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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. 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.
High-functioning alcoholics may exhibit signs of alcohol dependence while still managing to fulfill their professional and personal responsibilities. Some common characteristics include denial, maintaining responsibilities, high alcohol tolerance, physical and mental health issues, social isolation. 
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- National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (28 June 2007). "Researchers Identify Alcoholic Subtypes" (Press release). National Institutes of Health. Retrieved 18 February 2012.
- Sanderson, Megan (22 May 2012). "About 37 percent of college students could now be considered alcoholics". Daily Emerald. Retrieved 17 September 2016.
- "National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) | National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA)". www.niaaa.nih.gov. Retrieved 19 November 2023.