High Functioning Addicts – The Invisibly Addicted
Silicon Valley and High Pressure Careers Downside
Functional addicts in Silicon Valley are often found in high stress and highly paid careers and professions.
The drug or alcohol use of High Functioning Addicts (HFA’s) may not be a secret – but signs of substance abuse and addiction are not immediately evident. To friends, co-workers and extended family – high functioning addicts seem like ‘an average person’.
For many people, addictions can coexist with what seems to be a perfectly normal lifestyle. “Functional addicts” can be found in all professions.
Publicly, high functioning addicts (HFA’s) live in denial and point to their career successes.
In private, addictive behavior patterns – and their consequences – are fully active.
“The job is always the last thing that goes,” says Dr. Steven Melemis, a physician in Toronto who specializes in addiction. “A [person with an addiction] knows you need your job first and foremost to continue with your addiction.” With time, however, one’s work also suffers, which is why Melemis prefers to say “currently functioning addict.”“High-functioning Addicts”: Intervening Before Trouble Hits
Functional Addiction Can Happen to Anyone
In 2011, Whoopi Goldberg made a confession on her show, The View:
“I was a high functioning drug addict, I showed up for work because I knew a lot of people would be out of work and I wouldn’t get a check that I needed to buy my drugs.”
This is a revealing statement.
Functional addicts often use work as an explanation for substance abuse.
Opioid and Fentanyl Overdose Wave Sweeps California
In the U.S., Mortality from all types of drug overdoses increased by a whopping 30% over a 1-year period.Nora Volkow, MD, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), at the FDA Science Forum, May 2021.
What is causing the increase? Individuals taking illegally purchased opiates or other ‘recreational use’ drugs are at serious risk of fentanyl overdose. Unknown to buyers, illegal drugs are now often laced with fentanyl – so it is easy to inadvertently take a deadly dose.
Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid analgesic that is similar to morphine – but is up to 100 times more potent. In its prescription form it is prescribed for pain, but fentanyl is also made illegally.
Fentanyl is far more deadly than heroin.
What is Fentanyl?
What is Fentanyl?
- Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid that is similar to morphine.
- However, fentanyl is 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine.
- Synthetic opioids like fentanyl have been identified in more than two-thirds of opioid overdoses reported nationally in 2019.
- Fentanyl is the most potent opioid pain reliever available for use in medical treatment.
- And fentanyl is extremely addictive.
Who is At Risk for Fentanyl Overdose?
- Most individuals never try to take fentanyl.
- However, many illegal drugs now contain fentanyl to ‘increase the strength’ of the drug sold.
- Especially since COVID-19 – adolescents, parents, professionals, athletes and more can now more easily buy illegal ‘party drugs’ on the internet.
- Illegally made drugs are not tested for quality. Illegal drugs vary wildly in purity and strength.
- Increasingly, illegal drugs bought on the internet (and sold on the street) contain fentanyl. Just a few grains of fentanyl powder causes overdose.
How powerful is Fentanyl?
- A lethal dose of fentanyl is considered to be 2 milligrams. If fentanyl is taken with other opiates, the lethal dose is smaller than 2 milligrams.
- A sweetener packet at restaurant tables contains about 1,000 milligrams.
- Two milligrams of fentanyl can kill you.
- In individuals with a developed tolerance, the lethal dose of fentanyl is very small compared to the potential lethal doses of other opiate drugs.
- For example: A lethal dose for heroin is reported to be between 75 and 375 mg. A lethal dose of fentanyl for most adults is 2 milligrams.
Who Takes Fentanyl?
- Who takes fentanyl? Dr. Christopher Colwell, the chief of emergency medicine in San Francisco at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital, has recently seen an increase in the emergency room for medical issues related to fentanyl use and overdoses.
- Dr. Christopher Colwell has seen a variety of patients in his ER needing treatment for fentanyl. Patients included nurses, a professional athlete, a drug dealer and a lawyer who lost consciousness in court. Also needing emergency treatment for fentanyl were two young adolescents, 14 and 15 years old; and a 7 year old who got into a stash in her mother’s purse.
- “That’s just in the last couple weeks,” Colwell said. “It’s really remarkable because it runs the entire spectrum. This affects all walks of life, all folks. It’s hard to overstate how impactful it can be to anyone. It doesn’t seem to care about race or background or gender — or anything.” Read more at Fentanyl has changed the whole landscape’: San Francisco faces worst drug epidemic ever
- Fentanyl is a potent synthetic opioid that is very effective at relieving moderate-to-severe chronic pain.
- Oral formulations of fentanyl contain an amount of the drug that can be fatal to a child.
- The difference between a therapeutic dose and a deadly dose of fentanyl is very small.
- There are many illegal analogs and derivatives of fentanyl that are much stronger than the prescription version.
- Recreational users often seek fentanyl as a substitute for heroin.
- Increasingly, many illegal drugs now contain fentanyl to ‘increase the strength’ of the drug sold.
- The problem: A few extra grains of fentanyl can cause death.
- For Details on Addiction Recovery Help Available, See Silicon Valley and East Bay Medical Detox, Dual Diagnosis Rehab
Is Fentanyl use really a problem?
- The number of deaths from fentanyl overdoses has jumped by more than 2100% in California in five years. The most recent estimate from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), show that overdoses of synthetic opioids (mostly fentanyl) killed nearly 4,000 residents in California last year.
- Drug deaths in San Francisco are averaging about two a day. Fentanyl has flooded the illicit drug market.
- Many overdoses occurred from illegal drugs purchased that had added fentanyl. The buyers had no awareness that fentanyl had been added. Illegal drugs are not tested for purity.
- The CDC has predicted there will be record breaking amount of drug overdoses as the number continues to rise.
- Although the opioid epidemic seemed to slow in 2019, the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020 caused a ripple effect of death from the disease, and an increase in addiction.
- Drug overdoses rose across the country during the coronavirus pandemic. But in San Francisco, overdoses skyrocketed. In 2020, drug overdoses claimed 713 lives.
- This was more than double the 257 San Francisco residents who died of the COVID-19 virus in 2020.
What is the treatment for Fentanyl overdose?
- Naloxone is the treatment for rapidly reversing a fentanyl overdose.
- However, getting overdose treatment in time to avoid death is a challenge. Fentanyl is a fast-acting drug; every minute is critical in an overdose situation.
- Those experiencing an overdose involving fentanyl may require higher naloxone doses and multiple administrations to reverse the overdose and to become stabilized.
- Police and first responders at a crime scene or helping an overdose victim are at risk from inadvertently touching or inhaling any fentanyl powder that may be present.
What is the treatment for Fentanyl addiction?
- Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) is considered the ‘gold standard’ treatment for opioid addiction.
- At New Start Recovery Solutions, we use Medication-Assisted Treatment for treatment of addiction to opioids, including fentanyl.
- In Medication-assisted treatment (MAT), we use FDA approved medications, in combination with counseling and behavioral therapies, to provide whole patient treatment for fentanyl and opioid addictions.
- There is no painful withdrawal with medication-assisted treatment. The M.A.T. medication also reduces cravings.
- There is life beyond opioid addictions – we can help! Call 866-303-6275 for a confidential consultation.
Who Becomes Addicted to Opiates?
Can individuals taking prescription opiates as directed become dependent or addicted to the opiate?
Addiction Is A Disease: Opioids are highly addictive, and they change how the brain works. Anyone can become addicted, even when opioids are prescribed by a doctor and taken as directed. In fact, millions of people in the United States suffer from opioid addiction.CDC: What You Need to Know About Treatment and Recovery
- Opioid dependency and addiction is experienced by individuals from all professions and from all socio-economic groups.
- Anyone can become addicted to opiates in the right circumstances. Any social stigma associated with having a drug problem needs to be eliminated. Prevention and addiction treatment must be emphasized.
- Those who work in jobs or professions that include high stress, long hours and/or physical labor are at risk of developing an opioid dependence.
- Individuals and professionals working long hours and/or experiencing high stress may take illegally obtained opioids for pain relief; or as a sleep aid. What starts as a ‘small miracle’ can rapidly escalate into dependence and addiction.
- ‘High-Functioning Addicts‘ can work and may even excel in their work or careers. But eventually drug use takes a physical and emotional toll. Close personal relationships and friendships are the first to dissolve as the addiction becomes more demanding.
‘Cognition Hacking’ Among Working Professionals
Recent studies suggest “smart drug” or “neuro-enhancing” cognition hacking is increasingly appealing to students and working professionals.
‘Smart drugs’ have no official designation or description. However, most references to smart drugs usually include Provigil (modafinil), Adderall and Ritalin.
The Danger: A Slow Slide to Addiction
‘Life Hacking’ enhancement is also on the rise within the workplace, where modafinil, which treats sleep disorders, has become particularly popular.
- Provigil (modafinil) is not considered addictive; but it can cause dependency. Common side effects include fever, easy bruising or bleeding, hallucinations, depression, chest pain, fast/pounding/irregular heartbeat, or mental/mood changes (such as confusion, depression, hallucinations, rare thoughts of suicide).
- Adderall is a prescription stimulant amphetamine. It is addictive and habit-forming; and has been associated with a higher risk of psychosis, heart attacks, and even sudden death.
- Ritalin is a prescription stimulant. It can cause dependency and addiction. Common side effects are nervousness, sweating, blurred vision, reduced appetite, weight loss, and nausea.
“Methylphenidate [Ritalin], which is thought to be a fairly innocuous compound, can have structural and biochemical effects in some regions of the brain that can be even greater than those of cocaine,” stated Dr. Yong Kim. Ritalin May Cause Changes In Brain’s Reward Areas; Effects May Overlap With Those Of Cocaine
Identifying Functional Addicts
As masters of deception, functional addicts are difficult to identify.
• They usually have a well-paid job or profession and are often well-respected by co-workers.
• Most tend to be married or in a partnered relationship; often there are children.
Some Behavior Red Flags of High Functioning Addicts
• Denial of substance abuse; and may become unexpectedly angry if asked about the possibility.
• Feel entitled to drink or drug because of their career success; or feel they must engage in substance abuse to deal with career demands.
• Ability to restrict use leads to the illusion that the person controls their substance use or abuse.
• To the outside world, they appear to be managing life well and do not fit the ‘down and out’ addict stereotype.
• At home, they often isolate and drink or drug; and may blame immediate family for their behavior.
• DUI arrest. But if it is a first-time offense, they will explain away any personal responsibility.
• Unlikely to seek help for addiction on their own – they are not ‘addicts’.
Family, Friends, and Co-workers as Enablers
Friends, co-workers and extended family members may make excuses for the behavior they observe and spin it so that it sounds reasonable.
“I know s/he uses Adderall (a lot) to complete projects on time. But they are not an addict.”
“I know s/he uses opiates to get sleep after big projects. But they are not an addict.”
“S/he doesn’t seem to use drugs at work, and it’s not my business what they do on their own time.”
“S/he still drinks and drugs like they did in college, but they go to work every day.”
“They deserve to blow off steam!”
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
Functional addicts may also have serious secrets in their personal lives; such as domestic violence or child abuse.
Addicts are not happy individuals. When depression, anxiety or other dual diagnosis (co-occurring disorders) are present, functional addicts may strike out at a spouse, child, partner or co-worker.
In many cases, the partner thought they had married the nice Dr. Jekyll – but now at times they experience the raging maniac that is Mr. Hyde.
Family Members Experience Trauma
Families of functional alcoholics experience significant emotional trauma. It is very difficult living with a substance abuser; addiction affects the whole family.
But with functional addicts, family members must also deal with significant cognitive dissonance. Family members – who have usually bought into the ‘typical addict stereotype’ – question the evidence of their own eyes and experience.
Eventually, some family members living with a functional addict may question their own sanity. No explanation seems to ‘fit’ what is happening. Friends and extended family do not experience the same person as family members deal with at home.
Treatment Solutions – High Functioning Addict Interventions
Functional alcoholics and addicts rarely seek help on their own. Most see no problems in their life or with their relationships.
Interventions may be the only possibility to reach a functional addict or alcoholic – and get them into treatment.
If you are in a relationship with a functional alcoholic – you need to take steps to protect yourself. Family recovery programs are essential to ongoing well-being for the family of alcoholics. If there are children involved, they must be protected.
The Objective of Interventions
The goal of intervention is to introduce the idea of change into the person’s life from the point of several family members. It is designed to be respectful and to allow family to share their feelings in a non-confrontational way.
The hopeful result is that the person will want to stop the destructive behavior and get help.
Rehab and Treatment for Functional Addictions
Those in highly paid careers rarely want to take the time needed for residential rehab and addiction recovery. It is easy to use the career as an excuse to avoid getting help.
However, the best chance for recovery is a permanent change in habitual behaviors. Time, education and therapy are required to make permanent changes. Residential rehab treatment is recommended.
Many functional addicts also experience depression and/or anxiety. For a lasting resolution of underlying mental health issues, dual diagnosis treatment is needed.
Bottom Line: The eventual outcome of an escalating addiction will take a lot longer to sort out than taking a few weeks off for rehab.
Silicon Valley Whole Person Addiction Recovery
Long-term addiction recovery is dependent on discarding habitual behaviors – and instead engaging in new sober activities.
New Start Recovery Solutions, serving the Bay Area and Northern California – uses a whole person approach to healing and addiction recovery. This includes mindfulness training. Mindfulness provides the internal focus to be quietly aware of your own thoughts and impulses without judgment – or acting on the impulses.
Clients receive assessment and individualized treatment plans. Dual diagnosis treatment for co-occurring mental health disorders is our specialty.
During rehab, clients are introduced to new habits, rituals, and wellness techniques for mind, body and spirit.
Holistic recovery in residential and outpatient programs at New Start Recovery Solutions includes whole person evidence-based addiction treatment. Our addiction treatment includes mindfulness practices, yoga, relapse prevention, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and more.
• Medically Managed Detoxification
• Residential Inpatient Rehab Treatment – Adults 18+
• IOP and PHP Outpatient Services – Adults 18+
• 24-hour on-site monitoring
• Whole Person Evidence-based Recovery
• Medication-Assisted Treatment MAT for Opioid Addiction
• Telehealth Virtual IOP Intensive Outpatient Program
• Family Program and Alumni Program
• Holistic Treatment – Yoga, acupuncture and more
• Nutrition and Wellness Programs
• Relapse Prevention and Mindfulness for Recovery
• Dual Diagnosis Treatment (Our Specialty)
• PHP ‘Day Program’ Partial Hospitalization Program
• IOP Intensive Outpatient Treatment
• Outpatient Primary Mental Health Therapy
• Veteran PTSD Dual Diagnosis Rehab
• VA Community Care Provider
• TriWest In-network (Proud to be Serving our Military!)
• Most Insurance Accepted
Need Help with Alcohol or Substance Abuse?
If you or your family are experiencing the effects of addiction – it is time to take the necessary steps to get help.
New Start Recovery Solutions can help!
New Start Recovery Solutions specializes in dual diagnosis treatment; including PTSD and trauma.
If PTSD or any form of mental illness is also involved (including depression, anxiety, trauma, obsessive compulsive disorder and more) – it is critical to receive dual diagnosis treatment.
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We also work out of network with most PPO insurance.
Please Note: We cannot accept Medicare, Medicaid or Medi-Cal.
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∙ Union and EAP Programs
∙ VA Community Care Provider
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