Are you a functioning alcoholic? Know the signs

Rachel Hosie
Getty Images/iStockphoto

We all know that as a society, we drink too much. There’s always a reason to drink and there are always people encouraging you to do so.

When many of us think of an alcoholic, we envisage someone waking up and swigging from a bottle of vodka. But this isn’t always the case.

If you only drink at social occasions but you drink until you’re blackout drunk each time, are you an alcoholic? What about if you drink five or six nights a week, but just a glass or two of wine per evening?

You may be a functioning alcoholic.

According to Dr Iqbal Mohiuddi, one of the consultant psychiatrists at 25 Harley Street Day Clinic, numbers are on the rise.

New NHS figures reveal that Brits aged 55-74 are drinking more than any other generation, and sobriety has never been cooler amongst teens and young adults.

But whatever your age, there are certain signs of functioning alcoholism to look out for. Experts use the acronym CAGE.

C – Cutting down - have you ever thought you should probably drink less?

A – Annoyance - do you ever get annoyed by people nagging you about your drinking?

G – Guilt - do you ever feel guilty about your drinking or what you do as a result?

E – Eye-opener - do you ever feel like you need a drink to feel better, especially in the morning to relax?

According to Dr Mohioddi, answering yes to just a couple of the above could suggest you have a problem with alcohol.

Of course, every person is different, these are just subtle signs and answering yes doesn’t necessarily make you an alcoholic, but it could be something to think about.

Dr Mohiuddi estimates that a third to a half of the clients he treats for alcohol addiction don’t fit the stereotypical image we hold of an addict.

“They’re working in high-powered jobs, in the City or the media and drinking heavily is accepted, almost expected,” he told Healthista.

“They have carried on for years in this way but suddenly they’re getting physical symptoms such as feeling sick in the mornings and needing a drink and perhaps a partner has said they have had enough and it’s the drink or them.

“Conversely, as more companies become aware of drinking issues in the workplace, they may send people in for detox treatment to protect the health of their valued employee.”

Dr Mohioddi says functioning alcoholics can usually keep on top of all their responsibilities despite their drinking, and are usually in denial about their alcohol intake.

Many people think they’re OK because they have a few alcohol-free days of the week, but they then binge at the weekend, causing serious damage.

And it’s likely that you’re binge-drinking more than you realise - anything more than four units (one being a small glass of wine, half a pint of beer or a 1.5 ounce shot of a spirit) is classified as a binge.

“During a binge your body is literally saturated with alcohol and even though you think you can tolerate it, your body isn’t breaking it down any quicker,” Dr Mohioddi says.

“A good mantra to keep in mind is that human beings can only tolerate one unit of alcohol in an hour so try and stick to that.”