Is There Such a Thing as a Functioning Addict?

A functioning addict carrying out daily responsibilities

We often think of addicts as not being able to function in normal society. They may be considered thieves, homeless, or otherwise at the fringe of mainstream society. Believe it or not, there are addicts in places such as hospitals, law offices, and teachers’ lounges. Addicts are frequently highly ambitious people who seek extremes in life. They may perform surgery and then step out for a shot of heroin. A person may not remain a functioning addict for very long. If they don’t get help for their addiction, it will only get worse until they become non-functioning.

How Would You Define a Functioning Addict?

A functioning addict is most likely a person whose drug or alcohol use hasn’t caught up with them yet. It’s a person who can hide the severity of their addiction to the people close to them, often at tragic costs. A functioning addict can fulfill obligations while being addicted to drugs or alcohol. They can go to work, pay their bills and still handle living expenses, provide necessary care for their families, and stay away from criminal activities.

Today, people view an addict as a person who cannot control their addiction, an individual who steals, lies and no longer cares about their well-being. It is not often you know of someone who is an addict that still properly functions for their welfare. For a while, addicts can maintain their lifestyle and obligations while being addicted to drugs or alcohol. Sometimes the addicted person can continue to carry out daily responsibilities for several years until the addiction becomes more severe. Eventually, they become less and less able to balance their obligations with the growing compulsion to seek and abuse mind-altering substances.

Functioning addicts are often able to perform their tasks in a daily manner, but there can be tell-tale signs. Some of these signs include making excuses for their behaviors while trying to justify their drug use. The people they hang out with says a lot as well. If all their friends are using drugs or alcohol or they don’t want to attend events unless drugs or alcohol is there, that’s also a sign of a bigger issue. And if they suddenly lose interest in their hobbies, the addiction could be starting to take over their life.

What Allows an Addict to Be Functional?

One of the main differences between an addict who is high-functioning and one who’s not is in the perceptions they have of their substance use. For the high-functioning addict, the abuse of alcohol or drugs is usually still seen as a reward or a way to unwind after a long day. A functioning addict might not see that they have a problem because they can function the way they should.  For these individuals, there will occasionally be times when they cannot justify alcohol or drug use, especially when it would prohibit them from fulfilling some obligation, so they refrain from using in those instances. On the other hand, addicts who aren’t high-functioning don’t need to justify their substance abuse because it has taken the central place in their lives. Alcohol and drugs have already become more important than a career, relationships, and other such things.

A Few Things a Functioning Addict May Experience

  • Denial

High-functioning addicts and alcoholics must live in a world of denial to keep their ruse afloat. Addicts often think that if they drink fine wines, beers, and liquors that they must not be alcoholics. They believe alcoholics only drink bottom of the barrel liquor. They may also rationalize their substance abuse by pointing out that they have important jobs, despite the fact that they experience blackouts on a regular basis. However, they are often only fooling themselves. The people who see the truth of the situation, often those closest to them, must endure the wild mood swings, frantic lifestyle, and continued instability of life with an addict.

  • Confinement

A high-functioning heroin addict is often confined to a set routine. He needs his fixes at certain times of the day, and he has to rely on his dealer being available when he needs to score. High functioning heroin addicts often are loath to travel, because any time away from their fix will mean dope sickness (early withdrawal) and a frantic search for more. A high-functioning alcoholic may not own a car for fear of DUI charges, despite having a license and even driving a company car during working hours. The alcoholic might also attempt to cover daytime drinking with breath mints or other ineffective methods. Prescription drugs and high functioning addiction often go hand-in-hand. Many people think they are functioning ‘just fine’ since their drug of choice is prescribed to them.

  • Double Life

High-functioning alcoholics and addicts often need to lead a double life to satisfy all of their needs. They cannot afford to have one life spill into another and so may go to great lengths. Some will find bars on the other side of town from where they live in hopes of not running into any ″straight″ friends or colleagues. Others will hide in shame of their drug addiction and may disappear during off-work hours, only to reappear at home or work appearing frazzled, tired, and bleary. Family members might look for signs such as mysteriously disappearing funds, extra credit cards, and even secret bank accounts.

Are you a functioning addict or know someone who is? The first step is realizing you have a problem and that you need help. Do not hesitate to call for help today; there is help for everyone.

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