Not everyone with an addiction ends up at rock bottom—at least not right away. Some people who are addicted to drugs or alcohol are able to hold down a job and their career may even be thriving. These people are considered to be “high functioning” despite their substance abuse.
But Dr. Steve Melemis, one of North America’s foremost addiction experts, prefers to call these individuals “currently functioning” rather than “high functioning.” Quoted in an article published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, Melemis points out that the job is always the last thing to go.1 People who are addicted to drugs or alcohol, he says, know that they need their job to continue with the addiction.
Convincing a high-functioning addicted loved one that they need help can be challenging. This eBook will help you understand how addiction affects both you and your addicted loved one. It could help you convince your loved one to make the choice to get help.
Characteristics of a High-Functioning Addicted Individual
The National Institute on Drug Abuse identifies five subtypes of people with alcoholism.2 One of these is the “functional subtype.” Nearly 20 percent of Americans with an alcohol addiction fall into this category. Common characteristics of this functional subtype include:
- Middle age
- High level of education
- Stable employment
- Stable family life
- Family history of alcoholism (in 30 percent of cases)
- Lifetime history of major depression (25 percent)
- Lifetime history of smoking (50 percent)
Denial is common among people with an addiction, particularly if they are high functioning. They’re likely to make excuses about their drug or alcohol abuse in an attempt to minimize or justify it. These excuses include statements like:
- I work hard and play hard.
- I deserve to unwind after a long day.
- Nothing bad has ever happened due to my substance abuse.
- It’s not like I use hard drugs.
- If I was addicted, I wouldn’t be able to keep my job.
But the fact is, addiction takes a toll eventually. It’s impossible to function optimally while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. As the addiction progresses, as it nearly always does, it will begin to affect many areas of a person’s life. Convincing your addicted loved one to get help sooner rather than later can prevent serious problems down the road.
Understanding Addiction is Essential for Helping Your Loved One
Few people really understand addiction and how it changes brain function and affects thought and behavior patterns. But to help your loved one, it’s essential to know how addiction develops and progresses and how it’s diagnosed and treated.
How Addiction Develops
In general, addiction is characterized by compulsive drug use despite negative consequences. People with an addiction will often find that they’re unable to quit using even though they want to or have tried to. Most people who try to quit on their own without professional help will end up in a perpetual cycle of relapse and remission.
Addiction starts as a choice to abuse drugs or alcohol. But once the abuse transitions to…
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