Many executives and professionals are able to function at a high level despite having serious problems with alcohol or other drugs. Many of these individuals are well accomplished in their jobs and careers and very skilled at keeping their alcohol/drug problem hidden from view until some type of crisis arises in their personal or work life . Given their ability to shoulder heavy responsibilities and manage complex situations, it is no wonder that these individuals have such a difficult time admitting to a need for professional help even after attempts to manage their alcohol/drug use on their own fail time and time again.
Barriers to reaching out for help
High-functioning individuals are accustomed to overcoming significant obstacles in their personal and professionals lives and are thus have a great deal of difficulty admitting to themselves and/or others any type of personal failure. Barriers to seeking help also include the positive benefits they derive from substance use, at least in the earlier or less intensive stages of use, such as instantaneous relief from boredom, stress, and fatigue. Alcohol reduces anxiety and instills and induces instant relaxation after a hard day’s work. Stimulant drugs like cocaine and amphetamine provide boundless energy and an enhanced ability to focus on otherwise boring and lengthy tasks. Opioids provide emotional “anesthesia” making it nearly impossible to feel upset about almost anything. All of these effects, however, fade over time as the alcohol/drug use continues. Moreover, they eventually produce negative effects such as reduced energy, depressed mood, increased anxiety, and reduced involvement with family and colleagues.
In addition to the above, concerns about confidentiality and fear of discovery are among the greatest barriers to seeking help. Going to public AA meetings or a local addiction clinic is flatly rejected by most high-functioning substance users. They are generally more receptive to the idea of having a totally private and confidential consultation with a private practitioner- an addiction specialist- who can offer personalized feedback and individualized treatment rather than a pre-templated one-size-fits-all approach.
Dr. Washton, a widely-recognized addiction psychologist and book author, offers customized substance abuse treatment for high-functioning men and women. His private offices are located in midtown Manhattan and in Princeton NJ.