Are There Different Types of Alcoholics?

When the average person thinks of alcoholism, they may assume that all alcoholics are the same. However, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism has determined that there are five distinct subtypes of alcoholics, based on their research. Knowing the different categories can help you to identify signs of alcoholism in yourself and your loved ones. It also contributes to an overall understanding of the disease.

The five subtypes are:

  • Young antisocial alcoholic
  • Young adult alcoholic
  • Intermediate familial alcoholic
  • Functional alcoholic
  • Chronic severe alcoholic

We’ll provide an overview of each of these. If you identify with one of these or notice them in someone you love, you should contact an Asheville treatment professional.

Young Adult Alcoholics

Nearly a third of alcoholics belong to this group. They are older teens or people in their early 20s and likely to be college students newly living away from their parents. Much of the alcohol they consume is via binge drinking which heightens the risk of becoming tolerant and physically dependent. Young adult alcoholics may not try to get treatment for their drinking problems since excess drinking is seen as normal at their age. Older people in their lives may assume they’re just having fun and that they’ll eventually change their behavior.

Individuals who fall into this category almost never have a familial history of alcoholism. However, they have other risk factors. These include peer pressure, residing in an environment that promotes alcohol use, and consuming alcohol when the brain isn’t fully developed.

Young Antisocial Alcoholics

These are usually individuals in their mid-20s who started drinking at a young age. Drinking heavily and binge drinking early in life can increase the risk of alcohol-related problems later in life. Since young people have difficulty controlling their impulses, they are more likely to take risks. Excessive drinking can be especially risky in young people since it can interfere with brain development.

Drinking alcohol before the age of 15 significantly increases the likelihood that a person will go on to abuse alcohol or become addicted later. This is according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Meanwhile, more than 50 percent of young antisocial alcoholics have a familial history of addiction and about half have antisocial personality disorder. Since alcohol can reduce social inhibitions and make people feel more relaxed, they may use it to self-medicate. People with antisocial personality disorder also tend to struggle with impulse control so they may be prone to self-destructive behaviors including problematic drinking.

Many young antisocial alcoholics also have other mental health disorders like anxiety, bipolar disorder, or depression. Up to 75 percent use other drugs, thereby increasing the risk of addiction.

Functional Alcoholics

Functional alcoholics account for around 19.5 percent of alcoholics in the United States. These tend to be well-educated, middle-aged people who seem to have a normal life. They have a steady job and a family that appears stable and they may even contribute to the community. They’re not the stereotypical alcoholic. Instead, they live something of a double life and their spouses or relatives may make excuses for them. Functional alcoholics often continue to have a successful life and may deny they have a problem. While some eventually fail to cover up their addiction, others never hit rock bottom.

Intermediate Familial Alcoholics

These makeup about 19 percent of alcoholics in the US. They tend to be middle-aged people whose family history includes multigenerational alcoholism. Most smoke cigarettes and almost one-fifth also abuse cocaine and marijuana. Polydrug use increases the risk of becoming addicted to one or more substances. Almost half of all intermediate familial alcoholics battle clinical depression and around one-fifth struggle with bipolar disorder. Only a quarter of these alcoholics seek treatment for their drinking problems.

Chronic Severe Alcoholics

This subtype only makes up about nine percent of the alcoholic population in the US. However, it’s this profile that most people think about when they hear the term alcoholic. Chronic severe alcoholics usually start drinking at a young age and develop problematic drinking habits early in life. By the time their condition is considered chronic and severe, they are middle-aged. They battle antisocial personality disorder and often find themselves in legal trouble.

Chronic severe alcoholics are more likely than other alcoholics to have psychiatric disorders. Furthermore, almost 80 percent of them have a familial and genetic link to alcoholism. These alcoholics often smoke and may be dependent on cocaine, marijuana, or opioids. Their addiction leads to serious problems including job loss, homelessness, and broken relationships. This subtype is most likely to seek treatment.

Get Help from Asheville Recovery Center

If you have developed a drinking problem, reach out to the team at Asheville Recovery Center. We’ll help you get to the root of your challenges and guide you on the road to recovery. Contact us today to learn about our treatment options.

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