10 Warning Signs of a High-Functioning Alcoholic

Although legal for those 21 and older, alcohol is the most widely abused addictive substance in the United States. In fact, 1 in every 12 adults suffers from addiction or dependence on some type of alcohol. Moreover, nearly half of all adults have a family history of alcohol abuse, while 1 in 7 kids live in a household where at least one parent is addicted to alcohol.

We share statistics such as these that can be incredibly eye-opening to let you know that if you’re struggling with alcohol abuse or living in a home with a loved one who is abusing alcohol, you’re not alone.

At Miramar Recovery, we recognize the problems that alcohol causes to the physical, emotional and mental well-being of those affected by it. Because alcohol is so widely used and abused, it is essential to know that many alcoholics can be classified as “high functioning,” often slipping under the radar of detection and going years without the recovery they need.

If you believe you or someone you know may be a high-functioning alcoholic, it is important to know the warning signs so that you can get help sooner. Early intervention leads to the most successful long-term sobriety results.

What Is a High-Functioning Alcoholic?

By definition, a high-functioning alcoholic is addicted to alcohol but can still hold a job and maintain relationships on a regular and consistent basis.

Someone classified as a high-functioning alcoholic may be able to carry out daily tasks without the telltale signs of impairment that most people experience from alcohol consumption.

Although the clinical definition of alcohol use disorder (AUD) includes the inability to control drinking after it has caused significant disruptions to their work and home life, a high-functioning alcoholic may still be diagnosed with AUD based on other signs and symptoms.

It is important to note that AUD manifests itself differently in different people, and signs and symptoms can range from mild to severe depending on the person and stage of the disorder.

Understanding Functional Tolerance

Many people who use alcohol, whether addicted or not, reach some level of tolerance over time. This requires them to take in more alcohol to feel its effects. Tolerance level is one way to determine whether a person may be suffering from AUD.

Functional tolerance is a similar scenario. It occurs when a person can consume large amounts of alcohol while displaying little to no signs of intoxication.

A person who has developed a functional tolerance to alcohol may have ingested a large amount of alcohol but not show any typical signs of it on the outside, allowing them to function as they normally would in daily tasks and activities, categorizing them as a high-functioning alcoholic.

10 Signs of a High-Functioning Alcoholic

Most people who are high-functioning alcoholics are in denial about their disorder. They believe that they don’t have a problem if they can function as they normally would without alcohol. That’s just simply not true.

High-functioning alcoholics consume alcohol regularly, regardless of whether or not they experience common symptoms of intoxication.

Let’s dive deeper into the most common warning signs of a high-functioning alcoholic.

  1. Drinking alcohol to cope with daily problems
  2. Drinking alcohol in every situation
  3. Regularly drinking alone
  4. Building a high tolerance to alcohol
  5. Adamantly denying a drinking problem when questioned
  6. Joking about being an alcoholic
  7. Separating their drinking from other regular activities as a way to alienate themselves from others while drinking
  8. Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when they don’t drink, such as irritability, nausea, anxiety or depression
  9. Inability to have one drink
  10. Difficulty when trying to quit drinking altogether


If you or someone you love are experiencing any of these warning signs, it may be time to seek professional help for alcoholism.

Professional Intervention is Key in Long-Term Recovery

Alcoholism is a disease, hence why professional intervention and help is the most necessary option to lead someone down the path of recovery. If you or a loved one is struggling with signs of high-functioning alcoholism or simply needs help with quitting drinking for good, our alcohol detox program may be right for you. Don’t continue down the path of daily drinking; instead, choose to get sober today. Contact us to learn more.