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What You Need To Know About Functioning Substance Abuse

functioning substance abuse

When people envision a person with a substance use disorder they think of the stereotypical person who has lost everything, homeless and destitute, searching for their next opportunity to use.

Oftentimes we hear from our clients “that is not me”. “I’m still gainfully employed, I have never been in trouble with the law and I still have a home, I’m nowhere close to the bottom”. If a person has lost everything due to their substance use it is often referred to as “hitting rock bottom”.

Many do not realize that everyone has a different, personal rock bottom. Some recognize that their drinking has become problematic early on and reach out for help before their lives become unmanageable. Substances take a toll on your social, emotional and physical well being.

People who are heavily using substances but are still maintaining a semblance of “normal life” are often referred to as Functioning Alcoholics/addicts.

The term is characterized by increased tolerance, cravings and preoccupation with using. Family and friends often do not realize their loved ones are struggling because early on, the signs are subtle. What to look for:

  • Saying that they are only going to have one drink and not sticking to that limit.

  • Replacing activities with drinking/using, or only looking forward to activities where substances are present.

  • Behavior changes.

  • Hiding use.

  • Rationalizing their use or giving excuses for their need to use.

One major concern is that functioning alcoholics/addicts do not always meet the standard criteria for a substance use disorder. Often they do not seek help because they are in denial that they have a problem. Outwardly they appear to have it all together, inwardly they are struggling with cravings and preoccupation with using, making it difficult to identify a problem exists. Prolonged heavy substance use is harmful to one’s physical health. These individuals become more likely to experience blackouts, get in trouble with the law, have certain health risks, experience withdrawal symptoms and overdoses. These factors, as well as a concerned loved one, are usually the catalysts that prompt functional alcoholics/addicts to seek help. Anyone who uses substances and partakes in risky behaviors can experience repercussions. Early intervention can help prevent serious consequences and progression of addiction.

If you or a loved one need help for an addiction and want to know more about treatment programs, feel free to contact us.

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