Types of Alcoholics

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If you or someone you know is struggling with alcohol addiction, don’t hesitate to seek professional help.

While there are different types of ‘drinkers,’ these aren’t necessarily alcoholics. For people who suffer from a dependency on alcohol, there are different subtypes. These are according to research by the National Institute of Health and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

They are based on how old you are when you first develop alcohol dependence, your family history of alcoholism, occurrence of other substance abuse disorders, and the occurrence of other mental health concerns. They are as follows:

Young Antisocial Alcoholics

This group’s alcohol consumption begins around adolescence, which is the youngest age bracket among all other groups. They also develop dependence around adolescence, due to which they require urgent intervention. They have a higher rate of co-occurrence for substance abuse like smoking marijuana and cigarettes, and a family history of alcoholism. Based on NIH reports, a significant number of them may also suffer from addiction to substances such as cocaine and opioids.

More than half of alcoholics in this group have traits of antisocial personality disorder, which is characterized by a violation of others’ rights, disregard for rules, and a lack of guilt for one’s wrongful actions. There’s also a high rate of co-occurrence with psychological concerns like OCD, bipolar disorder, and depression.

Due to the nature of antisocial personality disorder, a person becomes more likely to indulge in risk-taking behavior, such as experimenting with other drugs and criminal behavior. Hence, this group often faces legal problems. The group has the lowest levels of income, employment, and education compared to others. While they drink more at once, they tend to drink less frequently. They are more likely to seek treatment than other groups as well.

Young Adult Alcoholics

People who fall in this group tend to start drinking at an earlier age, but they also develop a dependency fairly early. This subtype of alcoholics doesn’t drink as often as the other groups, but when it does, it tends to binge drink. This is characterized by the blood alcohol concentration reaching levels of up to 0.08 g/dL or above, and occurs within two hours. In these cases, men have around five drinks and women have four, according to the NIAAA.

People suffering from this subtype of alcoholism have a lower rate of co-occurring mental health concerns compared to others. In terms of family history of alcoholism and the occurrence of substance abuse disorders, there’s a moderate rate of co-occurrence. This is because young adults in this subtype develop an addiction due to environmental factors, such as peer pressure, living in a pro-drinking environment, abusing other substances alongside alcohol, and drinking before their brain is completely formed.

This subtype is more likely to be in college, so they usually haven’t been married or don’t have a full-time job. Most people in this group consider excessive patterns of drinking to be normal. Because they’re under the impression that it’s just a phase and that young people eventually come out of it, very few seek treatment.

Functional Alcoholics

Most functional alcoholics don’t line up with the typical stereotype of someone with a drinking problem. Usually, they’re well-educated, middle-aged professionals and look like they have their life together. This seems like the case because of their stable family life and ability to have a high-paying job. People in this group start drinking alcohol later and develop dependence much later.

Compared to other groups, functional alcoholics are the least likely to run into legal troubles. That’s because they compartmentalize their drinking behavior to keep it separate from everything else. That means they keep their drinking under wraps when they’re around family, and don’t slip up in the company of strangers. However, they may drink in excess in the privacy of their home every night.

In the event that issues crop up, their family may make excuses for their behavior, further enabling them. It’s why very few functional alcoholics seek treatment, and most of them who do approach private healthcare professionals.

Chronic Severe Alcoholics

This is the group that typically falls under the stereotypical image of what an alcoholic looks like. But compared to the other groups, it only makes up a smaller portion of the overall alcoholic population. Someone with chronic severe alcoholism developed a dependency at an early age and is currently middle-aged. While they have a lower alcohol intake than the young antisocial subtype, they tend to drink more frequently.

Alcoholics in this group have a high rate of co-occurrence with antisocial personality disorder, so they frequently have issues with the law. However, in a considerable number of crimes, alcohol is a contributing factor. Chronic severe alcoholics are more likely to deal with psychological concerns like anxiety disorders, depression, and bipolar disorder.

There’s also a high likelihood that chronic severe alcoholics have a family history of alcoholism and suffer from other substance abuse disorders as well. They are the most likely to run into problems because of their drinking behavior. For instance, they may have health issues, lose their job, go through a divorce, and other concerns that make them likely to seek professional help. Moreover, they have the lowest employment rates and education levels.

Intermediate Familial Alcoholics

Intermediate familial alcoholics usually have a multigenerational family history of alcoholism and are middle-aged. They start drinking at a younger age and develop dependence a little later. They have a high likelihood of suffering from bipolar disorder, generalized anxiety, depression, and antisocial personality disorder. There’s also a high co-occurrence rate of addiction to substances such as cocaine, marijuana, and cigarettes.

While this group tends to have a high education level, it’s not as high as the functional alcoholic group. Similarly, the subtype holds more full-time jobs compared to others, but have a lower income level. It’s likely that alcohol is used as a method to self medicate due to difficult emotional symptoms that accompany psychological disorders.

These five subtypes of alcoholics are highly effective at shedding light on the different genetic and environmental factors that contribute to addiction. It helps paint a clearer picture of what addiction can look like, and helps build an acceptance of people who don’t align with the typical stereotype.