Alcoholism is a treatable illness and those affected are not deviants who belong on park benches.

London - Rising numbers of doctors, dentists, vets and lawyers are becoming “functioning alcoholics”, experts warn.

Addiction specialists have given them that label because they do not fit the typical image of down-and-out street drinkers.

There has been a surge in demand from professionals seeking rehab treatment abroad to avoid being recognised in nearby hospitals or clinics, it is claimed.

Alistair Mordey, who runs a substance abuse clinic in Chiang Mai, Thailand, said that demand for treatment from doctors was growing at twice the rate of any other occupation.

He added: “We are seeing a lot of professionals coming in, particularly from London. They are in workplaces where you really wouldn’t want them to be.”

The British Medical Association has estimated that one in 15 doctors will develop an addiction problem at some point.

Research has also suggested that up to 24 percent of lawyers will suffer from alcoholism during their careers.

At an international conference in Ireland this weekend calls were made to help the growing number of professionals battling alcoholism.

Rory O'Connor, the UK coordinator of health support programmes for dentists and veterinary surgeons, told the Observer that Britain was turning a blind eye to a huge problem.

He pointed to the shame and stigma attached to addiction and said many professionals struggle to seek help as they see their role as helping others.

He told the paper: “There are serious issues regarding health professionals accessing appropriate help for mental health issues and there are serious issues in the treatment that is out there for them.”

He also said it was “not wise” to have people practising while impaired through addiction. . - Daily Mail