Functional Drug Addict?

Man with Drugs and Money
Photo by  Motortion/

Does a functional addict exist, or are they like a unicorn, a mystical creature existing only in the mind? Can addicts live their lives as if it is healthy to go on using drugs, oblivious to the problem?

A person may rise at 7 AM and the first thing they do is make coffee or breakfast for their families. They get their children ready for school and send them on their way. Kiss their spouse goodbye and go to work. 

A signal difference for most “functional” addicts is as soon as they wake up before they get a coffee or make breakfast or wake up their children, they take the time to get a fix. They do not do anything before their first use. Then throughout the day, they take multiple breaks (after the kids leave for school, before they tell their husband goodbye or just after arriving at work) to keep their buzz going. At one point I too was one of those people who thought “I can handle a full-blown addiction without showing signs of active addiction.”

Some addicts go undetected for years before the signs of addiction start to show. 


Because they can be incredibly manipulative and very convincing. 


Due to the constant fear of someone guessing or noticing something is going on. Fear the addiction will be discovered, fear they might lose everything, fear of being labeled a failure. 

So, what ends up happening is they project an outward appearance of normalcy wearing multiple masks to continue living a double life.

Just because they can keep up the facade, remaining employed, appearing happily married, successfully hiding your addiction from everyone around you does not mean you are a “functional addict.” Because at that point you are not functioning. Your life is a charade.

No matter how put together an addict may look on the outside does not mean they are together internally. Most of them are fighting a constant battle within themselves and pushing at the seams. Every day becomes more challenging to sustain their habits, and addiction will ultimately rise to the surface. There are very few who can uphold their appearance for any real length of time, and they suffer immensely mentally or medically.

Spotting them may be tricky but not impossible. Some of the most common signs are making up excuses for destructive behaviors, hanging out with other addicts while claiming not to live that lifestyle, or no longer having an interest in activities once enjoyed.

Most people who have never seen addiction up close have the impression addicts are all homeless or financially unstable, having little to no social life, and no family. The addicts you see on TV are just a version of a stereotype. This works to the advantage of an addict who does not have this appearance or lifestyle. While some are truly deep in addiction and have a rugged presentation, high functioning addicts are not obvious and dangerous ones who are very aware of the tracks they must cover.

Some addicts remain undiscovered until their house of cards comes falling down and unfortunately that may be an overdose. You do not have to let it get to that point.

The vicious cycle of addiction can be broken. That lifestyle is not a forever thing unless you allow it to be by not doing anything. If the high functioning addict cannot confront, do not join them in that denial.  



Aaron has been writing drug education articles and documenting the success of the Narconon program for over two years.