High-Functioning Addicts: Warning Signs to Watch Out For

Spotting signs of a functioning addict isn’t easy, even if you’re looking at yourself. That’s because many of us believe that everyone with a substance abuse problem is homeless or on the verge of hitting rock bottom. The truth is, there are many more people who would be considered “high-functioning addicts,” which means they may engage in alcohol abuse and drug use, but they are still able to get through the day reasonably well.

Just because a functioning alcoholic or drug user is able to get through the day doesn’t mean they don’t have a problem. A housewife or a high profile executive who abuses drugs and alcohol is susceptible to many of the same issues that affect other people with substance use disorders, even if they can hide their addiction reasonably well.

Here’s what you need to know about functioning addicts, how to tell if you or someone you love has a problem, and where to turn to get help.

What Is a Functioning Addict?

high-functioning alcoholic

A functioning addict is a person who uses drugs or alcohol regularly, but most people wouldn’t be able to tell that’s the case. That’s because a high-functioning meth addict or functioning alcoholic may attend school, work, and maintain family obligations.

Many high-functioning addicts turn to drugs or alcohol as a way to deal with stress, which can seem quite normal to the casual observer. After all, there is seemingly nothing wrong with going out for a few drinks after work. However, the difference between a functioning alcoholic and a casual drinker will become apparent as a high-functioning addict may make any event (good or bad) a reason to drink.


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Some functioning addicts make sure others don’t know that they use at all. For example, a functioning heroin addict will be careful to use in the privacy of their own home while keeping things neat and tidy because they know it’s an illegal drug.

Many functioning addicts are at the beginning of their addiction when it can still be reasonably controlled without alerting anyone to the fact that there is a problem, although this isn’t always the case. It is very possible for those with a problem to continue hiding alcohol and drug paraphernalia for years before it becomes obvious (to themselves or others) that they are struggling with an addiction.

Signs That You Have a Problem

It’s important to be honest with yourself if you think that you may be a functioning addict. The quicker you can identify a potential addiction, the quicker you can get help, and the less likely it will be to wreak havoc on your health and your life.

There are quite a few signs that you may be struggling with alcohol abuse or drug addiction, but if you’re high-functioning, the signs are going to be much more subtle. For example, you don’t have to be fired from your job before you realize you have a problem. It starts with regularly being late, drinking/using at work, or having trouble focusing while you’re at work.

When it comes to personal relationships, you may notice that you no longer want to invite people over because it means having to clean up, or you may notice that you get unreasonably excited when alcohol will be at a social event.

Additional signs of being a functional addict include lying to friends, family members, or coworkers, thinking about your drug of choice multiple times throughout the day, and mood changes that may cause you to act out and feel bad later.

Signs That Someone You Love Has a Problem

signs of alcohol addiction

Many of the signs that you have a problem with an addiction are the same as finding out a loved one has a problem with addiction, but they can be much more difficult to spot. For example, you may not know a loved one is struggling at work until they have already lost their job. And even then, they may come up with a seemingly perfect explanation for why their boss terminated their employment.

Use your direct experience with your loved one when trying to determine if they have a problem. Some high-functioning alcoholic signs you might observe include frequent joking that they have a problem. While these are said in jest, they may reflect actual thoughts that your loved one is having. Moreover, if you notice that a reliable friend suddenly seems irresponsible, or you notice wide variances in behavior from day to day, then the individual may be a functioning addict.

How to Get Help with Drug and Alcohol Addiction

Getting help for a loved one can be difficult, especially if you are living with an individual with a substance use disorder, and especially if they aren’t ready to admit that they have a problem.

If they aren’t in immediate danger of harming themselves or others, sometimes the best thing you can do for functioning addict in denial is simply be there for them and let them know that they have options. That way, when they are ready to admit that they have a problem, you can be there to help them find an addiction treatment program.

If you suspect that you’re a functioning addict, you should turn to an addiction treatment center. At a Las Vegas rehab, you can receive a wide variety of rehabilitative services that include inpatient treatment, trauma-informed care, and group therapy. Addiction experts can help you determine if you really do have a problem, and if so, what course of action would be best to help you kick the habit before it rules your life.

Call us at 888-828-2623 or fill out our online contact form if you or someone you love is a functioning addict. No matter how seemingly minor it may seem, an expert at the Vance Johnson Recovery Center will help you get on the path to recovery.

Not all addicts look like they have hit rock bottom. A functioning addict may use drugs or alcohol, but their appearance and daily habits could appear completely normal.

Heather is a content writer from Ohio who has a sincere passion for psychology and addiction recovery. Her areas of interest include alcoholism, depression, and recovery options, to name a few.

A functioning addict is a person who can maintain a normal quality of life to the outside observer by holding down a job, maintaining relationships, and physically appearing clean and healthy. But these individuals do abuse drugs and alcohol, and there are often subtler signs of addiction, such as worsened relationships and poor performance at work.

Heather is a content writer from Ohio who has a sincere passion for psychology and addiction recovery. Her areas of interest include alcoholism, depression, and recovery options, to name a few.

An alcoholic is a person who has a mental or physical desire to consume alcohol, even though it is having a negative impact in their life. The difference between an alcoholic and a casual drinker is that a casual drinker does not experience many adverse effects of alcohol use, aside from the occasional hangover. Whereas an alcoholic will prioritize alcohol over other, more important areas of their life, leading to a lower quality of life.

Heather is a content writer from Ohio who has a sincere passion for psychology and addiction recovery. Her areas of interest include alcoholism, depression, and recovery options, to name a few.

A functioning alcoholic is a person who regularly consumes alcohol, but manages to maintain a relatively normal quality of life. They may be beginning to struggle in some ways, but these struggles aren’t obvious or apparent to the outside observer.

Heather is a content writer from Ohio who has a sincere passion for psychology and addiction recovery. Her areas of interest include alcoholism, depression, and recovery options, to name a few.

Las Vegas Addiction Recovery

Located in dynamic Las Vegas, Nevada, the Vance Johnson Recovery Center (VJRC) a 44-bed facility is run by a skilled multi-disciplinary team of medical and behavioral health professionals that includes nurses, counselors, and doctors, along with complementary and alternative medicine specialists to provide our clients with a transformational experience that encompasses mind, body, and spirit. Our approach is holistic and grounded in research and evidenced-based best practices that help people develop the awareness and skills required to achieve and sustain recovery.

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