Many Hong Kong expats suffering from addiction may be described as HFAs or high-functioning addicts – due to their ability to meet the demands of their job, family responsibilities and other social commitments while struggling with their addiction. And while some might be aware of their addiction problem others  may not be… 

high functioning addict

Many people do not realise that a large percentage of addicts and alcoholics can actually keep their life in control, even through their addiction.  Contrary to popular belief, not every addict will crumble and hit a complete rock bottom before seeking treatment for their substance abuse disorder. There is a vast population of high-functioning addicts who are able to balance the scales of success and addiction which is especially true for many high-rollers in Hong Kong. Drug abuse in Hong Kong has increased drastically in recent years – especially among the managerial level expat community.

What is a High-Functioning Addict?

The high-functioning addict is a phrase that describes a person who appears to lead a highly productive, seemingly manageable and almost idyllic life. At least on the outside. On the inside, however, they are living a secret dual-life. One a life of visible success, control, and high-achievement. The other a life of dark internal struggles where an excess of alcohol and drugs are used as a way to escape daily stresses and provide them the ability to ‘let loose’.

A study conducted by the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism in 2007 revealed that 19.5% of alcoholics – almost four million people – fit into the “functional” subtype of addiction. These high-functioning alcoholics have the ability to balance their professional and private lives, exempting them from experiencing the usual turmoil that many other alcoholics experience through loss of jobs, relationships and more.

Expats in Hong Kong often have a lot of stress at work, and many are given to partying and using cocaine and other substances in large amounts on the weekend according to a recent CNN report. They work hard during the week – and play even harder during their spare time. Their families are typically far away, and the drug use begins to get more frequent and of larger quantities. Eventually, they are poisoning their body and mind with drugs at every chance while doing everything they can to maintain their jobs during the week.

These functioning addicts usually hide in plain sight. They will go to extraordinary lengths to hide their addiction, and many are so good at it that not even their friends and family know. Functioning addicts may be able to juggle their lives and addiction for a period of time, but inevitably what goes up must come down, and their lives eventually fall apart – often in tragic ways. In Hong Kong, many high-functioning addicts can be found among the white-collared workforce, including bankers, lawyers and managers.

Many Alcoholics and Addicts Don’t Fit the Typical Addiction Stereotypes

Addiction stereotypes, caused by the stigma of addiction, conjure up images of addicts who are dishevelled, homeless, and non-contributing members of society. However, not every addict fits this stereotype. Some of the people suffering from addiction are the people we least expect. In fact, many may be straight-A varsity students, or mothers and fathers who come from the middle to high income strata of society.

No one ever suspects the dedicated mother who is always on top of her responsibilities to be downing glasses of wine in the bathroom. Nor do they suspect the student who has yet to achieve less than outstanding grades, of popping pills of Oxy on a daily basis. An ambitious and successful business man is often the last person anyone would suspect of having an addiction. Unfortunately, Hong Kong expats who have high-stress jobs frequently become involved in excessive drug-use. The use of cocaine in Hong Kong is incredibly common among expat businessmen.

Party situations in which having a few drinks or doing a couple lines of cocaine is the norm for the situation, allow addicts to continue with their addiction without others noticing. However, a high-functioning addict will be using heavily in private as well.   Most high-functioning addicts are highly competitive, proud, resourceful, and have high expectations of themselves and others which can often be a cause for drug use. These high achieving users have a lot to lose should their juggling act fail – including their livelihood, families, and even their entire career which is why many do not reach out for help when they need it.

Getting Help for Their Addictions

When a high-functioning addict finally realises they need to get help, they are not likely to be able to attend an inpatient rehab centre for four weeks or more – because of their job and often family responsibilities that can not be disregarded while they go away to a rehab facility.

As well, those with high-profile positions will often not want their addiction problem to become public. The risk of their addiction becoming common information makes them uncomfortable: What would their work colleagues and family members say?

So when taking an extended leave of absence is not an option, outpatient addiction treatment centres are the next best thing. The Cabin Hong Kong opens its doors in the centre of Hong Kong this February 2015, and offers an addiction treatment schedule that can fit the lifestyle of even the busiest high-functioning addicts.

Clients at The Cabin Hong Kong will receive an initial assessment where qualified, Western-trained counsellors will decide whether or not the treatment programme will be a good fit. In some extreme cases, inpatient treatment or detox sessions will be needed prior to beginning the programme – but each client is assessed individually and appropriate schedules and programmes will be made accordingly.

For the high-functioning addict, privacy is of utmost importance. If they have been able to keep up a regular appearance while in the throes of addiction, they are absolutely not going to want their addiction to go public now that they have decided to get treatment. And privacy is the number one promise from The Cabin Addiction Services Group at all of our locations.

Our second promise is to provide a programme that is not only highly-successful, but that fits in with your lifestyle. If you or someone you know is having trouble with an addiction, contact a professional addiction counsellor today for more information on how to go forward. Every addict should have the chance at a healthy, fulfilling life.