Many people consider themselves either an addict or not, but it’s not always that simple. Active addiction refers to someone who’s currently using drugs or alcohol and isn’t in recovery. This guide reviews what you need to know active addiction.
What Is Active Addiction?
Active addiction can best be described as lacking willpower or control in regard to addiction. When someone is described as having an active addiction, they’re likely misusing substances openly or in secret. They could be taking measures to make sure they have continued access to the substance, such as hoarding alcohol or making significant purchases of prescription medications or street drugs.
Some people may attempt to address their addiction alone, but without sufficient treatment, they could still have an active addiction that causes them to relapse and return to the substance. In many cases, withdrawal symptoms may drive people with active addictions to return to drugs or alcohol to cope. Professional addiction treatment centers can help people deal with their withdrawals by using behavioral therapy and medications designed to address drug withdrawal symptoms.
When evaluating addiction vs. recovery, it’s possible for someone to become an active addict again when experiencing a relapse. What’s dangerous about active addiction is that many people intentionally remove themselves from support systems that can help them remain sober or bounce back when they have a moment of weakness. They might know that certain people in their lives will try to offer them help and thus deliberately hide what they’re going through from these people out of fear of shame, judgment or disappointment.
Inactive Addiction vs. Active Addiction
When someone comes to terms with their addiction and seeks treatment, they may have an inactive addiction once they’ve learned how to control their desire to use drugs or alcohol. It’s important for them to acknowledge that they’re still an addict, even when they’re not misusing substances. This isn’t to shame or discourage them in any way but rather to help them stay aware and know when to reach out for help if they’re feeling like they could relapse.
When someone says they’re in recovery, they have an inactive addiction. They’re aware of their addiction but aren’t currently drinking or using any drugs. Strategies for remaining in recovery include identifying the underlying mental health issues contributing to addiction, undergoing cognitive behavioral therapy and sharing their experiences with others who can offer support and coping strategies.
How to Identify Active Addiction
When someone has an active addiction, they usually try to hide it from the rest of the world. They fear getting caught for several reasons. They could be fired, lose their friends’ respect or disappoint members of their support system. If someone has returned to drugs or alcohol, they may have also forgone any coping skills they learned during prior interventions.
Signs that someone close to you has an active addiction include:
- They’re constantly trying to borrow money or may have been caught stealing.
- Their sleep patterns have changed — they’re either sleeping way too much or not nearly enough.
- They’ve stopped taking care of themselves and look tired, worn out or like they’ve had significant weight loss or gain.
- They’re visibly intoxicated or high and it’s affecting their job performance or how they handle day-to-day routines.
- They continue trying to obtain alcohol or drugs, even though they say they want to quit.
- They’ve stopped doing things they enjoyed or cut positive influences from their life due to fear of being caught.
- They suddenly hang out with new friends who also use alcohol or drugs.
- They steal prescription medications from other people.
Why People Hide Their Active Addictions
People with active addictions might want to do something about it but don’t believe they can possibly break free from the dependency. It may be so powerful that they’re more worried about the strong withdrawal symptoms and suffering they could go through when they quit than how the substance is harming them. The primary reason they attempt to hide their condition from others is that they don’t want anyone to interfere.
How to Help an Addict With an Active Addiction
How to help someone with an addiction depends on your own position.
If You’re Also an Addict
You may want to help someone with an active addiction because you empathize with them, but dealing with addicts when you are one yourself can be complicated. You don’t want to try to help only to be drawn into using a substance yourself. You may need to set boundaries with the person, such as not going places or participating in activities that could trigger your own addictions.
What you can do if you notice someone else has an active addiction is offer understanding. One of the reasons many people don’t seek help is that society often shames addicts rather than recognizing that addictions are often linked to factors that aren’t in our control. For example, many people have a dual diagnosis where a mental health condition such as depression or anxiety could be what drives their dependency.
You need to look out for yourself, so refer someone with an active addiction to someone who can help. Letting them know that you can’t surround yourself with people who have active addictions is the best course for both of you.
If You’re Not an Addict
If you don’t have an addiction, it’s hard to understand what someone is feeling when they can’t control their dependence on drugs or alcohol. The last thing you should do is frame the conversation like it’s their fault, because shame and guilt are why many people hide their addictions to begin with. Show the person you understand they’re dealing with a disease and that it doesn’t dehumanize them or make them a bad person.
Be patient with them, because they need to make the choice on their own to seek help. When they’re ready, offer support and resources for them to get the help they need. Sunlight Recovery offers treatment options that address the root causes of addiction so patients have all the tools they need. For more information, call (888) 402-3647 to speak with one of our experienced and compassionate counselors.