The 5 Types of Alcoholics

A group of alcoholics are holding up white papers with question mark signs representing the different types of alcoholics.

In 2007, researchers Howard B. Moss, Chiung M. Chen and Hsiao-ye Yi published an article in Drug and Alcohol Dependence suggesting that there are five types of alcoholics [1]. Each type has different characteristics and responds to some forms of treatments better than to others.

If you or someone you care about is struggling with an addiction to alcohol, knowing these five types of alcoholics can improve your chances to find the most effective treatment. This article will discuss each type and its most common traits so that you can best identify how to help your loved one.

Young Adult

The young adult subtype is the most common, accounting for 32 percent of alcoholics in the United States [2]. Young adult alcoholics are typically in their mid-twenties. They don’t drink as frequently as other types of alcoholics, but when they do drink, they tend to binge, consuming more than five alcoholic beverages at a time.

People who fall into this type of alcohol abuse rarely seek help for their drinking. Those who do generally prefer attending self-help groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous over seeking help from a doctor or entering a substance abuse treatment program.

Young Antisocial

Almost 21 percent of alcohol abusers in the United States fall into the young antisocial type [2]. Individuals in this subtype typically start drinking in their mid-teens and become addicted to alcohol by the age of 18. In addition, they are more likely to smoke and abuse other drugs including marijuana, cocaine, and opiates.

Around 50 percent of young antisocial drinkers carry a diagnosis of antisocial personality disorder [2]. People with this disorder make a habit of mistreating others by violating boundaries, lying, manipulating, and exploiting. The most effective treatment may involve the use of behavioral therapy to reward appropriate actions. The goal of treatment for this group should be complete abstinence from alcohol.


Functional alcoholics are middle-aged, typically in their early forties. Most are married and are able to hold down a job. They tend to have higher levels of education and higher incomes than other types of people who are addicted to alcohol. On average, functional alcoholics drink every other day, and they usually drink five or more alcoholic beverages at a time. Although some of them may smoke, they generally do not abuse any other substances.

Functional alcoholics often deny or minimize their substance abuse. Because they surround themselves with other heavy drinkers, they may have a difficult time recognizing that their drinking has become a problem.

Intermediate Familial

About 19 percent of alcoholics belong to the intermediate familial type. They are more likely than the other types of problem drinkers to have close relatives who also abuse alcohol. Similarly, they are more likely to experience mood disorders such as major depression and bipolar disorder. About 25 percent of intermediate familial alcoholics eventually seek treatment from a variety of sources including self-help groups, health care providers and substance abuse treatment programs [2].

Chronic Severe

This type accounts for nine percent of alcoholics [2]. Chronic severe drinkers tend to be male, divorced, and addicted to other substances along with alcohol. They often experience personality disorders and other mental health issues such as anxiety and mood disorders. Chronic severe alcoholics drink more alcohol than any other type of alcoholic.

Almost two-thirds of chronic severe alcoholics eventually seek treatment [2]. Some of the most successful treatment plans include an emphasis on addressing psychiatric issues and an emphasis on providing information about the process of change including dealing with relapse.

You would never go to an oncologist who offered all patients the same treatment no matter what type of cancer they had. By the same token, if you are seeking help for problem drinking, choose a compassionate provider who will assess your needs, including your type of alcoholism, and tailor a unique treatment plan to help you put alcohol behind you.