functioning alcoholic or drug abuser
Published On: May 23, 2016|Categories: Substance Abuse|

From a celebrity with a legendary work ethic to a parent who wears a superhero’s cape, it’s hard to believe a person who appears to have it all would potentially abuse alcohol or other drugs. Yet, it happens every day.

How do you spot the signs of a functioning substance abuser?

It’s easy to buy into the stereotypical image of a substance abuser: slurred speech, unfocused vision, or unkempt appearance. However, many substance abusers are able to live what appears to be—from the outside, anyway—a normal life. For example, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) estimates 20 percent of alcoholics are “functioning”. Its research found that people in this group are likely to be middle-aged and well-educated. They also typically hold stable jobs and have stable families.

In addition, evidence suggests the qualities that make a person highly successful in the business world, traits such as risk-taking, obsession, and novelty-seeking, may also contribute to the development of addiction.

Signs of a Functioning Substance Abuser

high fiveHow can you recognize a potential substance abuse disorder in someone who seems to have it all—and even appears to do it all? A functioning substance abuser may:

  • Attribute behavior to outside factors, e.g. Clients expect me to take them out for drinks;
  • Use alcohol or other drugs to relieve stress or anxiety;
  • Consume more than he or she intends regularly;
  • Act defensively or become angry when confronted with the behavior;
  • Drink alone;
  • Demonstrate uncharacteristic behavior, like paranoia or agitation;
  • Experience physical symptoms, such as insomnia, headaches, decreased appetite, or unusual changes in energy level;
  • Try unsuccessfully to quit using alcohol or other drugs.

Substance Abuse Always Requires Treatment

The abuse of drugs or alcohol carries serious risks, no matter how in control a person might seem on the outside. Substance abusers are at higher risk for a range of life-changing and life-threatening conditions, including liver disease, memory loss, respiratory illness, seizures, hepatitis, HIV, and more.

Like anyone who misuses substances, a functioning drug or alcohol abuser puts family, friends, and community members at risk as well. Impaired driving crashes accounted for nearly 10,000 deaths in 2014—35 percent of those killed were non-drivers, such as passengers or pedestrians. Substance abuse contributes to violence at home as well. One study found alcohol played a role in 55 percent of domestic violence cases and drugs were implicated in 9 percent.

Don’t Wait for Rock Bottom for a Functioning Alcoholic

Father And Teenage Son Having A HugWhen it comes to substance abuse disorders, rock bottom might be the death of the addicted person or someone he or she loves. You can’t afford to wait to seek the professional care you and your loved ones deserve.

If you’re reading this article, you’re likely worried—and that means it’s time to make changes. The idea of change can be overwhelming, so begin with the first step. Talk with a specialist to get a treatment recommendation for you or your family member.

At High Focus Centers, we offer evidence-based and holistic outpatient programs to help a functioning substance abuser rebuild his or her life without alcohol or other drugs. From addiction intervention to relapse prevention, our team will show you the path to a healthy, sober life. Reach out for confidential help today.


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