Signs of High Functioning Addiction


With the advancement of addiction science over the past several decades, the general public has learned that Hollywood’s portrayal of people with substance use disorder is not entirely true-to-life. Many people are high-functioning drug and alcohol misusers, some even maintaining important, fast-paced careers. The idea that only poor people with questionable characters engage in risky behavior and drug use is quickly becoming a thing of the past. Shattering the misconception that addiction only affects a certain “type” of person has become essential in spreading awareness of just how insidious the illness is and how advanced healthcare is needed to treat those affected.

Can someone be High-Functioning with Opioid Addiction?

While all substances affect the body differently, addiction is still a brain disease regardless of the drug of choice. Still, it’s fair to wonder if someone who misuses opioids, which have a depressant effect, can still perform their daily tasks, as well as someone who misuses something like amphetamines, which stimulant effect increases energy. The answer is more complicated than a simple yes or no, however.

Addiction is a progressive disease, which means it becomes worse over time without treatment. With continued misuse, the brain begins to alter its pathways that control dopamine release into the body. The more a drug is ingested, the more the brain will seek out the euphoric rush of dopamine created by substances. That means someone who misuses opioids can remain “functional” while hiding their use for quite some time until they reach a stage where their cognitive abilities are impacted, and their behavior takes a turn, as well as their physical health.

Stopping the Signs

Many people with opioid use disorder have reported that their initial misuse created a euphoric, energized feeling that helped them get through the work day, particularly those who were taking prescription opioids for acute or chronic pain (this phenomenon was depicted in a recent Hulu™ docuseries called “Dopesick,” reenacting the toll prescription opioids took on an Appalachian mining community). As tolerance rises, more of the drug is needed to stave off withdrawals, eventually lessening a person’s ability to perform their daily tasks with proper judgment and increasing the risk of overdose. The main problem is prolonged opioid misuse will almost always worsen things in the long run.

Common signs of hidden and functional opioid misuse include:

  • Secretive behavior regarding whereabouts
  • High suspicion around personal belongings
  • Turbulent financial mismanagement
  • Mysterious ongoing illness or bouts of sickness
  • Social withdrawal or drastic change in social groups
  • Change in demeanor from day to day
  • Odd sleeping habits
  • Habitual lateness
  • Procrastination and unreliability

Many more distinct signs will present themselves in people attempting to balance their opioid addiction and life’s responsibilities, as each person’s situation is unique. Despite best efforts, everyone who misuses opioids for an extended period eventually succumbs to the many devastating long-term effects like failing health, strained finances, and destroyed personal relationships, among many more.

Early detection and medical intervention are the keys to helping avoid the pitfalls of functional opioid addiction. Although many well-meaning programs believe people can will their way through addiction and abstain from opioid misuse for a lifetime through sheer determination, science has revealed that a combination of medication and counseling shows the most promising long-term results.

BAART offers evidence-based treatment for opioid use disorder through the use of FDA-approved medication and effective substance use counseling. Specialized medical providers assess each enrolled patient’s needs to better tailor a recovery program that will increase their chances of success. To learn more about how thousands of people have achieved improved health and a life free of opioid misuse through medication-assisted treatment, message or call a local BAART clinic today.


Medically Reviewed By:

Cris Villalon

Cris Villalon