Stereotypes are often based on reality but exaggerated to make them entertaining or interesting. This hyperbole is usually harmless but can also blind people from cold, hard facts. For example, it’s typical for drug addicts and alcoholics to be portrayed in the media as manic, trembling people with tendencies towards verbal and physical abuse, sad specimens who talk to themselves or aimlessly shout at strangers, squander their money, and end up living on the streets. In other words, you can spot them a mile away and easily avoid contact.

The flaw – and ultimate danger – of that perception negatively affects everyone. High functioning drug addicts and alcoholics are just as prolific – if not more prolific – than those who are barely functioning. Since they usually present as “normal” adults navigating life like everyone else, they are hard to spot and consequently difficult to help. Just like low functioning addicts and alcoholics, they could benefit from substance abuse treatment in Newport Beach or enroll in one of Orange County’s IOP programs. However, if you pay close attention, there are subtle yet revealing signs that may indicate a friend or loved one who appears to be functioning just fine, is simply high functioning and dangerously close to crossing the line into dependence hell or even death.

Addict Morning Sickness

Not to be confused with the aggravating vomiting syndrome that afflicts many pregnant women, this type of morning sickness is common among high functioning drug addict and alcoholics. Everyone has a rough morning now and then and may occasionally overindulge in drugs or alcohol during a night on the town. But if you perceive a pattern of morning blahs, fatigue and headaches in a loved one, this could be a red flag worth exploring. Claims of simply not enjoying the morning hours are often just a feeble excuse for withdrawal symptoms or an old-fashioned hangover.

Persistent Overindulgence

Although most people overindulge now and then during a party or at a bar, when it becomes a nightly or daily occurrence, it could be another pat excuse of a high functioning drug addict person with drug or alcohol dependence. Non-addicted people have no problem having a drink or two after work once or twice a week but if they are around for last call most days, it indicates a loss of control that most addicts actually can’t see or choose to ignore. If you suspect someone is in over their head, accompany them to a bar and suggest you both leave together after a couple drinks. If your suggestion is shot down and your friend insists they’re going to have one more for the road, give them a call in an hour or so to see if they’re still at the bar. Devise a plan to intervene if this scenario repeats itself.

high functioning drug addict

The Defense Never Rests 

It’s easy to bring up the subject of addiction without being overt or seeming like you’re fishing for information. Cite a character from a book, movie or TV show and lightly discuss with a friend or family member how their overindulgence interested and/or amused you. For instance, talk about how a prestigious doctor in a TV drama turned out to be a drug addict, much to the shock of their associates and patients. While at a bar, note a regular patron who you see on every visit and casually wonder aloud why they’re always there and offhandedly question if their spouse suspects untoward circumstances. A high functioning drug addict will usually point out that medical professionals face a lot of pressure and typically drink more than the regular population. Another excuse high functioners frequently mention is that people who work hard deserve to play hard, just like them.

Waning Interest

People who are passionate about outside interests rarely lose interest abruptly and without explanation. But when a high functioning drug addict or alcoholic starts to lose their grip on the façade they’re projecting, suddenly ceasing to follow a favorite sports team or giving up a beloved pastime such as hiking or needlepoint is a reason for concern. For most people, those distractions keep them on track and provide essential relaxation. In the case of high functioning drug addict, they’ll generally give up hobbies to cope rather than address the source of their anxiety and seek positive solutions.

Bird of a Feather 

It’s natural and logical to socialize amongst people that have interests similar to your own. However, regularly mingling with certain people based mainly on their drinking or drug habits is a bad sign. High functioning drug addicts and alcoholics are often drawn to each other even though their commonality is rarely articulated. It’s easier to simply claim you have similar tastes in music or a specific job field than face that your most obvious harmony is based on heavy substance abuse. Sticking with such a group also frequently guarantees that you’ll support each other’s habits without question, a perfectly comfortable environment for a high functioning drug addict and alcoholic.

If you or a loved one needs help, call us at 949-625-4019.