The Myth of the Functioning Addict

functional addict

There are many myths that revolve around the topic of addiction. There is a huge misconception within our society that an addict can be considered “functional,” thus the term, “functioning addict.” What this implies is that there are people out there who can function “normally” while abusing drugs. Let me tell you that from my own experience, I don’t know anyone who has been able to use drugs successfully. When talking to a counselor here at Narconon Suncoast, this is what he observed and experienced in regard to the idea of a “functional addict:”

“For the majority of my addiction, I believed that I was a functioning addict. How I came to consider myself to be functioning was because of one solid reason. I justified that even though I was a junkie, I was still getting up and going to work every day and taking care of my responsibilities, all the while being highly addicted to drugs. People justify their addiction in many different ways. You can hear a person say that they use a substance to help them unwind or deal with the stress that stems from work. Whether it be the mom who needs that glass of wine or the waiter who needs the beer and coke, it is all one in the same.

“We have become a society that believes we need substances to get through our day and function at our optimum level. The term ‘functioning addict’ in its simplest form means:

a person who is addicted to one or many drugs but still performs their daily duties.

“There is a fine line between a functioning addict and a non-functioning addict. The only difference being one is employed and seemingly acting ‘normal’ and the other is completely unable to keep their life together. A person with an addiction cannot be the person they need to be, regardless of gainful employment. It is a chain of events that only leads to a path a destruction and sorrow. One of the first things that will happen is a person will go through emotional changes and become detached from loved ones and friends. As their relationships start to deteriorate, the addict will find himself knowing of the situation on a subconscious level. At this point, their substance abuse will increase and they would become more and more emotionally unstable. This cycle will continue for however long, whether it be weeks, months, or even many years.

“At a certain point, the word ‘functioning’ would be taken out of the phrase and the person would just be an addict… losing their grip of everything in life. Their production would drop at work, fights would ensue at home, and they would emotionally and physically detach from the world around them. When a person reaches this level, one of two things will happen. They will either try to reconcile the damage they have caused by pleading that they don’t have a problem and that it’s manageable; justifying the situation and exclaiming they can still function. Or, the problem would continue to get worse and begin to affect more areas of life until the inevitable point comes where they either need to get help, or they succumb to their ‘solution.’

The end result is still the same; a problem that is out of control no matter which way they look at it. There is no such thing as a ‘functioning addict.’ Don’t justify your shambled life, take action and do something about it.


Jason Good

Jason has been working in the field of addiction and recovery for over 11 years. Having been an addict himself he brings real-word experience to the table when helping addicts and their families, while also offering a first-person perspective to the current drug crisis. Jason is passionate about educating the public about what’s currently going on in our society, and thankfully, offers practical solutions. Jason is also the co-host of The Addiction Podcast—Point of No Return. You can follow Jason on Google+, Twitter, or connect with him on LinkedIn.