What is the Definition of an Alcoholic

The technical definition of alcoholic is someone who abuses alcohol. From there it gets considerably more complicated. The medical and scientific communities have many definitions when it comes to what exactly an alcoholic is. In truth, stating someone is an alcoholic is more of a circumstance than it is a scientifically explained fact. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, only a small percentage of people fit the definitions of an alcoholic.

For help finding treatment for addiction call 800-839-1686Who Answers? toll free anytime.

What Makes an Alcoholic

One of the things that doctors and scientists agree on is what circumstances make someone an alcoholic. Despite this agreement, what makes someone an alcoholic is more circumstance than it is fact. There are varying degrees of behavior that doctors use to predict who is and is not an alcoholic. In order to understand what makes an alcoholic you need to know what these behaviors are.

  • Changes in habits – when someone starts to change what they do to accommodate their drinking. When people are drinking, they tend to start doing things that support their habit. They might start going to work late or not at all or they will change groups of friends, argue with family, or adopt previously unheard of behaviors.
  • Drinking regularly – although drinking regularly isn’t always a sign that someone is an alcoholic, but when someone drinks regularly and becomes irritable, angry, or otherwise upset when they can’t drink regularly it is a good indicator. Some people who are on their way to being an alcoholic have issues missing their regular drinking times, this is because their body has started needing it.

    alcohol abuse

    If you cannot do things without drinking and you feel sick when you don’t drink you could be an alcoholic.

  • Heavy drinking – As defined by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, heavy drinking is anything more than five drinks a day for more than five days.
  • Binge drinking – binge drinking is when someone has more than five drinks in a period or staying drunk for several days, then sober for a period of time only to go back to drinking again. Essentially binging on alcohol.

The Warning Signs of Alcoholism

There are several warning signs that you should pay attention to if you are worried about being an alcoholic or know someone who is. These warning signs are:

  • Changes in health – The health of alcoholics deteriorates rapidly when they drink frequently. It causes:
    • Redness in the face,
    • Stomach ulcers,
    • Shaking,
    • Diarrhea,
    • Regular vomiting, and
    • High blood pressure.
  • Withdrawal symptoms – symptoms like hangovers, cravings, and stomach upset after drinking.
  • Not being able to do things without drinking – if you need a drink to get through the day, you might need treatment.
  • Hiding your drinking – hiding something implies you are doing something wrong. If you feel the need to hide your drinking from friends and family, there might be a serious problem.
  • Neglecting appearance – Someone who is frequently drunk stops caring about their physical appearance. They sometimes do not show for an extended time or stop brushing their hair.
  • Disinterest in their normal activities – many people who are becoming alcoholics show little or no interest in the things they once enjoyed. They might stop their hobbies or other activities in favor of drinking.
  • Always finding an excuse to drink – people are alcoholics will come up with reasons to drink such as:
    • They are upset,
    • Job stress,
    • Stress at home,
    • Social occasions, and
    • Because they deserve it.

Although this is not a complete list, these are the most common things to look for. Most people exhibit a few of these warning signs when their drinking is becoming a problem.

Call 800-839-1686Who Answers? toll free anytime for help finding treatment for addiction.

Types of Alcoholics

There are several basic types of alcoholics. These basic types are identified by their actions while drinking. The types are:

  • Young adult – these are people who are 24 years old who are dependent on alcohol to function. They usually are binge drinkers who drink until they are very drunk and then stop for awhile only to do it again a short time later.
  • Antisocial – this type starts drinking when they are around 15 but the average age is around 26. These alcoholics drink frequently alone because they are depressed, stressed, or are suffering from another mental illness.
  • Functional – these alcoholics have jobs, families, and other responsibilities. They drink almost constantly and can maintain each of these while drinking.
  • Chronic or severe – these are the hardcore alcoholics. They drink daily and usually lose their homes, jobs, and families due to the alcoholism.

Although there are more types of alcoholics, these are the ones recognized by most doctors. It is important to remember that only about nine percent of alcoholics fall into the severe category. Most are considered functional alcoholics.

When alcohol becomes a problem, a person is usually said to be an alcoholic. People who lose their jobs, families, homes, friends, and relationships because of their drinking are considered alcoholic. Some people can drink every day, binge drink, or drink alone and still not dependent on alcohol. It is important to remember that not everyone who drinks is an alcoholic. Alcoholics are dependent and addicted to the alcohol. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, anyone who drinks too much too regularly might be an alcoholic but the term usually means dependent on alcohol. The definition of alcohol is almost entirely circumstantial but if you suspect that you are an alcoholic it is probably time to seek some form of treatment.

How Our Helpline Works

For those seeking addiction treatment for themselves or a loved one, the AlcoholicsAnonymous.com helpline is a private and convenient solution.

Calls to any general helpline (non-facility specific 1-8XX numbers) for your visit will be answered by American Addiction Centers (AAC).

We are standing by 24/7 to discuss your treatment options. Our representatives work solely for AAC and will discuss whether an AAC facility may be an option for you. Our helpline is offered at no cost to you and with no obligation to enter into treatment. Neither AlcoholicsAnonymous.com nor AAC receives any commission or other fee that is dependent upon which treatment provider a visitor may ultimately choose.

For more information on AAC’s commitment to ethical marketing and treatment practices, or to learn more about how to select a treatment provider, visit our About AAC page. If you wish to explore additional treatment options or connect with a specific rehab center, you can browse top-rated listings or visit SAMHSA.