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A high-functioning alcoholic (HFA) is a person who maintains jobs and relationships while exhibiting alcoholism.[1][2][3]

Statistics from the Harvard School of Public Health indicated that 31 percent of college students show signs of alcohol abuse and 6 percent are dependent on alcohol. Doctors hope that the new definition will help identify severe cases of alcoholism early, rather than when the problem is fully developed.[4]

Many HFAs are not viewed as alcoholics by society because they do not fit the common alcoholic stereotype. Unlike the stereotypical alcoholic, HFAs have either succeeded or over-achieved throughout their lifetimes. This can lead to denial of alcoholism by the HFA, co-workers, family members, and friends. Functional alcoholics account for 19.5 percent of total U.S. alcoholics, with 50 percent also being smokers and 33 percent having a multigenerational family history of alcoholism.[5]

In popular cultureEdit

The protagonists of True Detective (season 1), Marty Hart and Rust Cohle, are HFAs.[6][7][8]

The protagonist in the Telugu language film Arjun Reddy starring Vijay Deverakonda is an HFA surgeon.

The protagonist in the Hindi language film Kabir Singh starring Shahid Kapoor is an HFA surgeon.


  1. ^ Benton, Sarah Allen (2009). Understanding the High-Functioning Alcoholic – Professional Views and Personal Insights. Greenwood Publishing Group. ISBN 978-0-313-35280-5.
  2. ^ Brody, Jane (May 4, 2009). "High Functioning, but Still Alcoholics". The New York Times. Retrieved February 18, 2012.
  3. ^ "Understanding High Functioning Alcoholics". Psychology Today.
  4. ^ Sanderson, Megan (May 22, 2012). "About 37 percent of college students could now be considered alcoholics". Daily Emerald. Retrieved September 17, 2016.
  5. ^ National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (June 28, 2007). "Researchers Identify Alcoholic Subtypes" (Press release). National Institutes of Health. Retrieved February 18, 2012.
  6. ^ Semley, JOhn (March 7, 2014). "Let's Talk About the Drinking on True Detective". Esquire.
  7. ^ Vincent, Alice (Entertainment writer (5 March 2014). "True Detective: Matthew McConaughey wrote a 450-page deconstruction of Rust Cohle's life". The Telegraph.
  8. ^ Osgood, Kelsey (March 10, 2014). "True That". TheFix.

External linksEdit