When you think of drug addiction, many people immediately associate the disease with the kind of tragic, rock-bottom moments we’re privy to on shows like Intervention or Celebrity Rehab. The problem is that nine times out of ten, Hollywood gets it wrong.
Preconceived notions and “one size fits all” thinking litter the world of chemical dependency, but you can’t lump all addicts into one specific category. A perfect example of that statement would be “high-functioning addicts.”
Functioning as an Addict
So, what is a high-functioning addict and what are some of the signs people in this group would likely display?
With a high-functioning addict, you can toss aside the archetypal image of an “addict.” You won’t find these people pushing shopping carts up and down the sidewalks of skid row. In fact, they work overtime to keep up appearances and hold down jobs. They can actually enjoy professional success, maintain active social lives and hide their demons from the ones they love most – for a while, at least.
Unfortunately, the “high-functioning” part comes at a great price and a considerable amount of danger.
Because functioning addicts are so good at masking their struggles and covering their tracks, friends and loved ones often aren’t aware of a problem…until it’s too late.
Spotting a High-Functioning Addict
As with everyone addicted to drugs and alcohol, high-functioning addicts are not a lost cause. With some understanding and knowledge, loved ones can identify the problem signs and intervene before a drug problem grows so powerful that it takes control of – or ends – the user’s life.
Here are five signs that someone you love may be a high-functioning addict:
- They Make Excuses for Behaviors
A high-functioning addict may chalk up their drug and alcohol use to being standard behavior in their profession. They may also justify it as a reward for their hard work or career success.
- Drinking or Doing More Drugs than Intended
Most of us have said “just one drink” and had that one turn into several during a night out. But for the high-functioning addict, this is just a regular occurrence. They simply can’t control their usage.
- Their Friends Also Have Addiction Issues
Look at who your loved one socializes with. If their friends routinely binge drink or use illegal substances – or if your loved one doesn’t want to socialize unless drugs and alcohol are involved – it’s likely a sign that there is a bigger underlying issue.
- Appearing Ill in the Morning
A high-functioning addict may chalk up constant headaches or lethargic energy to simple things like “not being a morning person.” But, in truth, he or she could regularly be suffering from hangovers or withdrawal symptoms.
- Losing Interest in Hobbies
If you notice your loved one has suddenly put down their guitar or stopped playing soccer, it could be because his substance abuse is starting to take over his life.
Getting Help and Going Forward
If you want the high-functioning addict in your life to get help, discuss your concerns at an appropriate time. Wait until they appear remorseful over bad behavior…not while they are inebriated or recovering from a hangover. If you think it will help, you can also stage an organized intervention where a small group of loved ones can let the addict know how their behavior makes them feel. This should be done calmly, but firmly.
Although it is up to the individual to admit they have a problem and seek help, your influence can help steer them in the right direction. Knowing they have people who care about them could be all the motivation they need to seek appropriate treatment.
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