Picture an addict.

I’m sure it’s a middle-aged man in a white, stained, sleeveless shirt with a 26-ounce in one hand and remote control in the other.

Is he overcome with unexplainable rage and, after a violent outburst, punched a hole in the wall?

Or perhaps you’re imagining an unemployed couple with track marks and eye bags as they beg for their next hit. Maybe they’ll have scabs on their face from methamphetamine use.

Are they acting erratically and ‘tweaking’?

Media has pigeonholed the addict. We use our preconceived vision and stereotypes to justify when somebody takes their drug or alcohol use too far.

The last time you saw an addict – homeless and on the street – what did you think?

Did you sit back and wonder where their lives were before this moment? Did he have children? Where did she work before the world came crashing down?

Addicts have a starting point.

Addiction isn’t one-size-fits-all.

Addiction is the result of a chronic brain disease, and it does not discriminate based on your race, career choice, gender or salary.

What seems to be harmless partying or occasional drug use can quickly evolve into something much more dangerous.

High-functioning addicts can be anywhere – and they defy the traditional stereotype of addiction.

According to Choices Recovery, a high functioning addict is “a person who can hide the severity of their addiction to the people close to them, often at tragic costs. A functioning addict can fulfil obligations while being addicted to drugs or alcohol. They can go to work, pay their bills and still handle living expenses, provide necessary care to their families, and stay away from criminal activities.”

Your doctor, your lawyer, your parents, or even YOU could be a high-functioning addict and not know it.

For example, cocaine is referred to as the “rich man’s drug” because it’s a difficult addiction to maintain on a low salary.

Your job title, living situation or the car you drive doesn’t define you as an addict. Your illusion of success doesn’t make you immune to addiction. Addiction is simply: “compulsive substance use” according to the American Psychiatric Association.

The first red flag is using good behaviour to justify the substance. “It’s been a long day, I can’t wait to have a beer when I get home,” or “I’m going to be here all night, I should do a line to help keep me awake.”

A functioning addict is typically able to maintain an appropriate level of productivity. However, as their addiction grows, they may lose the ability to balance their addiction with everyday life.

Six common characteristics of functioning addicts are:

  • Has a family history of addiction or mental illness
  • Well-educated
  •  Uphold a stable, well-paying job
  • Has a supportive and loving family life
  • May suffer from major depression

A functioning addict may be of middle or high socioeconomic status. They may be able to responsibly attend extra-curricular activities, such as watching their child’s baseball games. Over time, an addict’s tolerance to a substance will increase, and they will need a more substantial amount to feel the effects.

Five signs of a high-functioning addict are:

  • Making excuses for their behaviour or becoming defensive about their substance use
  • Drinking or doing drugs more frequently than usual
  • Change in their social circle – If their friends suffer from addiction, they are at a higher risk
  • Ill or sickly in the mornings
  •  Loss of interest in hobbies

Throughout all of the characteristics of each addict, one thing remains true: They are always looking for their next high. This mindset is extremely risky.

As the addiction grows and their ability to live a productive life weakens, they may begin to function less efficiently. Many addicts may suggest that they haven’t hit “rock-bottom”, so they don’t need help. Regardless of the circumstances, addiction is extremely detrimental to the mind, body, and soul.

Addiction is an extremely slippery, and dangerous, slope. However, the good news is: There’s room for recovery. Regardless of your situation, many resources can help an addict overcome their disease.

If you suspect somebody that you love is suffering from addiction, many treatment options can direct them to the road of recovery. Consider inpatient addiction treatment, detox programs, outpatient therapy, 12-step programs, aftercare programs, group therapy, family therapy or addiction counselling.

Early intervention can be extremely beneficial. By getting help early, an addict can avoid the complications of health problems, financial hurdles, and criminal activities.

Written by Celina Dawdy