Traits of the High-Functioning Addict
While most people know the signs of addiction and can spot them with enough time, a person with high-functioning addiction can go through life undetected for quite some time. On the surface, they appear to be well-adjusted members of society. In fact, you could know someone right now struggling with addiction and not realize it unless you know the red flags for which to look.
A high functioning addict believes that he has the issue figured out because he reports to work and maintains his daily obligations without complications. These people, though, are walking a thinner line than they likely suspect, and one wrong step will cause their system to crash into the ground.
Getting and staying sober is very challenging, but with the right support network and tools, it's completely attainable.
Addicted and Educated
While it’s not always true of every person with high-functioning addiction, many of them have graduated from college and are experts in their field. You would be surprised to learn that intelligent individuals with passion and motivation can fall into the trap of addiction as often as someone without a college degree or expertise.
You might even look at them and think the media has overblown the addiction problem, but that is not the case. Going to an upscale school and getting a degree does not make people immune to the threat that has already taken and damaged countless lives over the past few years. High-functioning addicts are often smart enough to control their addiction during the day and to keep the problem from being spotted.
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Has a Supportive Family
Some high-functioning addicts can maintain their standard of living without help, but a lot of them rely on family members and close friends for support. People struggling with addiction will eventually get desperate and ask their loved ones for money for food or bills, but they may use the funds to get their next fix.
When they have people to catch them when their problem gets out of hand, high-functioning addicts can appear to be living normal lives to the outside world. While their family members are sometimes aware of the addiction and don’t want to enable it, they also don’t want to see the person they love become homeless or go without food. This may lead to enabling behavior.
History of Depression
One of the biggest reasons we have failed to solve the drug problem in so many people is that we only look at it in simple terms, but other issues can hide under the surface and contribute to a person’s substance abuse. Addicts often fall into the trap because they are looking for a way to combat depression but don’t want to seek standard treatment options.
When addicts suffer from depression and don’t know what to do about it, treating their mental health while treating their addiction is the best way to heal and begin recovery. If you suspect that someone you know is a high-functioning addict, consider whether that person has ever shown signs of depression or any other mental health disorder. This is integral in finding appropriate addiction treatment, specifically dual diagnosis.
Addicted and in Denial
Since they live typical lives and don’t allow their substance abuse to consume them during the day or while in front of other people, many high-functioning addicts live in denial and won’t admit that they have a problem. Although speaking with your loved one when you are concerned is important, you can’t always expect people to accept your advice.
In their minds, an addict is someone who gets into legal trouble, does not have a job and is always searching for the next high, and high-functioning addicts don’t think they fall into that category. No matter how difficult it might be, you need to realize that you can only help an addict when he is ready to be helped.
At Risk of Becoming a Low-Functioning Addict
While some high-functioning addicts can maintain their lives for longer than others, everyone has a breaking point, and each high-functioning addict is at risk of becoming low functioning. They will start to build a tolerance and need even more of the drug, or they will miss a dose and not be able to report to work. As soon as one piece of the puzzle comes undone, the high-functioning addict’s life will begin to unravel in front of him, and the crash won’t be pretty.
Most of them will never see it coming and get caught off guard, and they will struggle to put everything back together. Getting high-functioning addicts to know that they have a problem might be difficult, but getting them into an addiction treatment program to start their recovery process is the best way to help.
- WebMD: https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/addiction/signs-of-drug-addiction#1
- Matthew Goldenberg, D.O.: https://www.docgoldenberg.com/blog/high-functioning-addicts-who-they-are-and-who-is-at-risk
- Drug Abuse: https://drugabuse.com/blog/5-telltale-signs-of-a-high-functioning-addict/
- Medical News Today: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/327018
- Verywellmind: https://www.verywellmind.com/definition-of-denial-22200
- Anesthesiology: https://pubs.asahq.org/anesthesiology/article/103/4/912/199/Drugs-Addiction-and-the-Law-Policy-Politics-and
- Johns Hopkins Medicine: https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/substance-abuse-chemical-dependency