Nedra Jack January 29, 2019

We live in a world in which alcohol is glorified. It is everywhere, from t.v commercials to billboards on the streets. From poetry and literature to songs and movies, which sometimes romanticize alcohol and tell us it’s okay to blame our reckless behavior on it. But in reality, alcoholism is not poetic. It won’t make you look cool, it won’t make you happier. Alcoholism is a disease, one that kills more than 3 million people each year worldwide, according to the World Health Organization.

Alcoholism was formerly considered a single condition and all alcoholics grouped into one type. There wasn’t a classification of types, therefore all alcoholics were treated the same. However, medical professionals and scientists at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) have since found that there are five distinct patterns of alcohol dependence. In this article, you will find how alcoholism is classified and what are the symptoms and implications of each type.

Young Adult Subtype

Out of the different types, the young adult subtype is the most common one, making up for 31.5 percent of people who are alcohol dependent in the United States. This kind of alcoholism occurs in individuals in their late teens and early twenties. The average age of alcoholic young adults is 25, and they first became dependent at an average age of 20 years. Even though young adult alcoholics drink less frequently than other types of alcoholics, they tend to binge drink when they drink. This type of drinking can be so excessive that a single sitting can make up the amount a different alcoholic type drinks throughout the whole day. They also have the lowest rate of seeking help because of their drinking and going through an alcohol detox process.

Young Antisocial Subtype

This subtype amounts to 21% of all U.S. alcoholics. Different from the young adult alcoholics, most of these individuals suffer from antisocial personality disorder. This disorder is characterized by manipulative, deceitful and reckless behavior, as well as a lack of empathy for other people’s feelings. Criminal behavior, irresponsibility and lack of remorse are symptoms that are also associated with this mental disorder. Alcoholics in this group began drinking around age 16, and are, on average, 26 years old. There are more men than woman in this subtype, and they are likely to consume other substances such as cocaine and marihuana.

Functional Subtype

This subtype comprises about 19% of all alcoholics in the United States. The functional subtype defies what society’s alcoholic definition is. We tend to think that anyone who struggles with alcohol is unable to function in any level. But functional alcoholics are just that: functional. They are often middle-aged, working adults. The majority of them have long-term relationships, some of them have children and are well educated. Their incomes are the highest amongst all types of alcoholics. They are able to hold their life together daily, and even appear happy and healthy. This, added to the fact that they don’t usually drink daily, makes it harder to recognize the problem.

Intermediate Familial Subtype

The individuals in the intermediate familial subtype are usually those who have family members that also suffer from alcoholism. Nearly half of them have first-degree and/or second-degree relatives who have also been diagnosed with alcohol dependence. The average age of alcoholics in this subtype is 38, and they began drinking when they were around 17. These individuals are more likely to also have a co-occurring mental disorder such as depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder. In addition to this, alcoholics in this group have higher rates than any other group of consumption of other substances such as tobacco, marihuana, and cocaine.

Chronic Severe Subtype

The definition of the chronic severe subtype is probably what comes immediately to your mind when you hear the word alcoholic. But this is actually the rarest alcoholism subtype, accounting for about 9% of U.S. alcoholics. Individuals in this group have major destructive tendencies, it is almost impossible for them to keep a job, and their family and friends have probably abandoned them. They are the type of alcoholics who often wind up on the streets. A chronic severe alcoholic is the average age of 38, started drinking when they were about 16, and became dependent on alcohol around 29 years old. Most of the people in this group have a family history of alcoholism and nearly half of them have been diagnosed with a personality disorder.

Knowing what type of alcoholic you or a loved one might be is an important step to understand their condition and get help. In all cases, alcoholism should be viewed as a serious disease that only gets worse with time, which is why getting help as soon as possible is so important. There are hundreds of options to get treatment, most of which can be very effective and help you or your loved one turn their life around. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, it will be the best decision you ever make. If you have any questions about alcoholism and treatment, don’t hesitate to leave a comment below.