Entries tagged with “Addiction”.


TeensThe term high functioning addict refers to someone who is outwardly successful while inwardly struggling with addiction. In contrast to the stereotypical vision of an addict as someone who is disheveled in appearance, struggling financially, and frequently in trouble with the law, a high functioning addict appears to have it all together.

People of all ages can be high functioning addicts, but this problem is most often seen with teens abusing drugs or alcohol. Teens can be high functioning simply because they have fewer responsibilities to juggle. However, once a teen heads off to college or the workforce, it will likely become more apparent that a problem exists.

Signs of a High Functioning Teen Addict

Learning to identify the signs of a high functioning addict can help you get treatment for your teen before drug or alcohol abuse takes over his or her life. Here’s what to watch for:

Seeming ill or irritable in the morning. Many teens dislike waking up early for school, but a teen with a drug or alcohol problem may complain of constant headaches, irritability, and fatigue during the morning hours. This could be the signs of withdrawal, which occurs when an addictive substance leaves the body.

A new group of friends with drinking or drug issues. Hanging out with a crowd that likes to “party” indicates that your teen is likely engaged in risky behaviors. Peer pressure can be a powerful motivator for young people.

Avoiding time with parents or concerned adults. A teen who is hiding an addiction may make excuses to avoiding spending time with people who have expressed worry about his or her drug or alcohol use. Your teen may wish to avoid a confrontation or be trying to protect others from knowing the truth.

Unexplained finances. A teen who has no job, but suddenly seems flush with cash may be dealing to support a drug habit. Items that go missing in your home or cash that disappears from your wallet may also indicate your teen is abusing drugs or alcohol.

Losing interest in sober hobbies. If your teen suddenly stops wanting to participate in extracurricular activities at school or past hobbies at home, this may suggest a preoccupation with drugs or alcohol.

An extreme desire for privacy. Although teens are entitled to some privacy, a teen who won’t answer basic questions about his or her whereabouts may have something serious to hide. Monitoring phone and computer usage may be necessary for your teen’s safety.

Convincing an Addicted Teen to Seek Help

A young high functioning addict is likely to be in deep denial. He or she may think that everything is under control, especially when school work and relationships with friends seem to be fine. However, the following signs indicate a problem regardless of how things appear to the casual observer:

  • Your teen believes drugs or alcohol are necessary to relax.
  • Your teen forgets what happened while he or she was under the influence.
  • Your teen makes poor decisions while under the influence, such as drinking and driving.
  • Your teen drinks or uses drugs when he or she didn’t intend to.
  • Your teen develops a tolerance or needs more of the abused substance to experience the same effects.
  • Your teen feels ill or experiences other designs of withdrawal when unable to use.

Planning an intervention is an excellent way to encourage a teen to seek treatment. An intervention is a structured meeting where parents, grandparents, siblings, teachers, coaches, friends, and other concerned parties come together to express their concerns and present a plan for treatment. This is done without judgement or accusation, but consequences are given for refusal. Review our post on How to Plan an Intervention to learn more.

How Treatment Promotes a Lasting Recovery

Addiction treatment depends on specific substance being abused and if a teen has any special considerations such as a co-occurring mental health disorder. However, the process typically begins with medical detox to clear the body of the addictive substance. During detox, a team of medical professionals provide 24/7 supervision and emotional support.

After detox, a teen will enter residential treatment. Individual and group therapy helps a teen learn the coping skills necessary to lead a fulfilling sober life. Holistic treatments such as music or art therapy help reinforce key lessons. Family therapy can help promote positive communication and break patterns of enabling or codependency.

Residential treatment is followed by a detailed aftercare plan that involves outpatient therapy, 12-step groups, and various community-based recovery resources. This helps create the support system necessary for a lasting recovery.

If you’re concerned about your teen’s drug or alcohol use, St. Joseph Institute for Addiction can help. Contact us today to learn more.

By Dana Hinders

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What is a functioning alcoholic?Alcoholism can take many forms. While some people end up on the streets or incarcerated as a consequence of their addiction, many others continue to lead outwardly successful lives while struggling with their inner demons.

About High Functioning Alcoholism

Someone with high functioning alcoholism is able to hold down a job, socialize with friends, and maintain intimate personal relationships while demonstrating a pattern of dysfunctional drinking behavior. High functioning alcoholics still suffer from an addiction, but it’s harder to see evidence of the problem unless you’re looking very closely.

A functioning alcoholic may be able to hide the signs of a drinking problem by restricting drinking only to certain times or in certain situations. However, many functioning alcoholics are successful in hiding the signs of their addiction because they have someone in their life who is unconsciously encouraging or enabling the addiction by allowing them to avoid the consequences of their behavior. For example, this person may loan them money when they’ve overspent on alcohol or make excuses on their behalf when they’re too hungover to go to work or attend a social engagement.

High functioning alcoholics are more common than you might expect. Studies estimate that nearly 20 percentĀ  of alcoholics meet these criteria. Of these functioning alcoholics, about 1 in 3 have a multigenerational family history of substance abuse.

High functioning alcoholics are often intelligent, hardworking, and educated people who are actively involved in the community. They may be your coworker, your next-door neighbor, or your best friend.

Problems Associated with High Functioning Alcoholism

Alcoholism is a progressive disease. Over time, tolerance to alcohol increases. This leads to increased consumption, eventually to the point where a high functioning alcoholic starts to experience the adverse lifestyle consequences we all traditionally associate with alcoholism.

In cases where a high functioning alcoholic works in a professional role responsible for the safety and welfare of others, the consequences of substance abuse could be disastrous. For example:

  • A doctor could make a mistake that harms a patient.
  • A lawyer’s mistake could land his client in jail.
  • A CEO’s poor business decisions could put the entire company in jeopardy.

It’s also worth pointing out that even someone who drinks excessively while maintaining the outward trappings of a successful life is still causing a great deal of physical damage. Some of the many health problems associated with alcoholism include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Stroke
  • Obesity
  • Liver disease
  • Pancreatitis
  • Mouth, throat, liver, breast, and/or colorectal cancer
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Gout
  • Seizures
  • Anemia
  • Depression
  • Nerve damage

Signs of a High Functioning Alcoholic

Traditionally, substance abuse disorders are defined by having alcohol-related problems with your personal relationships, career, finances, and/or the law. However, identifying a high functioning alcoholic requires taking a closer look at drinking-related behaviors.

Signs a person may need substance abuse treatment include:

  • Engaging in binge drinking, defined as four or more drinks in a two-hour period for women or five or more drinks in a two-hour period for men
  • Relying on alcohol to feel powerful, confident, and in control
  • Drinking to handle mental health issues such as anxiety and depression
  • Drinking alone
  • Drinking in the mornings
  • Frequently finding yourself drinking more than you intended to
  • Experiencing cravings for alcohol
  • Saying things you didn’t mean while you were drinking
  • Having trouble remembering the details of what happens when you were drinking
  • Being secretive or defensive about alcohol use

Dealing with Denial

Denial is the most common challenge associated with getting a high functioning alcoholic to seek treatment. These individuals honestly believe their alcohol use is under control. Since they’re not unemployed or in trouble with the law, they don’t feel they meet the same standard as the alcoholics portrayed in popular culture. In many cases, they think only someone who has hit “rock bottom” meets the criteria for alcoholism.

Staging an intervention is one tactic that may be effective in getting a high functioning alcoholic to seek treatment. An intervention is a structured meeting where friends and family present their concerns to the person who is abusing alcohol or drugs, offer treatment options, and state the consequences for refusing treatment. For example, a wife may share that she is worried about her husband’s alcohol-related health problems and concerned that the children have noticed their father is absent from social events when he’s been drinking. As a consequence, she might state that she wants a separation if her husband doesn’t seek treatment.

Interventions are not 100 percent effective, but a well-planned intervention using the services of a licensed counselor, social worker, psychiatrist, or psychologist could be just the push your loved one needs to get help.

By Dana Hinders

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Post rehab dos and donts

When your loved one comes home from rehab, it’s natural to be nervous about what comes next. This guide will give you a basic framework for navigating some of the common challenges faced during the post-rehab adjustment period.

Do Take Time to Educate Yourself

If you’ve never struggled with drug or alcohol abuse yourself, it can be hard to understand what someone in recovery is going through. However, there are many excellent resources available to help you learn more about the roots of addiction and how to best support your loved one during the recovery process. Start by seeing what resources your loved one’s counselor recommends or by attending a friends and family support group such as Al-Anon.

Resources from St. Joseph Institute for Addiction that you might find helpful include:
What Is Withdrawal?
Principles of Effective Addiction Treatment
Addiction and Co-Occurring Disorders: A Double Whammy for Treatment Goals

Do Ask Open-Ended Questions

When it comes to talking about recovery, everyone is different in regards to what they feel comfortable sharing. Some people want to share every detail, while others are slower to open up. You can express your support without prying with a simple, “How are you feeling?” or “What did you do today?”

To avoid making your loved one feel as though they’re being put on the spot, remember that a conversation is a two-way street. Make an effort to share details about the activities of your own day as well as your future plans. Your goal should be to foster a meaningful dialogue so it doesn’t feel as though you’re simply lecturing or criticizing.

Do Engage in Acts of Service

Verbally expressing your support is a good start, but sometimes actions speak louder than words. Show your support for your loved one’s recovery by offering transportation to appointments, the supplies or resources necessary to begin a new sober hobby, or assistance picking out clothes for a job interview. An invitation for a home cooked meal or a drug and alcohol free social engagement are also great options to consider.

If you’re not sure how to best be of service, don’t be afraid to ask. “What can I do to help you?” is always a good way to open the lines of communication. Your loved one may have ideas that you never would have considered on your own.

Don’t Rehash the Past

Your loved one is well aware of the mistakes he or she has made while struggling with addiction. Focusing on past mistakes will only keep you from moving forward in your relationship, especially if your loved one starts to feel like you’re blaming him or her for what has happened. Nobody can change the past, so it’s best to keep your focus on the future.

If you need to process your feelings about past events, vent to a trusted friend or write down your thoughts in a journal. This will help you keep a level head when dealing with your loved one in recovery.

Don’t Neglect Yourself

Loving a recovering addict can be stressful. It’s easy to spend so much time worrying about how to help your friend or family member that you forget to make time to take care of yourself. But, if you’re exhausted and overwhelmed, you won’t be able to effectively support your loved one during the recovery process.

Set a regular sleep schedule, eat nutritious meals, exercise regularly, and make time for stress-relieving activities that you enjoy. You’ll feel better about yourself and be setting a good example for your loved one of how to live a sober lifestyle.

Don’t Think of Rehab as a Cure

Addiction is a chronic illness. Your loved one may be sober now, but he or she is not cured in the sense that addiction will never be an issue again. Just as a diabetic needs to take insulin and manage blood sugar with diet and exercise, a recovering addict needs to remain vigilant to stay on top of relapse triggers. Rehab sets the foundation for a successful recovery. It’s not a quick fix.

Always remember that recovery is a journey that must be taken one step at a time. Your loved one may experience obstacles and setbacks along the way, but this does not mean that sobriety is impossible. It simply means that it may take some time to find a treatment plan that works best for his or her individual needs.

By Dana Hinders


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