The Myth of Functioning Addiction


The term “functioning addict” is commonly used, and the idea that drug users can complete everyday tasks is popular and partially true. However, the idea that being a functioning addict is somehow better than being a non-functioning addict or even socially acceptable is a myth. The truth is, all drug use will affect life in one way or another, whether it is immediate or in the long-term. All drug use is harmful to the body, to relationships, and to society as a whole. 

We know that a non-functioning addict cannot complete standard tasks every day because of their drug use. Someone who can’t make it to work because they are too intoxicated would be an example of a non-functioning addict. In no way is being a functioning addict healthy. The idea of functioning addiction is considered a myth for many clinicians. Even though a person seemingly goes about obvious tasks without error while using, it doesn’t mean that their life isn’t being affected in a less obvious way.

Many people see tolerance as a factor in becoming a functioning addict. After prolonged use, the body becomes used to the drug’s effects, and some people find it easier to function than others. People who are in denial about their addiction seem to fit into the group of functioning addiction. If a person is less honest with themselves and others about their addiction, they can better convince themselves and others that it doesn’t even exist; an out of sight out of mind mentality. However, denial is only a short-term out. With time, most addictions become more apparent. 


By perpetuating the myth of a functioning addict being more acceptable, society believes non-functioning addiction is a choice and a character flaw. Some feel that if one user can function and another cannot, it must be a defect specific to that user. However, this is inaccurate – addiction is a progressive disease. The longer a substance is used, the more severe the symptoms and side effects will become, making substance use more obvious. At Avalon Malibu, we are dedicated to helping you live a healthier life, meaning life without having to rely on substances. We have many treatment models that can be tailored to suit your needs. Our facility combines evidence-based mental health therapies and effective addiction treatments to provide you with comprehensive care supported by an integration of mind, body, and spirit. If you or someone you love needs treatment for substance use disorder, call Avalon Malibu today at (844) 857-5992

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