According to some estimates, between 10 and 14 percent of the US population is battling addictions to drugs or alcohol. Many of these individuals do not fall into the stereotypical image people have of an addict. They go to work, care for their families, and have active social lives. Many professional people abuse drugs or alcohol and can live a life that most people would consider from the outside to be normal. They maintain that façade for at least a short while. These people are referred to as high-functioning addicts.
What Is a High-Functioning Addict?
When a person is a high-functioning addict, they suffer from substance use disorders or alcohol abuse. However, the consequences of their drug use or drinking are not always easy for the casual observer to see. They still have the same issues, like hangovers and the physical problems linked to substance abuse. But they can hide the effects from others. Or they may trick others by telling them that the side effects of their substance abuse are caused by stress, lack of sleep, or sickness. They do this to prevent others from noticing their substance use disorder.
In many cases, the addiction is seriously affecting the addict’s life. However, the people around them may not see the effects or link it to substance use. They may be in denial. In some instances, a high-functioning addict has a financial reserve, access to resources, and high mental function that other people do not. Doctors, executives, and lawyers commonly fall into the category of high-functioning addicts. Because of their above-average intelligence and ability to function, people who do not know them well cannot perceive the impact substance abuse has on them.
To the outside observer, it looks like the high-functioning addict is just functioning like an average person, but their mental capabilities and ability to perform have been affected. Intelligent individuals who work in sensitive roles, like pilots and physicians, cannot have even a slight decrease in their previous functioning levels because this puts other people at serious risk. Although the negative impact of substance use might be subtle for professionals battling addiction, there are still some indications that alcohol or substance use disorder is affecting them.
Signs of Substance Use Disorder in High-Functioning Addicts
There are several signs that a person is a high-functioning addict.
- A high volume of alcohol/drug consumption
- Using drinking as a reward
- Using drinking to cope
- Only attending social events where drugs or alcohol will be present
- Canceling nondrinking social engagements
- Having many rough mornings
High-functioning addicts will use alcohol as a reward. When other people notice their excessive drinking, the addict might say that it is not that they have a problem with the drinking. It is that they have worked so hard during the week that they earned this break or that they are just making the most of their day off. With alcohol addiction, it is not always how much a person drinks that indicates a problem. It is what happens when they drink. When drinking on social occasions, a high-functioning addict may engage in high volumes of consumption.
One drink becomes multiple drinks. It happens every time and gets to the point where their drinking seems out of control. Another sign of a high-functioning addict is someone who always includes drinking and drugs in their social events. When a person is battling addiction, they are more likely to hang out with people who drink and use drugs. They will go to cocktail parties, clubs, bars, and other social events that typically focus on substance use or drinking.
On the other hand, when a person suffers from addiction, they may avoid social engagements where drinking is not an option. Or they may start to cancel appointments or engagements to hide the effects of withdrawal symptoms, hangovers, or other signs that indicate addiction. While a high-functioning addict may continue their professional life without people noticing their addiction for some time, they will have several “rough mornings.” They will always have an excuse to hide the cause.
Start the Journey to Recovery
High-functioning addicts can only keep it together for so long. Eventually, they will reach a point where their addiction will spiral out of control and become evident to others. If you or someone you love is battling addiction, help is available. Are you ready to get started? Call us today at 833-846-5669. Our counselors are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to help you start on the road to recovery.