Addiction takes many forms. For veterans of the armed forces, these various forms of addiction affect their daily life in many ways. Veterans face no shortage of challenges in their transition to a fulfilling civilian lifestyle. The prevalence of high-functioning addiction among veterans can create additional hurdles in their journey to a healthy life. 

High-functioning addiction can be challenging to identify, and despite its name, it carries many dangerous and destructive effects. Learning to identify this form of addiction is crucial in taking the first step toward a healthy, sober future. 

What Is High-Functioning Addiction?

There are many different ways to engage with drugs or alcohol, and all are equally destructive. Some may engage in binging, which involves drinking or using excessive amounts of drugs in a single sitting. Others may moderately engage with addictive substances throughout the week. No matter the case, it can be challenging to address an individual’s addiction, especially if they are also high-functioning.

High-functioning addiction is when an individual engages with addictive substances throughout the day while still tending to personal responsibilities, obligations, or maintaining workplace attendance. However, this individual may also feel the intense effects of withdrawal if they cease their use. 

For some, this means taking sips of alcohol with breakfast or throughout the day. Others may engage in drugs during their lunch break. Those struggling with high-functioning addiction may consistently use addictive substances multiple times throughout the day to maintain a feeling of being “normal,” even if they are not becoming obviously inebriated as a result. 

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Identifying Trauma, PTSD, and Addiction in Veterans

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The Dangers of High-Functioning Addiction

Just because an individual isn’t getting completely intoxicated as a result of their substance abuse doesn’t mean that their engagement with these substances is “safe.” The use of chemical substances, in any amount, is harmful to the body and mind. The liver and brain may have little time to process and expel these substances before an individual engages with them again. Often, this causes withdrawal symptoms, including anxiety, depression, and mood swings. 

Those struggling with high-functioning addiction also commonly engage in risk-taking behavior. Driving under the influence, public intoxication, and possession charges may result when an individual believes their use of addictive substances isn’t a “big deal.” These results may also occur due to an overconfidence in the ability to manage substance use. 

There is never a completely safe way to engage with drugs or alcohol. Even if an individual is tending to personal responsibilities, the damage that these substances do to the body, mind, relationships, and emotional health is intense. As addiction is progressive, it is only a matter of time before moderate or casual use develops into a harmful substance use disorder (SUD) that requires treatment to overcome. 

The Prevalence of High-Functioning Addiction in Veterans

Veterans are susceptible to developing high-functioning addiction in many ways. The pervasive drinking culture throughout military life can instill an unhealthy perspective of drugs or alcohol. Drinking is a common and accepted part of military life. Due to this, individuals may not recognize how much they are drinking, or how these substances are affecting their health. 

Veterans can also carry these cultures back home to civilian life. The stresses they face as a result of this transition – as well as the lingering effects of trauma, depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) – can encourage the use of addictive substances. 

Regular use of drugs or alcohol can be common among veterans, even as they are navigating other challenges and responsibilities. High-functioning addiction is dangerous and demands professional attention to prevent disastrous outcomes, including compromised physical and mental health, relationships, and legal issues. 

Identifying High-Functioning Addiction in Veterans

While high-functioning addiction may not be as obvious to identify as other forms of addiction, there are signs that an individual may still be struggling with their use of addictive substances. Some of the signs of high-functioning addiction include:

  • Difficulty sleeping or inconsistent sleep patterns
  • Nightmares
  • Sudden financial difficulty
  • Low motivation
  • Mood swings, anger, or pervasive irritation
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Excessive excuses surrounding the use of drugs or alcohol

Veterans struggling with this form of addiction may also adopt a more secretive lifestyle. They may become protective of personal space or belongings, typically to conceal hidden drugs or alcohol that they may have. Others may engage in increasingly isolating behaviors or adopt inconsistent work schedules or routines, making it difficult to track where they are or what they are doing. 

Tackling Pervasive Drug Use in Veterans
Tackling Pervasive Drug Use in Veterans

Veterans face a myriad of challenges, with drug use being prevalent as a result of their military service. Overcome drug use today by calling (866) 390-5070.

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Taking Action

There is no easy way to address high-functioning addiction. Veterans of the armed forces carry a unique perspective and set of needs when it comes to recovery. Professional help is necessary to address high-functioning addiction before the use of addictive substances leads to more destructive outcomes. 

Dedicated veteran programs can address a veteran’s use of drugs or alcohol, and the stresses veterans face that inform their use of addictive substances. A center for alcohol and drug treatment can help veterans seeking recovery.

We at Hawaii Island Recovery are committed to serving those who have served their country to overcome the challenges that veterans face. From your first step into our dedicated veteran program to our ongoing veteran and addiction support, we can help you challenge and overcome addiction before more destructive consequences occur. Our unique blend of proven therapeutic modalities, personalized support and care, and a focus on tending to an individual’s physical, emotional, and spiritual needs can help you challenge and overcome addiction. From detox and residential care to intensive outpatient care and veteran-focused communities, our alcohol and drug rehab programs in Hawaii are ready to help you today. For more information, call us at (866) 390-5070.