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Are You a High Functioning Addict? 15 Questions to Ask Yourself

6 minute read

Your life doesn’t have to be falling apart to have a serious addiction. There are plenty of people who are living seemingly normal lives but dealing with a serious substance use disorder. Online and in the news, there are countless stories of teachers, physicians, CEOs, government officials, and others who are keeping up appearances and maintaining jobs and other responsibilities but are secretly abusing heroin, alcohol, prescription opioids, cocaine, and other addictive substances.

The thing about substance abuse is you can only keep your head above water for so long before addiction begins taking over every area of your life. Nor can you escape the devastating long-term physical and psychological effects of substance abuse. If you’re using drugs or alcohol regularly, but don’t think you have a problem, read on.

What Does It Mean to Be a High Functioning Addict?

A high functioning addict is someone who meets several of the clinical criteria for a substance use disorder, but whose substance abuse is not interfering significantly with their work and other responsibilities. A functional drug addict or alcoholic may:

  • Maintain work, school, or home responsibilities, but not meet their potential due to drugs and alcohol.
  • Try to decrease or quit substance abuse without success.
  • Use drugs or alcohol in larger amounts or for longer than intended.
  • Crave alcohol or drugs.
  • Spend a significant amount of time obtaining, using, or recovering from alcohol or drug use.
  • Develop tolerance to drugs or alcohol, needing more to get the desired effect.
  • Have withdrawal symptoms without alcohol or drugs.
  • Use substances even though they put themselves or others in danger.
  • Decrease social or recreational activities once enjoyed.
  • Continue to use substances even though it can make a psychological or physical condition worse.
  • Have relationship problems related to substance use.

Signs of a High Functioning Addict

If you’re concerned you have a drug or alcohol addiction, chances are, you do. If you’re continuing to use drugs or alcohol despite negative consequences, this signals  addiction. Specifically, people with addictions continue substance abuse despite:

  • Physical and behavioral health problems
  • Declining performance at work, school, or home
  • Struggling socially and in relationships
  • Engaging in risky behavior
  • Financial and legal problems

Signs of addiction can vary by type of drug. Clinicians use many evidence-based tools to assess alcoholism and drug abuse issues. There are also several addiction self-assessment tools. The below questions are based on these screening methods. If you’re wondering if you’re a functioning drug addict or alcoholic, consider these questions:

  1. Have you ever felt you should cut down on drinking or using drugs?
  2. Have you tried to cut back or stop using drugs and alcohol without success?
  3. Do you ever drink a little in the morning to “feel normal?”
  4. Have you ever felt guilty about alcohol or drug use?
  5. Do you try to quit using substances without success?
  6. Are you frequently thinking about the next time you can drink alcohol or take drugs?
  7. Do you sometimes need to take drugs or alcohol to get through the day?
  8. Do you crave alcohol or drugs at a specific time every day?
  9. Do you go to extensive lengths to get drugs or alcohol?
  10. Is your drinking or drug use a means to escape worries or troubles?
  11. Do you drink alcohol or abuse drugs when you’re alone?
  12. Do you drink or use drugs because you are shy with other people?
  13. Do you drink or use drugs to build self-confidence?
  14. Do you ever feel annoyed when people criticize your substance use?
  15. Have others suggested you need alcohol addiction treatment or a drug rehab program?

If you answered yes to even one of these questions, it’s time to take a closer look at your relationship with alcohol and drugs. You don’t have to lose your job and family to have a problem with drugs and alcohol. Some people appear to live successful lives while hiding serious alcohol and drug problems. That’s why it’s important to check in with a professional if you’re even questioning your use of substances.

Is My Loved One a Functional Addict?

If you’re worried a loved one has a substance use disorder, there are a few key areas of their lives you can take a look at that may indicate a problem:

Problems with Their Job, Finances, or the Law

A high functioning addict may still be able to hold a steady job, but they’re likely not doing as well as they should be, and there can still be some red flags that indicate substance abuse. Alcoholism or drug abuse frequently lead to issues at work or school as drugs and alcohol become the main focus.

Signs there’s a problem:

  • Underperforming in school or at work due to drug and alcohol use.
  • Getting a warning at work due to poor performance tied to substance abuse.
  • Drinking or using drugs at work or school.
  • Job loss because of the effects of drug and alcohol abuse on performance.
  • Financial problems because of the money spent on drugs and alcohol or because of job loss or legal problems.
  • Legal issues because of substance abuse like DUIs, jail time, or divorce.

Physical and Mental Health Issues

Alcohol and drug abuse can cause short-term and long-term problems to physical and mental health. Signs of substance abuse include:

  • Seeking medical attention because of the effects of substance abuse.
  • Suffering from memory loss after using drugs or alcohol.
  • Having withdrawal symptoms in the absence of drugs and alcohol.
  • Sleeping problems due to drinking or drugs.
  • Distress, anxiety, depression, restlessness, or feelings of aggression in the absence of alcohol or drugs.
  • Developing a tolerance to drugs and alcohol, needing more to get the same effect or stave off withdrawal symptoms.

Impact on Relationships

The effects of alcohol or drug abuse go beyond the life of the addicted person. They impact family, friends, and coworkers. People with addictions may have experienced the following:

  • Loved ones have suggested the substance abuser quit or cut back on drinking or taking drugs.
  • Drinking or drug use causes problems in personal relationships.
  • Lost relationships due to drug or alcohol abuse.
  • Broken promises to cut back on drinking or using drugs.

Uncharacteristic Behavior

Addiction to drugs and alcohol can turn an individual into a person their loved ones hardly recognize. They may sacrifice their:

  • Morals
  • Health
  • Safety
  • The safety of others

This may show up in these ways:

  • Less ambitious or productive since drinking or using drugs.
  • Saying or doing things while drunk or high regretted later when sober.
  • Putting themselves or loved ones in danger by driving drunk or other risky behavior.
  • Lying about substance use or actions while on drugs or alcohol.

Do High Functioning Addicts Need Treatment?

Addiction doesn’t go away on its own. If you’re a high functioning addict, you may feel you have everything under control, but if you’re honest with yourself, this isn’t how you want to live. A key sign of addiction is continuing to use drugs and alcohol even though it’s causing negative consequences in your life and to your mental and physical health. There’s no way to escape the dangerous and deadly long-term effects of drug and alcohol abuse.

A substance abuse program includes medical and psychological professionals that know what you need to get better. If you’ve been abusing substances like alcohol, prescription opioids, heroin, or meth, you’ll need a medical detox program to safely eliminate substances from your body. At a drug or alcohol addiction treatment center, health care professionals will help ease withdrawal symptoms with medications and other treatment modalities.

Another reason professional help is important is because of the underlying reasons behind addictions. Many people who abuse substances also struggle with undiagnosed mental health conditions or past trauma. This is known as a dual diagnosis or co-occurring disorders. If you don’t get the help of behavioral health professionals and evidence-based therapies that can begin to heal these specific issues, avoiding relapse is extremely difficult. A dual diagnosis treatment center addresses both your substance use and co-occurring mental health conditions at once. They pave the way to recovery in a way that empowers you to maintain sobriety long-term.

Get Help

Hitting rock bottom isn’t necessary for addiction to wreak havoc on your health and life. If you or a loved one is struggling with substance abuse—even if you’re high-functioning—we can help. Footprints to Recovery offers several levels of care and we use therapies that are both effective and engaging. Our addiction treatment programs include:

We offer treatments that are proven to help addictions, including:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy
  • Individual and group therapy
  • Family therapy

You can also take a holistic approach, like:

  • Yoga
  • Art therapy
  • Mindfulness
  • Fitness

We can help you mend the psychological, physical, and spiritual wounds of substance abuse.

Living as a functioning alcoholic or addict is not the life you deserve. Life is better without drug and alcohol abuse. Call our recovery center today for a free, confidential consultation.


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