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Does the High-Functioning Addict Exist?

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Everyone’s experience of addiction is different and the challenges are unique for each person. A myth that commonly causes issues for working professionals and high-ranking executives is the myth of the high-functioning addict. This myth is a result of the disparity between what a person perceives compared to what is really happening. While an individual can be very capable, addiction is a disease that impacts how a person thinks, feels, and acts. Therefore, the high-functioning addict is a myth, and individuals struggling with addiction need to get treatment to fully heal.

The High-Functioning Addict

Stereotypically, a person struggling with addiction is often assumed to be far from the status of a working professional or high-ranking executive. The image surrounding addiction looks like a person who can’t hold a job, doesn’t exercise or care for themselves, and doesn’t show up for families and loved ones. Therefore, when a person is struggling with addiction and does not fit this image, that person can begin to believe that they can be both high-functioning and addicted to a substance.

Most working professionals and executives are very capable individuals. They have pushed themselves to get to where they are in their careers. As such, they can start to believe that they are different, special, and more capable. While this might be true in certain skillset, addiction is a disease that does not discriminate. Addiction affects how an individual thinks and functions regardless of whether they are homeless or a high-ranking executive.

Biology of Addiction Shows the High-Functioning Addict Is a Myth

Addiction is a chronic relapsing disease that impacts how the brain functions. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) explains that addiction, like other diseases, disrupts the normal functioning of an organ. In the case of addiction, this organ is the brain. When a person is struggling with addiction, their reward, self-control, and stress circuit are disrupted. This causes uncontrollable urges to use drugs and alcohol.

While working professionals might feel like they are in control, the biology of addiction provides proof that they are not. Despite the perception of control, the disruption in the brain causes individuals to seek out drugs or alcohol regardless of the price. Even if a person can live somewhat functionally, it does not mean that they are not suffering from several negative effects of addiction.

When Working Professionals Believe They Are High-Functioning Addicts

The myth of high-functioning addiction is just that – a myth. However, this does not mean that certain people will not have higher bottoms or not lose everything due to addiction. While this might seem like a good thing, it can lead working professionals and executives to believe they have their addiction under control. There are multiple misconceptions about high-functioning addiction that can cause problems and inhibit individuals from healing. This includes understanding the belief that controlling and hiding are the same thing and understanding that denial can cause a false perception.

Controlling vs Hiding

When someone believes they are a high-functioning addict they often feel or believe they are in control. This might look like going to work, doing chores at home, spending time with kids, and then later on drinking a couple of bottles of wine. While this can feel like control, it is hiding. When a person is hiding their use, they need to use substances due to physical dependence.

Many high-functioning addicts only see realize are addicted when they try to stop. This means that while they are using and hiding their use from others, they don’t grasp that they cannot control their use. They can create a picture in their mind that it is not affecting their professional or personal life. However, untreated addiction is causing problems, regardless of whether or not a person believes it is under control.


It is often said that admitting a problem is the first step toward fixing it. For individuals who believe they are high-functioning addicts, this can be very hard. Denial is at the center of the myth of being in control of addiction. This might include denial of a problem or denial that addiction is causing issues at work or home.

According to the publication Addictive Disorders & Their Treatment, denial is common in addiction. However, accepting the reality of addiction is the first step to healing. While it can be a harsh and challenging reality to notice and accept, it is well worth it to truly heal from addiction.

The Value of Healing From Addiction

Working professionals and high-ranking executives who believe they are high-functioning substance users will benefit from getting help. By accepting they have a problem and getting the treatment, they will go from getting by to genuinely thriving.

It can be hard for highly successful individuals to seek help. However, addiction is a disease that can impact anyone, regardless of their accomplishments. Working with a treatment center that understands how to work with working professionals can help someone feel understood and learn the necessary skills to heal and get back to their careers.

Many people believe that they alone can be both high functioning and addicted to drugs and alcohol. However, while some individuals will have higher lows, this picture is a myth. It is a dangerous myth that can lead executives and working professionals to believe they do not need help. At Pacific Sands Recovery Center, we understand that getting treatment for addiction is hard. Our programs are built with working professionals in mind and teach people the skills to remain sober when they return to work after addiction treatment. To learn more about our programs, how we can help, or to speak with a staff member, call us today at (714) 492-1119.


  • I would just like to share how Grateful I am with my experience through my addiction at this facility. I couldn’t possibly ask to be in such a “SAFE/COMFORTABLE” environment while receiving treatment for my addiction. I would just like to say Thank you sooo much to ALL the staff there from the Nurse’s to counselors and therapist all of you are a True Blessing in helping me through my journey of sobriety. I couldn’t feel more comfortable there on how they monitored my physical health and on dealing with my emotional health with there therapy sessions and groups I truly see them ALL as Family!

    Andrew N.
  • As a professional in the recovery field I have worked with many detox centers and none compare to The this one. Their staff is incredibly attentive and knowledgable regarding the needs of individuals seeking recovery from the very start. Their facility is welcoming and homey while remaining very luxe. I would recommend this facility to any loved one or friend looking to start down their journey of sobriety.

  • This place helped saved my life, and a great stepping stone to get my life on the right track. Was there first client under new management, caring staff and owners, comfortable place to get you on your feet in sobriety.

  • Great Staff. Comfortable Environment. Awesome place to Get Clean and Sober. Thank you guys for everything.


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