5 misconceptions about high functioning addicts

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high functioning alcoholics at a bar
Alcohol addiction
The Hader Clinic
The Hader Clinic
November 12, 2018
minute read

Why functional drug addiction is one of the most dangerous myths for users

What is a high functioning addict?

Every individual has a different journey from addiction to recovery, fraught with different difficulties. The truth about substance addiction is that it’s a deeply personal affliction that impacts addicts and people around them in profoundly different ways.

Many people believe that their addiction is a minor problem — that their habit is under control. To these "functional" addicts, their compulsive drinking or substance abuse is a minor blemish that they’re successfully hiding from the world. In reality, they are always in denial about the seriousness of their addiction.

These people are high-functioning or high-bottoming addicts, who suffer with the same addictions without losing it all. While this may seem like a blessing, it’s often a curse. High-functioning addicts justifying their behaviour and avoiding help until it’s too late.

If this sounds like you or someone you know, there are important facts you need to hear. To get immediate help for drug addiction, alcohol addiction, or mental health issues, contact The Hader Clinic.

1. Hiding and controlling are very different things

man gazing at empty bottles of alcohol

When you’re a high-functioning addict, you tend to believe that you have greater control over your habit. This is typically untrue.

Many high-functioning addicts are characterised by their failed attempts to control their drinking or substance use. If a person sets out to have a single drink and can’t stop, this is a sign of addiction. Just because it hasn’t impacted every aspect of your life yet, it doesn’t mean you don’t need help.


Learn more about treatment for drug addiction and alcohol addiction


2. The emotional impact is genuine

While your addiction might not stop you from attending work or spending time with your family, it will usually impact you on an emotional level that people will notice.

Changes in your behaviour will have people asking “are you okay?” and similar questions. Not only does this show that you can’t always hide your symptoms, it also demonstrates that, below a typically calm exterior, high-bottoming addicts can still experience emotional damage.

3. A "high-bottom" is still a bottom

man passed out at bar

High-bottoming addicts often find it easy to justify their drinking because they’re “not like those people in rehab”. This is a dangerous attitude that allows people to fall further into their addiction.

A high-bottom is an event that isn’t overly traumatic and life-changing, but it still negative and impactful. A high-bottom is still a bottom, and it's still a sign that you need help. Many high-bottoming alcoholics won’t realise that they’ve hit their bottom. If this happens, an organised family intervention can help.


An example of a high-bottom addict

Thomas, after a particularly stressful but successful week at work, decides to unwind with a few drinks at his favourite bar on Friday evening. This turns into a session that continues well into the early hours of the morning.

He wakes around midday on Saturday, and returns to the pub to stave off the hangover. The cycle repeats itself. Sunday evening rolls around, and Thomas feels physically horrible. He decides to take off work the next day, feigning a case of the flu.


4. The damage is still being done

To write off the behaviour of high-functioning addicts as "someone who just likes their drink for stress relief" is to ignore the physical and mental damage that substance abuse is still doing.

Whether its alcohol, marijuana, methamphetamines, prescription drugs, or any other vice, a high-functioning addict is still inflicting a significant level of damage on their body. Functioning addicts simply don’t know – or are unwilling to accept – how bad the damage really is.

5. There are still people there for you

group comforting and supporting man

For many addicts, it’s a fear of being alone or a feeling of unworthiness that stops them from getting help. They may believe that they don’t deserve professional support, and that the people around them won’t understand why they are seeking help.

The right support group will be there to help you. Whether it's your family, friends, or a combination of both groups, successful support groups do their absolute best to understand the struggles a patient is facing.

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