The word functional means what it seems to mean – we can function. We can look normal. We can behave normally. We can be living what appears to be normal, even healthy lives. However, we can still be alcoholic – not a good thing.
Even if you are on the low end of the spectrum of how much you indulge in alcoholic beverages in one sitting, you can still be doing a lot of damage inside your body and to your friends and family, not to mention on the job.
Some Physical Health Risks:
Alcohol, an irritant, burns upon contact, even if you do not always feel this happening. Heavy consumption can lead to cancer. Some alcohol can remain in the stomach instead of being absorbed into the bloodstream even with lighter drinking. When this happens, ongoing use, though mild, can corrode your stomach lining, potentially leading to ulcers and immune function deficits.
When going into the small intestine, alcohol can be damaging to your digestive tract – where about two-thirds of your immune system resides – and it can block absorption of important vitamins, etc., such as B vitamins, fat, amino acids, etc.
When alcohol passes through the heart, it can inflame the muscular walls. Functional alcoholics, while still allegedly remaining “in control,” drink regularly, so this can be an ongoing inflammation process. Over time, you can develop disruptions to heart rhythm.
Of course, you have heard about liver damage which can occur even with mild use. Inflammation of the liver can and does happen, which may adversely impact bile flow, and jaundice can result (or even worse things).
The pancreas is similarly affected, which can eventually lead to diabetes. The brain, too, is impacted – drinking over longer periods of time can affect your motor skills, judgment, and in more extreme cases, you can die or fall into a coma.
Need I say more? This isn’t even a complete list! Please watch this short video by Dr. Imad Alsakaf (MD) for more information.
How Can I Tell if Someone is a Functional Alcoholic (or other drug user)?
People who are drinking on a regular basis, even while still functioning in society, may be hiding what amounts to alcohol abuse without any major losses being apparent, and for a long time (although likely not forever).
Be careful, if you suspect a family member or close friend has a problem with functional alcoholism, as you are likely being asked to cover up for this person (do you really want to enable?), live with someone who isolates at home (this is hard on close friends and family members emotionally), etc.
Remember what dual diagnosis means, too – people with substance use issues most likely have some type of other disordered condition happening, like clinical depression, anxiety, social phobia, moodiness, etc. This can adversely impact any type of relationship!
If you want to learn more about the signs and symptoms of alcohol and other types of drug use, please take the course, Signs of Drug Use. It will give you a solid foundation of knowledge.
If I Know Someone Who is a Functional Alcoholic, What Can I Do?
If you are depressed, frustrated, or having other types of experiences, finding yourself in such a situation with a loved one and not sure how to cope effectively, please take the course, How Families and Friends Cope. This will give you a solid place to start in your understanding, and how to proceed further.
What if I Suspect I am a Functional Alcoholic?
Congratulations on being self-aware and taking the first step to doing something about it! Consider taking the course, Addiction 101, and starting a new and improved lifestyle.
For more information on healthy, holistic living, please visit Health and Wellness Online, LLC.
To Your Health!
Dr. Donna Poppendieck (Dr. P) has over 30 years of experience in the mental health care field. She is a seasoned college professor and instructor for providers. She uses credible, proven holistic health strategies in instruction for parents of children with mental health challenges looking for another approach as well as healthcare providers seeking to implement or understand holistic strategies.