The Theory behind Alcohol Addiction Treatment – Understanding the 5 Types of Alcoholics

We live in a world of stereotypes. Therefore, it should not come as a surprise that one of the stereotypes refers to alcoholics. Society considers them all the same. But are they really that similar? Research suggests otherwise.

The research was carried out by NIAAA (National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism), NIH (National Institute of Health), and NESARC (National Epidemiological Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions).

It was a national complex clinical study based on several other studies focusing on alcoholics. During it, researchers identified five categories of alcoholics. Their classification took into account factors such as:

  • Individual age
  • Age when drinking started
  • Age when the individual developed alcohol dependence
  • Family history of alcoholism
  • Co-occurring psychological disorders
  • Other substance abuse disorders

The classification allows specialists treating addiction to better understand why their patients abuse alcohol, how they perceive their addiction, and which treatment approach will work better. Here are the five types of alcoholics and their main characteristics.

The 5 Types of Alcoholics

1. The Young Adult

Approximately one third of alcoholics fall into this category. Most of them started drinking before their 20th birthday and developed dependence before turning 25th. Few of them have co-occurring psychological disorders. The rates for other substance abuse disorders and family history of alcoholism are moderate.

The alcoholics in this category do not usually have full-time jobs. Most of them are college students and have never been married. They do not drink as frequently as the alcoholics in other categories, but they engage in binge drinking when they do. Unfortunately, very few of them will seek out help on their own, so it is up to their loved ones to step in.

 

2. The Functional Alcoholic

Around 20% of all alcoholics fall into this category, they are able to maintain full-time jobs and stable relationships. Most of them are in their 40s, started drinking when turning of age, and only developed dependence in their 30s.

This group has moderate depression rate but low rate of co-occurring disorders. Most functional alcoholics are also cigarette smokers. Approximately 60% of them are male. Legal problems are unlikely in this group. So is acknowledging drinking problems.

These are well-educated, seemingly successful people, so you should not expect them to seek help on their own. Only 20% of them ever do.

 

3. The Intermediate Familial Alcoholic

This category includes approximately 19% of alcoholics. They too started drinking in during teen age and became dependent in their 30s. Most of them have a family history of alcoholism and high rates of co-occurring disorders. They also have other addictions, to cigarettes, cocaine, or marijuana.

The alcoholics in this group have high education levels but lower than functional alcoholics. Most of them maintain full-time jobs but have lower income than functional alcoholics. They are a little more likely to seek treatment than alcoholics in the above groups, though.

 

4. The Young Antisocial Alcoholic

More than 20% of alcoholics belong in this category. Their drinking started in their teen years and their addiction set in around their turning of age. More than half of them have symptoms of anti-social personality disorder.

They have co-occurring disorders, like depression, social phobia, bipolar disorder, or obsessive compulsive disorder. They are also addicted to other substances, such as tobacco, marijuana, cocaine, or opioids.

Since their addiction started early, they are poorly educated, mostly unemployed, and earn very little. They drink more than other groups but not necessarily as frequently. However, they are more likely to seek help than other alcoholics.

 

5. The Chronic Severe Subtype

Less than 10% of alcoholics fall into this group. They started drinking around their 15 years of age and became addicted before their 30th birthday. They have a family history of alcoholism, and accentuated traits of anti-social personality disorder.

Their list of co-occurring disorders includes depression, bipolar disorder, dysthymia, generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and social phobia. They are also addicted to cigarettes, opioids, marijuana, or cocaine.

Most of them experience acute alcohol withdrawal symptoms and have a hard time recovering. They are common emergency room patients, unlikely to maintain jobs and relationships. They are also poorly educated. However, they do seek help and invest time and effort into their recovery, even though they often relapse.

There Is Hope for All Types of Alcoholics in Asheville, NC Recovery Centers

No matter to which category you or your loved one belong, it is important to know that recovery is possible. It requires commitment, a combination of treatments and therapies, and lots of support from specialists, peers, and family members. Find out more about the options available by scheduling a FREE consultation at the Asheville Recovery Center!

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