Did you know that alcohol is responsible for over 88,000 deaths in the US each year?

It’s easy to spot someone who’s very intoxicated. They may slur their speech, stumble through a room, or become aggressive.

But what about someone who drinks a lot and doesn’t display these signs? They might be considered a high functioning alcoholic.

What is a functioning alcoholic? Here are six sure signs.

1. Rarely Appears Intoxicated

They’re the life of the party. They’re the first to show up for happy hour and the last to leave at closing time. They pound back drink after drink–yet they never appear to be drunk.

Does someone have to appear intoxicated to be classified as an alcoholic? No.

There are various patterns a high functioning alcoholic might display, from binge drinking to alcohol use disorder (AUD). Due to heavy drinking over time, they’ve simply developed a higher tolerance for alcohol than the average person.

2. Makes Jokes About Drinking

Does your friend openly joke about her drinking habits?

“Rehab is for quitters,” she might say. Or, “I’m just a drunk, alcoholics go to meetings.”

Everyone in the room might chuckle, but such comments reveal an underlying truth. She’s using humor to validate her belief that the amount she drinks is a choice (and under control).

3. Replacing Meals with Drinks

A high functioning alcoholic is usually more interested in drinking than eating.

A Mimosa or Bloody Mary might take the place of breakfast. Or they may say they’re not hungry at dinnertime and have a “meal” of a few drinks instead.

They might also bring alcohol to a setting that doesn’t call for it, maybe a shopping mall or their son’s Little League game.

4. Always Giving a “Reason” to Drink

Whether good or bad, a functioning alcoholic always has an excuse for a cold one.

Stressed out at work? Nagging wife? Annoying boss? Those are definitely reasons to have a few drinks.

Likewise, they also use alcohol to celebrate when everything’s going great at home or work.

5. Plans Their Day Around Alcohol

A functioning alcoholic relies on drinking to get through the day.

Mimosas with breakfast, a few beers with lunch, mid-afternoon cocktails, a bottle of wine with dinner–every occasion is planned around a particular beverage.

If this behavior becomes a weekly or daily pattern, your friend might have a serious problem.

6. Sneaky Behavior or “Hiding” Alcohol

People who are in denial of a drinking problem often become sneaky about their drinking habits.

They might “pre-game” at home to get their buzz going before heading out for the night. They might carry a flask or hide a bottle in their car or desk.

If questioned about their drinking habits, a functioning alcoholic is likely to laugh it off as nothing. Even worse, they may aggressively deny their behavior or find a million ways to justify it.

Functioning Alcoholics: Final Thoughts

Does this list sound like someone you know? If so, your loved one could very well be a functioning alcoholic.

Our blog contains more useful information about alcoholism and others forms of addiction.

If you’re curious about rehab and what it can do for your friend or family member, check out our FAQ page. We’re always here to help.