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High-Functioning Addicts – What You Should Know

What You Should Know About High-Functioning Addicts

A high-functioning addict is defined as someone who is able to hide their excessive use of alcohol or drugs from others. This person may have a good job, a secure home life, and be respected in the community despite their addiction. Statistics show that of the nearly 17 million adults in the U.S. that are struggling with alcoholism, a shocking 19.5 percent – almost 4 million people – fall into the category of “functional.” Since a high-functioning addict doesn’t fit into the stereotype of an addict, they can spend years, even decades in denial of their addiction. This is why the people closest to them play such an important role. A high-functioning addict is more likely to wait for some sort of sign or to “hit rock bottom” before they seek treatment. It could take 10 or 20 years before this happens, or it could just as easily never happen at all. The high-functioning addict will rely on their loved ones to intervene. How do you identify a high-functioning addict? Below is a list of signs to watch for in a high-functioning addict.

  • Defensiveness when questioned about their use of drugs or alcohol
  • Mood Swings
  • Dramatic changes in behavior before/after drug or alcohol use
  • Acting secretive or lying about whereabouts
  • Rationalizing behavior while under the influence
  • “Pre-gaming” before events
  • Rationalizing their alcohol or drug use

While it is common for addicts to be in denial over their condition, this is especially the case for high-functioning addicts. They are able to hold down a job, take care of a family, and handle other day-to-day responsibilities, so they don’t view their alcohol or drug use as a serious problem. High-functioning addicts are less likely to seek treatment for their addiction, some may even feel that entering treatment would actually be even more disruptive to their life than the addiction itself. If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction, seeking treatment early can have many benefits. Don’t hesitate to get the help needed. There are many ways you can help your loved one if you suspect that they are a high-functioning addict, including:

  • Finding an appropriate time to talk to them about their addiction
  • Stop enabling behaviors, ignoring that there is a problem, or making excuses for their behavior
  • Leave information about addiction and recovery where they could find it. They may be able to become more open to treatment if they come to the conclusion on their own.
  • Consider an intervention where you and other loved ones can voice concerns in a constructive manner.
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