What are the Types of Alcoholics?

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Author: Thomas Roth

Last Updated: 11/15/2021

Alcoholics are people who suffer from alcohol abuse disorder (AUD). Alcohol abuse disorder is an addiction to alcohol that causes sudden and uncontrollable urges to drink. AUD develops over time and is more likely to occur in people with a family history of alcoholism and alcohol consumption.

1. Young Adult Subtype 

The young adult subtype consists of 31.5% of all alcoholics, which makes it the largest group. The young adult subtype is characterized by people aged 19-24 who partake in binge drinking and partying. This group is less likely to have full-time employment, marriage commitments, and other responsibilities. In fact, most people within this group are starting or finishing college, which can be an environment that promotes drinking.

The young adult subtype doesn't drink as often as other subtypes but it does engage in dangerous binge drinking that causes blackouts. People within this group don't tend to develop co-occurring disorders but they do develop alcohol dependence at an earlier age. Treatment for this subtype tends to consist of drinking less frequently and attending 12-Step programs but only 20% of this group seeks treatment.

2. Intermediate Familial Subtype 

The intermediate familial subtype consists of 18.8% of all alcoholics. People within this subtype tend to start drinking in their late teenage years and develop alcohol dependence by the age of 32 (on average). The intermediate familial subtype tends to include family members that drink frequently, which influences the younger generation of an immediate family to drink regularly and not view it as a problem.

The familial subtype is 64% male and people within this group have a higher chance of developing co-occurring disorders. These disorders include mental health issues like anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, and mood changes in mood. Unfortunately, this group does not seek treatment often and tends to earn less than the functional alcoholic group, even with full-time employment. When treatment is sought after it tends to be more affordable options like detox and AA groups.

3. Functional Subtype 

The functional subtype consists of 19.5% of alcoholics. People within this group are known as "functional alcoholics" and tend to hold down jobs and relationships. In most cases, it's hard to tell when someone is a functional alcoholic because their lives are more productive than the other subtypes. That said, the functional alcoholic subtype is the least likely to seek treatment and tends to have a high risk for high blood pressure, liver damage, and other side effects of long-term drinking.

Half of this subgroup is married and only 20% seek treatment. When treatment is sought after it tends to be done through 12-Step meetings, self-help groups, and outpatient therapy. Because of their success, it's hard for people in this subtype to commit to inpatient and residential programs. People within this group can be identified as those who have several drinks every day to unwind after work or dealing with spouses and children.

4. Chronic Severe Subtype 

The chronic severe subtype is the smallest group of alcoholics. Making up 9.2% of alcoholics, this group begins drinking at a young age (15). The chronic severe subtype is dangerous because drinking begins early and alcohol dependence can occur before 30 years of age. People in this group have a high risk of developing co-occurring disorders and 77% of people in this group have family members that drink. Furthermore, people in this category tend to develop addictions to other substances like cigarettes, marijuana, and other substances.

The chronic severe subtype is a group that tries to get help, even when it doesn't work. 90% of people within this group will suffer from severe alcohol withdrawal at least once and most people end up in a recovery program. Common treatment methods include inpatient programs, sober living homes, and even detox programs. Unfortunately, people in this group might be in and out of programs for a long time. The chronic severe subtype also experiences the highest rate of legal problems and issues with holding down jobs and relationships.

5. Young Antisocial Subtype 

The young antisocial subtype is made up of 21.5% of all alcoholics. Like the chronic severe subtype, the young antisocial subtype begins drinking at a young age (around 15). This group also develops alcohol dependence the fastest with the average age being 18. Within this group, 50% of people have an antisocial personality disorder and those who don't tend to suffer from co-occurring disorders like anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, and other mental health issues. The young antisocial subtype also has a high risk of developing addictions to other substances like cocaine, cigarettes, meth, and marijuana.

This group maintains a low level of employment, education, and general financial success. While the group drinks less frequently than some other groups, drinking is often done through binge drinking. That said, the young antisocial subtype has the highest treatment percentage. 35% of people within the group seek treatment and get help through inpatient care, outpatient care, and detox.

How to Determine Alcoholism Type 

Alcoholic subtypes are determined by many factors and you can use these factors to determine what subtype someone belongs to. Alcoholic subtypes are determined by the age someone starts drinking at, when alcohol dependence develops, how likely they are to receive treatment and the co-occurring disorders that develop within them.

Here are some examples of how to identify subtypes:

  • Young Adult: College-age, binge drinker, not likely to seek treatment, and low risk of co-occurring disorders 

  • Immediate Familial Subtype: Average age of 17, influenced by family members and history, not likely to seek treatment.

  • Functional Subtype: Hardest group to identify, not likely to seek treatment, good relationship and job management, high rates of depression 

  • Chronic Severe Subtype: Drinking begins around age 15 and dependence before 30, high risk of personality disorders and mental health conditions, 77% of cases have family members with the condition

  • Young Antisocial Subtype: Drinking begins around 15 but dependence starts at 18, family members that drink, antisocial personality disorder and other mental disorders, most likely group to seek treatment (35%)

There are more ways to tell these groups apart but some of it comes down to how well you know the individual. If you believe that you or a loved one falls into one of these alcoholic subtypes it's important to seek treatment options.

What are the Statistics about Alcoholism Types? 

There is a lot of data on alcoholics and most of it is alarming. That said, learning about the statistics of each alcohol type can help combat the issue.

Here are the statistics for each group.

  • 31.5% of alcoholics fall into the young adult subtype

  • 19.5% of alcoholics are functional alcoholics

  • 18.8% of alcoholics are intermediate familial alcoholism 

  • The young antisocial subtype makes up 21.1% of alcoholics 

  • 9.2% of alcoholics are in the chronic severe subtype. 77% of people in this group have family members who are also alcoholics.

While these statistics are alarming, they can help bring awareness to the dangers of lifelong alcoholism.

Who is Most Likely to Become an Alcoholic?

People who have a family history of alcoholism are the most at risk to develop AUD. Unfortunately, about 50% of the population has the gene responsible for influencing alcoholism. That said, people who drink often are also at risk of developing AUD. The more someone drinks the higher the risk of developing alcoholism.

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Thomas Roth
Lead Editor

Thomas has been working in the substance abuse industry for over 3 years and he's made it his mission to help those in need. Tom started out by writing content to help people find addiction treatment centers near their location. Once he understood the value in the words he wrote Tom shifted to outreach, editing, and content creation. If nothing else, Tom wants to see those who struggle with Alcohol abuse disorder recover.