Helping a High-Functioning Addict with a Substance Use Disorder
How do you know if your loved one is a high-functioning addict? And what is the best way to help them through their substance abuse problems?
A high-functioning addict is typically viewed as someone who appears to be functioning normally or perhaps even better while also actively engaging in their addiction. This doesn’t always look like a person who has withdrawn or given up.
Experts report that many people who are functioning drug addicts or have substance use disorders often continue to perform well at work and may continue to do so until near the end of their threshold for control.1
High-functioning addicts still engage with family and friends and pay their bills. But all while still hiding or dismissing their addiction, whether it’s drugs or alcohol or another substance.
No workplace is exempt from their existence and experts argue that intervention efforts aren’t taking place early enough in their journey. With longer exposure comes a higher risk of physical and psychological harm for our family members and loved ones.1
What To Look For: The Signs of A High-Functioning Addict
High-functioning addiction is considered more dangerous than a more common form of addiction as it’s harder to spot. It also comes with an increased likelihood of long-term effects of abuse and other adverse mental health effects.
Here are a few signs to help you spot signs of addiction in people you know:
Do They Make Constant Excuses?
It’s easy to dismiss substance use disorders if you don’t believe you have one. Do they justify their tendencies? Or give illogical reasons why they have “earned” or “deserve” the enjoyment of their vice?
This indicates that they think it’s all “no big deal” or that they “have it under control.” Unfortunately, this is an illusion and a distraction technique to stop you or a professional from hindering their participation in the addiction.
Do They Keep Company With Other People Using?
Who are their friends? Do they justify their behaviors as well? If they surround themselves with other people who also partake or binge, this could indicate a more profound struggle.
Have They Lost Interest In Non-Essentials?
Have they lost interest in familiar group activities? Did they quit playing an instrument? Have they stopped going to athletic clubs or the gym?
If your loved one has cut out hobbies and non-essential activities, this could be a sign that their drug or alcohol addiction has overtaken their other priorities.
Did They Freeze You Out?
Also known as emotional or relational isolation, it’s a common high-functioning addict behavior to no longer wish to be around you if you question their habits. This is another way to hide their addiction and avoid another confrontation.
How To Avoid Enabling A High-Functioning Addict
The primary difference between an addict and a high functioning addict is their community of enablers. It’s essential to set and maintain firm boundaries if you want them to get help and heal.
Don’t rescue them financially or legally. These enabling behaviors prevent your loved one from experiencing the natural consequences of their lifestyle.
Workplace enablers often look past behavioral queues if the addict’s performance remains acceptable or if they’re in a position of authority. It’s crucial to gently but firmly hold them accountable for their behavior and performance.
The Best Way To Help: Individualized Treatment
A high-functioning addict will resist this solution but it’s imperative for their health and even their life that their addiction is acknowledged and treated. At Silver Sands Recovery, our addiction treatment program consists of individualized custom care plans tailored to match each person’s specific needs for the best results.
About the author:
Lisa Waknin is the Founder and Director of Silver Sands Recovery, located in Prescott, Arizona. Lisa started Silver Sands Recovery after immersing herself in the addiction treatment world for several years to figure out what could be done differently to help her daughter and others like her to overcome addiction and stay sober. She believes in a hands-on treatment approach, which includes taking someone out of their environment, providing a 90-day program in a structured environment. During treatment, clients not only recover physically but also learn to live their life again. Lisa is a sought-after expert speaker for recovery support groups, charities, schools, communities, and companies wanting to educate themselves on the explosion of opiate and heroin abuse in our country and the best way to understand, treat, and beat it.