The Surprising Age You Should Begin Monitoring Your Drinking

Do You fall into the dangerous category of the functional subtype?


It was never my uncle’s plan to become an alcoholic.

The sad truth about alcoholism and how it sneaks up on you is that many people who become alcoholics were “normal” drinkers at one time.

My uncle was one of these people.

He was someone who was always the life of the party and enjoyed drinking immensely.

He always worked and could never be considered lazy or homeless, but as he aged and alcohol began to take a toll on his body, he found it extremely hard to stop drinking until he was told by his doctor it was life or death.

He was able to quit and lived another 10 years after that to 69, but I feel he would’ve lived much longer had he stopped sooner.

This story is similar to a lot of people as it relates to drinking over time.

The reason for this lack of awareness until it’s too late is related to the challenge it can be to see it coming. It definitely doesn’t just happen overnight but instead is very gradual over an extended amount of time.

There is a name for this group of individuals who go from being “normal” drinkers one day to not being able to remember the last time drinking wasn’t a part of their everyday activities.

They are called the functional subtype and have a general age range associated with them that can serve as a warning for those who might be concerned.

Before we go specifically into the age, let’s learn a bit more about the group and its other characters first.

What is a functional subtype?

Functional subtypes make up 19.4% of alcohol dependent individuals in the U.S.

These individuals are typically financially well off, as they are the highest-paid group of any of the five different alcohol dependent groups, bringing in an average of $60,000 per year.

Many of them work full time (62%) and a little over a quarter of them have college degrees (26%).

About half are married (49%) and they typically restrict their drinking to only specific times and events, which gives the illusion that they have everything under control.

Many of these individuals can be seen as high achievers, which is also why developing a drinking problem does not register on the radar as a possibility for the future.

Lastly, many of these individuals typically don’t drink too early in their lives, as the average age they started is around 19.

What is the age that one should begin being wary?

The age that one should begin to closely monitor one’s drinking is actually an age range.

As shared, the change to this type of person is very gradual, and therefore the buildup of experience ranges from 15–19 years of drinking to allow the inculcation to take place.

I discussed how this happens slowly over time in a previous post, as well as how it can be very challenging to prevent it if one continues to drink alcohol consistently over a long period of time.

With 19 being the average someone starts drinking, if you add the 15–19 year development time, this puts most individuals in the 34-38 year-old age range when issues can begin occur (19+[15–19] = 34–38).

However, since the age at which everyone could start drinking can vary dramatically, the age probably should be extended to take into account those individuals who actually waited until they were legally allowed to drink.

Extrapolate a few additional years to take into account those who started later, and you have a range of 35–45 years old as the time frame that one truly needs to begin monitoring one’s drinking.

This range falls right in line with the data, as a study conducted by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism discovered the average age of this group to be 41 years old.

What should you do if they feel you are in danger?

Just because you are in this age range doesn’t mean that you have a drinking problem, but it would be wise to begin looking at your drinking a bit closer to make sure this isn’t the case.

There are a number of other signs that you should consider to see if perhaps it may be time to reassess your relationship with alcohol and make some changes in life.

If one feels, however, that this might be the case, there are a number of different avenues to take.

  1. You can try to cut back your alcohol consumption to only the daily recommended amount of 1 to 2 drinks per day. (Note: This is VERY hard for many people, especially those who may have a problem).
  2. Try to quit completely on your own using various self help resources and strategies out there, like this publication and The MEDS. (There are a number of great ones available that can help tremendously.)
  3. Find an established sobriety group for support and help to get you through this. (Quitting can be very challenging depending where you are on the spectrum. You don’t have to do it alone, as there are numerous support groups that specialize in helping individuals accomplish this.)


The age at which one should begin monitoring one’s drinking can vary dramatically depending on a number of different factors. However, there is empirical data that gives us guidelines on when we should at least begin to consider if this could be a problem.

Don’t be like my uncle and not think about it until it’s almost too late.

Thanks so much for reading.

If interested in learning about how alcohol affects your life and ways to quit/moderate, please feel free to follow my Medium publication, AINYF, and/or join its newsletter group below for information and updates.

Also, if you’re looking for a social group that can help with your journey for alcohol-consciousness, please check out my mate, Janet Gourand, at Triber Sober or my other homie, Victoria English Martin at After The Crisis.

Both have great content and tips/strategies to help, so pick the one that is right for you.

Lastly, if you are new to sobriety and could use some help in planning out a vacation that doesn’t involving drinking, please check out Patty McMahon, M.Ed magazine, How to Plan Your Sober Vacation, for tips and strategies on how to do so.

Thanks for reading again, and remember…

You never lose the battle until you stop fighting…