent years.

Thus, the effects of alcohol depend on the amount taken, and they include alcoholic liver disease, pancreatitis, and unintentional injuries. The statistics showed that in Wales people sought help for substance use issues mostly due to alcohol dependence in 2019.

Recently, alcohol-related deaths have increased over the last 25 years to 16 in the entire UK. 1 males per 100,000 and 7. The incidence rate of breast cancer in 2019 was 8 females per 100,000 in the general population [2].

It can be difficult to diagnose a functioning alcoholic because, while they are indeed alcoholics, they can maintain the appearance of normalcy in their lives. However, some symptoms can suggest that a person is a functioning alcoholic.

Drinking Patterns

Regular Drinking: Working alcoholics may be observed to drink frequently, that is, daily or nearly daily. They may take it during a lunch break, after work, or even in the morning.

High Tolerance: They are often found to have a higher tolerance level for alcohol, which means that they would require more alcohol to be affected by it. This can lead to drinking more frequently and in greater quantities than would be advisable for the person’s health [3].

Hiding Alcohol Consumption: They may take alcohol in private to ensure that their intake is not seen by other people. Some of the things that are exhibited include, putting bottles or drinking alone.

Behavioural Signs

Routine Incorporation: It becomes a routine, and they cannot do without it. They may not be at ease or even appear serene without taking a sip.

Minimizing or Denying: They tend to underestimate or even completely exclude their alcohol use disorder. Statements such as “I can quit any time I want,” or “I only drink socially” are typical.

Physical Signs

Neglecting Nutrition: Alcohol can replace proper meals and thus cause changes in the diet and the formation of bad eating habits.

Appearance: Later in life, they may develop a physical appearance that is not as visually appealing. This includes looking tired, having red eyes, or getting skin ailments such as acne.

Health Issues: They may begin to develop physical ailments such as regular headaches, stomach or bowel disorders, and hypertension and yet blame them on other factors.

Professional and Social Life

Maintaining Responsibilities: As much as they take alcohol, functioning alcoholics are still able to meet their obligations at the workplace and home. This ability to function normally is what makes it hard to recognize that the person is an addict.

Excelling at Work: Some of the working alcoholics have achieved a lot in their places of work and they justify their drinking by the success they have achieved. However, it may begin to affect their productivity in the long run since they are not as efficient as the professionals.

Socializing: They may choose to attend parties that allow the consumption of alcohol and stay away from dry events.

Legal and Financial Issues

Legal Problems: Legal problems can also be observed in functioning alcoholics, though the person does not necessarily end up in legal trouble, there may be instances like a DUI arrest.

Financial Concerns: They also experience issues such as spending a large amount of money on alcohol and they tend to conceal these issues.

The process of assisting a functioning alcoholic begins with understanding the type of issue one is dealing with. It is also crucial to understand that it does not imply that they do not require assistance while performing these tasks.

Approach with Care

When dealing with a functioning alcoholic, one must be very careful and avoid making any hasty decisions or judgments.

Choose the Right Time: Try to get them when they are not drunk and when they are not too busy. This makes it easier for them to listen because they want to be on the right side of the law.

Be Compassionate: Make sure that the reader understands that your intention is not to hurt them, but rather to help them. It is also important not to criticize or scold them because this may cause them to become defensive.

Use “I” Statements: It is important to avoid using accusatory language; instead, use ‘I’ statements such as ‘I am worried about you’re drinking’.

Educate Yourself

When dealing with them, make sure you have a good knowledge of the alcohol use disorder. It is important to know about the condition to be in a better position to explain and support him.

Learn About Alcoholism: To get more information about the topic, it is important to understand the various signs, symptoms, and effects of alcoholism. This knowledge can assist you in comprehending what they are facing.

Explore Treatment Options: Get acquainted with various treatments including counselling, group sessions, and rehabilitation. This way, you will be in a position to make appropriate recommendations.

Encourage Professional Help

The first step is to ensure that the functioning alcoholic is persuaded to seek help from a professional.

Suggest Therapy: Explain to them the importance of seeking help from a therapist or an addiction counsellor. They can be offered professional assistance to equip them with procedures that will help them eliminate the vice.

Medical Evaluation: Suggest that they go to the doctor to get an assessment of their current health status. A doctor can evaluate their physical condition and recommend the proper course of action.

Support Groups: Recommend going to support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous. These groups are supportive because they are made up of people who have gone through the same situation.

Create a Supportive Environment

This makes a functioning alcoholic feel more at ease to seek assistance when the environment has been created to support him/her.

Limit Alcohol Availability: If you live with them, avoid having alcohol at home or make it less accessible to them. This reduces temptation.

Encourage Healthy Activities: Remind them to participate in other activities that do not include the consumption of alcohol such as games, sports, exercises, interests, and hanging out with loved ones.

Set Boundaries: Alcohol is another area where they should set clear boundaries on how much and when they will be consuming it if it is a problem to them or other people around them.

Dealing with a functioning alcoholic is not easy and it can take a lot of time and energy to be around such a person. It is crucial to have clear communication, establish some rules and regulations, seek help from outside, and be caring for yourself to manage this difficult situation.

Daily Challenges

Unpredictable Behaviour: They are moody and can get angry easily because of alcohol; this brings conflict between the spouses.

Hidden Drinking: They may feel the need to conceal it from others, meaning one cannot ascertain how much they are taking or when.

Emotional Strain: You could experience anxiety and depression, always worrying about your health and behaviour.

Communication Issues

Denial and Defensiveness: They could completely deny having a problem or get offended when confronted about their alcohol consumption.

Avoidance: It means that some important issues related to their drinking can be never discussed, which, in turn, can lead to a growing number of problems and mutual resentment.

Maintaining Normalcy

Keeping up Appearances: They also tend to cover up the issue and appear like everything is okay to the people around them.

Responsibility Burden: This may cause you to overload other areas of your brain in an attempt to make up for the loss of efficiency in these areas, which can lead to exhaustion.

Coping Strategies

Set Boundaries: Set guidelines regarding what kind of behaviour and drinking is appropriate in your house.

Seek Support: Support groups such as Al-Anon can be useful for meeting others who are in the same boat and who can offer tips and suggestions.

Encourage Healthy Habits: Encourage people to engage in activities that do not include alcohol consumption, for instance, exercising, cooking, or reading.


Prioritize Your Well-being: Remember to set time to do things you enjoy and to relax your body and mind.

Seek Professional Help: Seek therapy or counselling to deal with the emotional strain of having a functioning alcoholic in the household.

Stay Informed: Learn about the disease so that you can be in a position to address the issue appropriately.

Choosing a luxury treatment facility for functional alcoholism guarantees the most effective recovery process. Our clients have the best chance of a long-lasting recovery when they receive customized care, comfort, comprehensive services, skilled staff, and an emphasis on long-term success.

Personalized Attention

Personalized care is provided at our luxury treatment facility for functional drinking, according to each patient’s unique requirements. Every patient at our luxury functional alcoholism treatment facility has a thorough evaluation to create a personalized treatment strategy.

Individual Therapy: Skilled therapists can help you address underlying problems and create coping mechanisms in one-on-one sessions.

Holistic Therapy: In addition to standard therapy, services like yoga, meditation, and acupuncture enhance general well-being.

Experienced Staff Members

Professionals with extensive training and expertise who specialize in managing functional alcoholism work at luxury treatment facilities.

Professional Therapists: Addiction-focused licensed therapists offer successful therapy.

Medical Professionals: The finest medical treatment is provided to clients by on-site physicians and nurses.

Comfort And Confidentiality

For people who value confidentiality, our high-end luxury treatment facility provides a cosy and quiet setting.

High-End Accommodation: Guests are accommodated in quiet, well-furnished rooms that offer a tranquil and soothing environment.

Confidentiality: Safeguarding client privacy is of utmost importance, allowing them to concentrate on their rehabilitation without having to worry about their personal or professional reputation.

All-inclusive Services

We provide a comprehensive range of therapies at our opulent functional alcoholism treatment centre that addresses all facets of addiction.

Medical Detox: During the withdrawal phase, comfort and safety are guaranteed through supervised detoxification.

Group Therapy: Group sessions help clients feel more connected to one another and as a community.

Nutritional Support: Tailor-made meal planning and nutrition advice aid in the physical restoration of health.

Long-Term Success

Our luxury functional alcoholism treatment facility emphasizes long-term success by offering methods and resources for sustaining sobriety.

Aftercare Planning: In-depth aftercare plans incorporate relapse prevention techniques, support groups, and continuous therapy.

Family Involvement: Family therapy sessions aid in the healing of relationships and the development of a solid network of support for the client.

1. Very Well Mind. How to Recognize a Functional Alcoholic.

2. Good Rx. What Is a Functioning Alcoholic and How Does It Differ From an Alcoholic?

3. Statistica. Alcohol use in the United Kingdom (UK) – Statistics & Facts.


The Balance RehabClinic is a leading provider of luxury addiction and mental health treatment for affluent individuals and their families, offering a blend of innovative science and holistic methods with unparalleled individualised care.


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