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Functional Addict

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"I'm a functioning alcoholic. The trick is not to get hung up on the 'alcoholic', but celebrate the 'functioning' part of the sentence."
Nathan Ford, Leverage

Because Drugs Are Bad, the world of fiction is famous for treating drug addicts as feeble, broken people living in disheveled apartments (or in a worst-case scenario, homeless) and constantly muttering to themselves. However, there has been a general trend lately towards portraying addicts in a different light. These drug users, with addictions just as serious, can lead very normal lives, at least to the strangers on the street. They can wake up in the morning, go to work, have a family, and interact socially without any noticeable problems, as long as they are getting their "fix" when necessary.

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Simply put, the addiction does not entirely dictate this person's actions. Typically, this kind of addict can go long periods of time without getting their "medicine" and doesn't depend on their drugs as a "crutch". Often, this is because they can always get the drug when they need it or have the willpower to keep themselves from getting out of control.

In Real Life, these kinds of addicts can go their entire lives without ever becoming dysfunctional. It isn't real likely, but it can happen. Fiction, on the other hand, almost always treats them as ticking time-bombs, slowly working up to the one event that will send them over the edge. While crossing the line into dysfunctional territory definitely happens in Real Life as well, the key difference is that fictional sources treat this as inevitable.

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Could be justified because fiction typically involves putting characters through unusual, dramatic, and stressful situations which do increase the likelihood of an addict becoming dysfunctional. Also, Conservation of Detail comes into play. It's usually not worth mentioning that the character has an addiction if it plays no role in the plot and tells us nothing important about the character.

It's common for none of the other characters in the work to even know that there is an issue until it becomes a severe problem. It is also commonly used as The Reveal for a particular character on a Very Special Episode, where it is revealed that they have been a functional addict throughout the series and are now coming to terms with it.

Compare Dark Secret, for characters with any kind of sinister secret in hiding, and Drugs Are Bad, for when problematic drug use is the only kind of drug use. Also compare/contrast Addled Addict, when drugs are taking their toll. Compare Recovered Addict, who may cycle into and out of addiction.

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Examples:

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    Anime And Manga 
  • Bird's Nest in Copernicus Breathing takes drugs when he is overwhelmed by the memory/ghost of his little brother Michel and is borderline Driven to Suicide.
  • In A Cruel God Reigns Jeremy becomes a drug addict and prostitute to help him cope with the Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder he suffers from due to months of torture and rape at the hands of his step-father. So not quite "functional", but more functional than he would have been.
  • In Drugstore in Another World, protagonist Reiji's delicious and extremely effective "super (energy) potions" accidentally make functional addicts out of the entire town of Kalta. Out of the main cast, Reiji's beloved assistant, Noella, and the Red Cat Brigade's captain, Annabelle, are the ones most visibly addicted to the stuff, either sneaking from the backroom stock or nearly driving her organization to financial ruin from supporting her habit. However, aside from those neither show any side-effects or issues from excessive long-term consumption, which is especially notable as super (energy) potions are described as magical caffeinated energy drinks like Red Bull.
  • Maiden Rose: Klaus exhibits the deconstructed form of this trope. He is implied to have been addicted to morphine in the past, so once he is injured and needs it to help enhance his performance, it's not very effective and he has to increase dosages. As one would expect, he doesn't stop using it after that and it's still up in the air whether he'll be able to curb the addiction again or not.
  • Kobayashi from Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid drinks a lot of beer (and is often seen suffering from hangovers), but it never interferes with her job as a programmer or her role as Kanna's Parental Substitute.
  • Misato of Neon Genesis Evangelion drinks a lot of alcohol, to the point of having a fridge full of nothing but beer, but it's never shown to interfere with her job, where she's actually quite competent and is one of the (relatively speaking) more well-adjusted members of an extremely dysfunctional cast. She also seems to quit near the end of the show, replacing alcohol with coffee and cigarettes.
  • Ruriko Daichi from Private Actress is an extremely famous and talented actress. She's also a very bitter Lady Drunk, which is driving people away from her.

    Comic Books 
  • Baker Street: According to Inspector Pinner, even when she was addicted to cocaine, Sharon Ford was still the best detective in CID.
  • In Chassis, Covergirl is in constant pain and addicted to painkillers as a result of the accident that nearly crippled her. However, she is still one of the top drivers in the Aero-run despite her addiction.
  • Dynaman, the Tex Thompson-created Superman expy in The Golden Age, is shown to be a cocaine addict long before it is revealed that he is actually Adolf Hitler's brain transplanted in Daniel Dunbar's body, yet it doesn't affect his abilities as a superbeing, as he can still take quite a beating in the final massive superhero confrontation before Alan Scott as Green Lantern starts turning him into hamburger.
  • Iron Man: Despite his far more well-known breakdowns, Tony Stark actually spent a lot of time beforehand as a functioning alcoholic. Of course, as is typical of works of fiction, that went downhill so steeply that he slammed straight into rock bottom. Hard. Granted, Tony's gone through a lot of awful shit, so his descent into full-blown alcoholism wasn't unjustified.
  • Derrick Hinch of Revival smokes weed regularly during his downtime, but he's holding down a job as a freelance tattoo artist, maintaining relationships with his girlfriend and son, and is very useful to Dana on high-risk missions. None of that redeems him in Dana's eyes due to the addiction and his lack of ambition.
  • Cade Skywalker in Star Wars: Legacy seems to do fairly well despite his death stick addiction. Especially since many users don't survive too long once they're addicted.
  • Tarn of the Decepticon Justice Division in Transformers: More than Meets the Eye is addicted to transformation but carries out his duty (torturing and killing Decepticon criminals) nonetheless. Somewhat subverted in that it causes him to rapidly burn through transformation cogs, which could lead to death if he wasn't getting replacements from Pharma.

    Fan Works 
  • In Black Flames Dance in the Wind: Rise of Naruto, Asuma reveals to Naruto that in his youth he took a Super Serum that makes you far stronger but also kills you if you don't take it daily. His cigarettes are actually laced with minute traces of the drug, just enough to keep him from suffering withdrawal but not enough to continue improving him.
  • Eugenesis has Springer, a former junkie who's attempting to wean himself off the normal drugs he used to take and is also dosing up the Transformer equivalent of steroids to try and keep up on the battlefield. He falls off the wagon at the worst possible time and ends up OD'ing just as Autobot City is swarmed by Quintessons.
  • New Tamaran: Supergirl is a sex addict who's proudly banged almost every other young hero (and heroine) in the world. This doesn't stop her from being an inspiring superheroine or a good friend. She also harbors romantic feelings for Jimmy Olsen and claims that she would gladly give up her promiscuity to be an Official Couple with him.
  • Ships Ahoy!: Just like in canon, Oprah has an addiction to juice boxes, and Olesya, her boss, has an addiction to jellybeans. Both addictions are likened to substance abuse by Olesya himself, although it doesn't appear to be at the point of concern, and both girls practice moderation. Patterns of the Past expands on it by having Olesya state that even after she retired from Odd Squad, she could never kick her jellybean addiction and that she's a "horrible quitter". Oprah counters with her juice bar, and Olesya tells her that she definitely doesn't see her juice addiction going away anytime soon, which they both laugh at.
  • Sugar Plums: The main character Ume is mentioned in passing to be dependent on sleeping pills to get more than few hours of sleep a night because of constant nightmares caused by her experiences. This isn't treated as a big deal by anyone until she also starts using antidepressants, but neglects to tell most of her companions for fear that they'll think she's broken. Not only do said antidepressants cause negative side effects (like headaches and nausea) when she uses jutsu (because chakra is linked to emotions, so chemicals that regulate emotions messes with the drug) but after being heavily injured in a fight and going unconscious for several days she almost dies in the hospital because she starts suffering seizures from withdrawal.

    Film — Animation 
  • Evelyn in Incredibles 2 is implied to be an alcoholic, but she's functional nevertheless.

    Film — Live Action 
  • The Assistant: It's implied that Jane's powerful Bad Boss is one due to the sheer volume of prescription medication she loads into his office desk. She even has to pick syringes from his garbage to put into medical waste bags.
  • Better Living Through Chemistry: Doug Varney is addicted to pharmaceutical drugs, but manages to fulfill his obligations despite his addiction, although it's clearly taking a toll on him. It helps that, as the chief pharmacist, he knows the effects of the drugs and tries to balance them out to avoid lasting damage.
  • Carlito's Way: Sean Penn's character David Kleinfeld is a mob lawyer and frequent cocaine user. He starts off the film apparently able to keep his act together, but he rapidly goes downhill into a spiral of ego, paranoia, and making incredibly rash and foolish mistakes with the various criminals he surrounds himself with. It doesn't end well for him.
  • By Die Hard with a Vengeance, John McClane is a near-alcoholic, and as a result, almost always has a hangover. While it causes him no small amount of suffering, he manages to remain fully capable of kicking the bad guy's ass.
  • The Expendables: Gunnar is heavily suggested to be a junkie (a heroin addiction, presumably, based on the typical understanding of the word "junkie", but his exact addiction is a mystery), which heavily clouds his sense of better judgment and seriously afflicts his personality, yet he's still able to take on Ying Yang, and would have beaten him in one-on-one combat had Barney not interfered.
  • El Indio, the Big Bad of For a Few Dollars More, spends the entire film in an opium-induced haze. While it definitely affects his personality, it doesn't seem to impair his planning, and he remains an efficient, competent, and frightening villain, who stays one step ahead of Monco and Colonel Mortimer until the final act of the movie.
  • Ghosts of Mars: Melanie Ballard (Natasha Henstridge) is a drug addict, but manages to hold down a job as a police officer. Ironically, her drug use ends up saving her life. When she's possessed by a Martian ghost, Jason Statham's character gives her a puff of her own drug. Melanie can take it, the alien ghost can't and bails out. Compare one of the thugs, who is addicted to a different drug (a highly-nitrated compressed air) that results in him cutting off his own finger and, eventually, dropping a grenade at his own feet. Definitely not an example.
  • In Itsy Bitsy, Kara is still functional in her job, but she gets caught stealing pain pills from Walter, and Sheriff Jane notes that she's showing the signs of an addict jonesing for their fix.
  • Michael of Life of the Party has managed to keep his life together pretty well for being drunk through a good bit of it. However, the movie opens as his attempts start to fall apart.
  • Looper: Joe is efficient at his job in spite of his youthful addiction to the "eyedrop drug". His older self got help from his wife in getting off of the stuff.
  • The Magnificent Seven (2016): Joshua Faraday's a heavy day-drinker while Goodnight Robicheaux and Billy Rocks smoke opium-laced cigarettes, but that doesn't stop any one of them from being three members of a Badass Crew.
  • Minority Report: John Anderton has become addicted to "Neuroin" as a means of dealing with the loss of his son and his being framed for future-murder. He is able to hide this from all but his closest acquaintances, and it does not seem to hinder his ability to function as a cop. It's implied that New hEROIN is specifically designed to produce functional addicts. The same drug is also responsible for the creation of the precogs, whose mothers were addicts.
  • Molly from Molly's Game starts abusing drugs and alcohol to cope with the stress and pressure of running her games. She holds it on a leash so that she is never visibly out of control to her clients of employees, but during the trial, she admits that her judgement was seriously compromised and that's why she made the blunders that brought everything down.
  • Laura from Nathan's Kingdom is an opioid addict, but she still manages to hold down a job (at least until Nathan unintentionally gets her fired).
  • Ophelia: Gertrude has become addicted to a tonic that her twin makes her. It doesn't appear to stop her from functioning as Queen of Denmark though.
  • Schindler's List: Oskar Schindler is shown to be a very heavy drinker. He uses this to his advantage by taking Nazi officers out in the town, matching them drink for drink, and staying level-headed while the Nazis get sloppy and easily manipulated.
  • Superdome has football player Dave Walecki, whose addiction started with painkillers for his bad knee and then expanded into other types of prescription drugs. It doesn't stop him from playing football, but it's bad for his marriage.
  • In the film adaptation of Trainspotting and its sequel, this is what Sick Boy claims to be, first with heroin and then with cocaine. How functional he is actually is left ambiguous.
  • Valentine: Adam Carr has a drinking problem but still holds a consistent job as a sports writer. He's also a highly competent and dangerous Serial Killer.
  • "Teardrop" in Winter's Bone. He's competent and level-headed despite being hooked on meth.
  • Gary King from The World's End is unquestionably an alcoholic, and harder drugs are implied. While he literally prioritizes getting drunk over his own survival at several points, a hint at his suicidal tendencies, he still manages to go hand-to-hand with the Blanks and maintain his toxic charisma.

    Literature 
  • Christiane F.: Christiane is a drug addict and a prostitute, but for all that she continues to attend school every morning (in Germany at the time, school was only half a day).
  • Danny, the Champion of the World: Mr. Snoddy is a kind, well-regarded teacher who's always sipping from a glass of "water", which Danny discovers is actually gin.
  • Discworld black ribbon vampires specifically try to become this. Human blood isn't strictly necessary for Discworld vampires to survive, with animal blood being a perfectly serviceable if distinctly unsatisfying substitute. To help them be better neighbors and stop mobs from forming every few weeks, Black Ribboners take up drinking animal blood and shift the leftover addiction to a more benign hobby — shown examples include photography, politics, and police work/spying. It doesn't matter what they're doing, they're all addicted to something.
  • The protagonist of Heroin Story manages to have a successful and respectable career, despite being addicted to opioids for decades.
  • Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan is able to work as a CIA intelligence analyst despite a heroin problem, acquired during his recovery from the helicopter accident that resulted in his medical discharge from the US Marine Corps; a well-meaning nurse over-prescribed his morphine. In Patriot Games, it's noted that this makes him leery of painkillers in general. It should be noted that he appears to have entirely beaten this addiction — apart from painkillers prescribed for him at the beginning of Patriot Games while recovering from a gunshot wound, he is never seen taking any kind of opiate or painkiller. His low-level cigarette addiction (a result of job stress) on the other hand...
  • Maul: Lockdown: CO Smight is a spice addict, but he's capable of doing complicated security scans and escorting a dangerous prisoner with no trouble. He's also the only one of Jabba's enforcers who infiltrated the prison to escape when Warden Blirr sics a bunch of bloodthirsty gang members on them.
  • Dr. Hetterton from Naked Came the Stranger takes morphine to deal with his disappointing career and the wife he's grown to dislike, but is still able to work as a general practicioner and moonlight as an abortionist.
  • The brilliant detective Sherlock Holmes is a cocaine addict, but there was nothing wrong with it back in Victorian times. He apparently needs his fixes only when there aren't any interesting cases to solve. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was actually ahead of his time when he had Watson give Holmes a tongue-lashing over his habit in The Sign of the Four, and in one of the later stories (written after the harmful effects of cocaine had become more widely known), Watson mentions that Holmes's addiction had eventually gotten bad enough that it had started seriously interfering with his work, upon which he was finally persuaded to quit. Yet even after he kicked the habit, his severe boredom during downtime between cases would always cause Watson to worry about the possibility of a relapse.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire:
    • Tyrion Lannister is frequently depicted drinking and expresses a fondness for it, but is almost always in control of the situation and manages to perform most of his duties. The fact that his drinking seems to have spiraled out of control at the beginning of A Dance with Dragons underscores just how badly events have spiraled out of control for him.
    • Gregor Clegane is addicted to opium, or "milk of the poppy" as it's called in setting. It doesn't stop him from being one of the most deadly fighters in Westeros. Or really have much of an effect on him at all, seeing his horrible migraines continue with or without the stuff.
  • The Stormlight Archive: The Alethi are afflicted with something called "the Thrill", a nationwide bloodlust that drives them to fight, kill, and conquer. The Alethi make little attempt to rein in the Thrill, and commanders often use it to motivate their troops, letting them descend into controlled bloodlust in battle. Much of Alethi culture makes more sense when you consider that many of them are literally addicted to killing people, and have constructed their entire society to justify it. The downside of this policy comes to a head in the climax of Oathbringer, when Odium brings Nergaoul (the source of the Thrill) to Thaylen City, driving the entire Sadeas army insane and turning them on the city they were supposed to be defending.
  • Temeraire:
    • The Alcoholic Mr. O'Dea is sentenced to transportation and labour in Australia, where he meets Laurence and soon reveals himself to be one of the most dependable and well-rounded members of the crew. This may be due in part to the fact that his employment guarantees him a daily rum ration for good behaviour.
    • Ambassador Hammond starts chewing coca leaves in Crucible of Gold to help his airsickness; by League of Dragons, he is never without a substantial supply, which doesn't stop him from feats like gunning down an obnoxious nobleman in a duel.
  • To Sail Beyond the Sunset: Maureen Johnson is addicted to casual sex, yet she still lives a wholesome life.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Arrow Season 2, Laurel; having turned to alcohol and other drugs to deal with repeated trauma, grief, and guilt; is initially this. Several other characters are noticeably worried, but she manages to balance her addition and job as an ADA. Then Sebastian Blood exposes the fact that she's illegally self-medicating when he realizes that she knows that he's a Villain with Good Publicity, leading to her being fired from the DA's office and facing a review from the Bar Association. Lacking a reason to be functional, she quickly stops being functional and spirals.
  • Babylon 5: Londo is a more-or-less functional addict, holding down his job despite heavy drinking and gambling; as his arc grows progressively darker, the gambling and the drinking both taper off, except when he's drinking to put his Keeper to sleep. Keep in mind that sobriety and teetotalism is regarded as a vice in Centauri society. Presumably, many in the royal court and governing assembly are functional addicts. Londo states in one episode that since Centauri always have duties to consider, they turned the pursuit of pleasure into another of their duties, one which must be performed diligently. So drinking is literal Serious Business for them.
  • Breaking Bad:
    • Jesse starts out this way, mainly a pot smoker who occasionally dabbles in meth while still functioning close to normal, at least until his girlfriend gets him hooked on heroin and he turns into a junkie.
    • Andrea is a much more straight example. She is clearly a meth-head, but it doesn't stop her from forming relationships or being a responsible and loving parent. It appears that she's outright stopped using after she and Brock move into a new (safer) home.
  • Bron|Broen: Henrik takes pills for insomnia, then takes stimulants to counteract the strong sleep aids and get through the day. He does not get high, and it does not affect his professional performance negatively. However, his illegally obtaining the stimulants opens him up to blackmail; he can't quit without going through withdrawal; and eventually he overdoses.
  • Buffyverse: After being cast out of Angel Investigations in Angel Season 3, Wesley starts drinking heavily, and again in Season 5 after Fred's death; in the latter case, Spike himself sniffs out that Wesley's been getting hammered constantly. Despite this, he's still able to keep fighting the good fight on both occasions.
  • Call the Midwife has Nurse Beatrix "Trixie" Franklin, a seemingly bubbly glamour girl who is — although genuinely trying to be happy, positive, and having a good time — also hiding a childhood with a Shell-Shocked Veteran father where she was one of a very small number of good things in his life. While her drinking is always seen as a little on the high side, it doesn't affect her work until Series 4, when she runs into several major crises at once.
  • In Charite, Doctor Behring tries to treat his psychological issues with Laudanum. He also attempts withdrawal a few times, but on those occasions, he winds up with shaky hands and thus useless as a surgeon, and his mood swings get worse to the point of a total emotional breakdown.
  • A number of characters on Cheers could be considered high functioning alcoholics — excluding Sam, a teetotaller due to his past experiences with the bottle. Norm Peterson might be the prime example. He's able to keep up with his accounting job for years despite the alarming amount of time he spends getting soused at the bar. One episode has the characters trying to convince Sam to let Norm do his taxes. Sam doesn't want him to, not because he thinks Norm will screw it up, but because he doesn't want to have to figure out what to do with a massive refund. When he loses his job it has nothing to do with his drinking, and he rebounds into a successful house painting career.
  • Community: In the last season, Jeff has slipped farther into alcoholism and depression, but is still able to do his job without much trouble. He doesn't seem to understand what the word "alcoholic" actually means, as when Frankie calls him a "functional alcoholic" he thinks it's an oxymoron.
  • Played with in Dark Angel. A flaw in Max's engineered genetics means she has tryptophan deficiencies. Without large regular doses, she has crippling muscle spasms. Because of the state of America After the End, the stuff is expensive and hard to come by — though not quite as much as the steady supplies of chocolate, milk, yogurt, red meat, eggs, fish, poultry, and/or peanuts she'd need to get by without supplements. Because she keeps her condition a secret from her friends, they think she's addicted to recreational drugs and throw away her pills before even confronting her. It comes across as kind of a dick move, though it doesn't help that she won't even explain herself even when they stage an intervention for her.
  • Zig-zagged in Elementary, given that Sherlock Holmes is a recovering addict. He claims that he doesn't need a sober companion, anonymous meetings, or a sponsor, saying he's done with drugs. However, various episodes reveal that, at different times, he was either a complete wreck or at the top of his game. In fact, "A Giant Gun Filled With Drugs" has his former drug dealer come into town asking Sherlock to find his kidnapped daughter. When he notes that Sherlock doesn't appear to be on the same level as before, he offers Sherlock a hit out of desperation. Sherlock appears to want the bag but then throws the guy out. At the end of the episode, he reveals that he fights the desire every day, and that particular temptation was merely one of many. Later episodes reveal that when his addiction was at its peak, he was barely functional and bungled quite a few cases due to this.
  • ER's Doug Ross, who from the very first episode — where he shows up at the hospital drunk and his coworker's reaction makes it clear that this isn't the first time — is established to have a drinking problem, but never once admits to being an alcoholic, even when he finally gets his life together. Given that it never causes him any professional problems and he seems less inclined to drink when his life is going well, it's possible that he's just very good at Drowning My Sorrows.
  • A French Village: Müller is addicted to morphine he uses for dealing with the pain of an old war injury. Usually he's fine, but when his supply is cut off, he struggles greatly.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • Tyrion and Cersei both spend an inordinate amount of time with a cup of wine in hand, particularly when they are nervous or upset, but it generally doesn't affect their control of a situation.
    • A minor character example is Thoros of Myr. He appears to be at least slightly buzzed, if not actively having a drink, about every time he's on-screen. It doesn't stop him from surviving the harsh sociopolitical climate of Westeros (and being around to revive Beric Dondarrion a half dozen times) but it does come back to bite him when he joins the ranging party north of the Wall in the penultimate season. He takes a wound and dies overnight from a combination of injuries and hypothermia — something that may have been avoided had the alcohol in his system not dulled his senses.
  • Hannibal: When Zeller makes a comment about recovering alcoholics in Jimmy Price's presence and belatedly apologizes, Price only quips, "Oh, I'm not recovering." Nonetheless, he's a dependable FBI crime scene investigator and his addiction doesn't get any screen time.
  • Heroes: Exaggerated with heroin addict Isaac Mendez, who is actually most functional when he is using heroin, as he has precognitive abilities that only work when he is.
  • Justified:
    • Played with. Detroit mob lieutenant Robert Quarles pops Oxy pills like candy, but he's still shown to be a cunning and ruthless villain. However, as his plans are thwarted by Boyd and/or Raylan, his drug use increases, and his stability and sanity decrease.
    • Colton Rhodes is a former military policeman who was kicked out of the army due to drug use. He initially seems to have his drug use under control and quickly becomes The Dragon to Boyd Crowder. However, a few setbacks and having to go against his Even Evil Has Standards morals causes him to start seriously abusing heroin again and he quickly becomes a wreck. Toward the end of the season he manages to stop using for a bit and he briefly regains his previous competence.
  • Law & Order: Special Victims Unit: Sonya Paxton is eventually revealed as a functioning alcoholic. She's able to disguise her behavior by being a hardass, but eventually she gets so out of control that she's forced to take a breathalyzer test in the middle of a trial and is subsequently disbarred... or rather, suspended. She returns the following season, attending AA meetings and overall putting in a really solid effort not to drink. Ironically, she's actually nicer when she's sober, even though irritability is an extremely common withdrawal symptom.
  • Leverage:
    • Discussed by Nate, who is an alcoholic and still manages to serve as leader for a band of thieves:
      "I'm a functioning alcoholic, you know? And the trick is not to get hung up on the alcoholic but celebrate the function part of the sentence."
      His battle with his addiction is a frequent plot point and major recurring theme throughout the series. It reaches its nadir in "The 12 Step Job" when he has to be in a rehab center as part of a con, leading to him genuinely suffering from alcohol withdrawal.
  • Many characters are like this in Mad Men, particularly around booze. Don Draper himself can usually work well while being an alcoholic, even boozing up at work. However, when characters in this series fall down the steep slope of addiction, they crash hard.
  • In the Miami Vice episode "Theresa", Crockett's titular girlfriend thinks of her opioid addiction as a relatively minor flaw that doesn't interfere with her work as a doctor. She still winds up selling police information to criminals in order to pay for her addiction.
  • Nurse Jackie is a functional addict to Oxycodone. She regularly snorts or chews it, yet she never shows any signs of inebriation and she is able to work effectively as a nurse. Contrast to her coworker Sam, who is very clearly high at work, including showing no response to pain, having glossy eyes, and showing too much amusement at the way a sheet moves while making a bed.
  • Odd Squad: Oprah is addicted to juice and has up to a thousand juice boxes on the daily (later cutting back to one hundred), but she's perfectly competent and can very much handle her own at work. In fact, when she's forced to cut back on how much juice she drinks in "Xs and Os" due to budget cuts, she goes through severe withdrawal symptoms that make her a weakened Technically Living Zombie who can only cry out for juice by the climax.
  • Pulsaciones: In the first episode Álex Puga can successfully perform more than half of the surgeries in his department due to the drugs he takes allowing him to stay active for longer. However, eventually the Surprisingly Realistic Outcome occurs and his drug abuse gives him a serious heart attack.
  • Sherlock: The titular character's addictions include nicotine (in the form of patches) and mysteries. He can normally function well as long as he has the latter. However, at least one episode has him running around demanding just one cigarette when no cases are available. There is also this exchange from "A Study in Pink" that implies that if Sherlock isn't using currently, he did at some point. (The fact that Lestrade thinks to call it a drugs bust at all also suggests that maybe the police know something that John doesn't.)
    DI Lestrade: It's a drugs bust!
    Dr. John Watson: Seriously. This guy, a junkie? Have you met him?
    Sherlock Holmes: John.
    Dr. John Watson: I'm pretty sure you could search this flat all day and you wouldn't find anything that you could call recreational.
    Sherlock Holmes: John, you might want to shut up now.
    Dr. John Watson: Yeah, but come on... [sees Sherlock's expression] No...
    Sherlock Holmes: What?
    Dr. John Watson: ...You?
  • Star Trek:
    • Tasha Yar of Star Trek: The Next Generation was born a drug addict, as her mother was an addict who didn't make any attempt to regulate her habit while pregnant. It only gets mentioned a few times (most notably in an episode where she gives a lecture to Wesley on how people get into drugs at all), and she is never shown using.
    • Played with in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. The Jem'Hadar are an entire race of addicts, the Founders having created them with an addiction to a narcotic called "ketracel-white", which contains an enzyme their bodies cannot naturally produce. Jem'Hadar with a steady supply of white are capable of operating normally, but without the white, they suffer from horrifying withdrawal symptoms that include increasing anxiety, an inability to "shroud", and eventually, berserk rage before their genetic structure ultimately collapses and they die.
  • Supernatural: A surprisingly realistic example: By Season 4, Dean is drinking heavily in order to self-medicate his Hell-induced PTSD. He never really quits, but his alcoholism doesn't interfere to any great degree with his ability to function. Bobby and (it's strongly implied) John were also functional alcoholics. It seems to be a fairly common affliction for hunters. The rest of the characters certainly treat it very matter-of-factly.
    Sam: Can you even get drunk anymore? It's sort of like drinking a vitamin for you, right?
  • Played to hilarious effect in the episode "Intervention" of Titus: Christopher Titus's father Ken, in Titus's words, "never missed a drink, or a joint, or a party, or a chance to get laid in his life. But he also never missed a day of work, or a car payment, or a house payment." The plot of the episode is that Ken has become a shambling mess of a man... because he's stopped drinking, and the intervention is to get him to start drinking again. So here's a case of a functional addict who's only functional when he's drunk!
  • Will & Grace: Karen's complete addiction to pills and alcohol is a Running Gag, but she is entirely functional and coherent in her daily life. Oddly, not lampshaded at all in the episode where Will gets addicted to pain pills.
  • The Wire:
    • Jimmy McNulty is a particularly believable example; hard-drinking and described by his best friend as "an emotional train-wreck of a human being", he clearly has many issues, but is still able to come up with creative solutions to hard cases. While he is obviously an alcoholic, it's not until season 5 that his alcoholism is explicitly called such (it mostly gets accepted as typical "cop" behaviour), but in a scene where the FBI are investigating a fake serial killer McNulty has invented to gain access to funding that would otherwise be denied to less glamorous cases. The FBI only listens to a short piece of "serial killer" McNulty talking, but they use it to nail his personality almost exactly, describing him as an arrogant, high-functioning alcoholic. McNulty is visibly shaken by how accurate they are, especially given that he was loudly proclaiming the inaccuracy of FBI profiles not a minute earlier.
    • Bubbles is as functional as a homeless heroin junkie can be, which hints at all the squandered potential he had before succumbing to his addiction. He mentors two different homeless youths on how to stay alive on the street, providing a range of schemes for them to make ends meet.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • Doonesbury: Duke has consumed an enormous amount of alcohol and other drugs throughout his life, in accordance with the Hunter S. Thompson caricature he was originally. While few of his many schemes and high-profile jobs have proved successful in the end, that hasn't been due to Duke's substance abuse so much as his arrogance, jerkassery, and poor judgment even when sober.

    Podcasts 
  • Sammo and Wink of Mission To Zyxx are two highly skilled Rebellion agents who save the heroes' bacon more than once. They are high on Dust in every appearance.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • "Stone Cold" Steve Austin is possibly the best example. A heavy drinker who takes his beer very seriously yet doesn't let it affect his ring work.
  • "Hangman" Adam Page, who is rarely seen without a drink in his hand, has mentioned sitting at home with a bottle of whiskey while not working and regularly drinks beer during matches, yet is still able to defend his title.
  • WCW and ECW icon the Sandman has done pretty well for himself, despite (because of?) smoking a joint and drinking multiple beers on his way to the ring.

    Roleplay 
  • All vampires in This Is War count as this, being equally fleshed-out and functional characters as any other species, but needing regular hits of blood to survive.

    Video Games 
  • Frank Fontaine from BioShock is on ADAM, like the rest of Rapture, but has used just enough of it to survive while avoiding going into full-on Splicer status. When you corner him at the end, though, he overdoses on all of the ADAM in his possession, becoming superhuman... and utterly insane.
  • Cyberpunk 2077:
    • Johnny Silverhand is shown to be taking drugs and abusing alcohol in his memories, as a part of his Sex, Drugs and Rock & Roll lifestyle. When he confronts his girlfriend, Alt, after an argument, she will dismiss his apology as him just trying to get some drugs from her. Despite that, he performed on stage with no problems and managed to raid one of the most guarded buildings in the universe with next to no problems. It's possible that a lot of his Jerkass behavior after V slots a chip with his personality into their head comes from the fact that it's the first time in years he's been sober and he's having withdrawal symptoms. Later in the story, when V allows him to take over their body to talk to Johnny's old friend who can help them, Johnny will go on a bender during which he drinks and does drugs to the point of throwing up multiple times.
    • Kerry Eurodyne, Johnny's bandmate, seems to be in the same boat: Johnny reminisces a couple of times about his and Kerry's exploits while not completely sober, and in the current times, Kerry's house is littered with empty alcohol bottles. V can visit him between missions, and if they ask about what he's been up to lately, he will answer with, "Drinking, mostly. And procrastinating." It's also implied that he does drugs of some kind. This doesn't stop him from (maybe it even helps with) being an international music sensation. We also never see him clearly drunk/high.
    • Henry, the third member of Samurai, is outright said to have been drunk and/or high during every single concert they played by Johnny and Kerry. He showed up sober once and played absolute garbage.
  • The Templars of the Dragon Age series are essentially this. Their anti-magic powers are strengthened by eating lyrium, which is extremely addictive, but they are still fully capable of using those powers to police the Circle of Magi and hunt down rogue mages. All active-duty templars are functional addicts, but for every one of them, there are several for whom the years of enforced lyrium dependency have led to becoming burnt-out shells. Alistair, a Templar-in-training who became a Grey Warden before taking vows, still has Templar abilities without the lyrium or the addiction.
    Alistair: Lyrium just makes Templars' talents more effective, or so I was told. Maybe it doesn't even do that.
  • Every dwarf in Dwarf Fortress "needs alcohol to get through the working day". Trying to run a functioning fortress without booze is generally a bad idea, as a sober dwarf will work increasingly slowly and get unhappy thoughts from not having their alcohol, and any alcoholic creature (not just dwarves) will perform tasks just as well as sober ones, except for the occasional incident when they drink too much and start ludicrously deadly bar fights or just die of alcohol poisoning.
  • Fallout:
    • Using chems can lead to chem addiction, which gives stat penalties while you're in withdrawal. It's not that hard to get by with an addiction, however, as chems tend to be plentiful, and doctors can cure your addiction for a few caps. In the earlier games, it's possible to become addicted to Nuka-Cola. Nuka-Cola withdrawal doesn't even give stat penalties, just messages about how a Nuka-Cola would be nice to have.
    • Fallout: New Vegas: Rose of Sharon "Cass" Cassidy, one of the potential companions, is an obvious alcoholic (you even find her in a bar, besides several empty bottles of whiskey) that mentions getting in bar fights often and even making moonshine when she doesn't have anything to drink on the road. Not only does she still look good despite that, she's also capable of shooting and fighting well like any other companion. Her companion perk, Whiskey Rose, even has the potential of turning you into a functional addict as well by giving a bonus for drinking whiskey and removing the penalties from alcohol addiction.
    • Fallout 4:
      • John Hancock, a possible companion of the player character, abuses every chem in the Commonwealth (and even became a ghoul originally after taking a hit of an experimental radioactive drug) but it never fazes him one bit. How much of this is due to using chems for so long, or his ghoul physiology, is unknown.
      • Cait, a human companion, is also an addict who is nonetheless fearsome in the heat of battle, but in her case, it's treated as a legitimate problem for which she eventually seeks assistance from the Sole Survivor in curing, if she ends up liking them enough. Depending on the player's actions, this can become a case of Compressed Vice, since the player may have Cait accompanying them constantly, and never see her taking chems. There's even a dialogue option to mention this. Cait shrugs it off by stating that she makes sure the Sole Survivor can't see her when she's taking chems.
  • Heavy Rain: Norman Jayden is apparently a functional addict of Triptocaine (however, ARI is what's actually causing the withdrawal effects), though he can die from overuse. Despite how it can interfere with his work and personal safety, he is the most competent officer of the police station (player involvment aside).
  • Miss Applegate from Kindergarten is addicted to the pills the principal gives out to nosy children, but while she is indeed a terrible teacher and person, this is for reasons unrelated to her addiction. There is only one time where her addiction affects her overall performance, which is during morning time, where giving her some pills makes her lenient towards you raiding your classmates' cubbies. This all changes in Kindergarten 2 though, where she's been cut off following the principal's death. Even a day off the pills has her both physically and mentally ravaged; she shows very little restraint in her violent tendencies, cares even less about her job, has a massive screaming and sobbing meltdown if pushed too hard, and is not above threatening or carrying out murder when the opportunity to get new pills arises.
  • Max Payne, arguably. The painkillers are not just a gameplay mechanic, but per Word of God, Max has a genuine addiction to them. He still manages to do his job, or at least shoot straight. Which, in Max's case, makes up about 95% of his functionality. Deconstructed in Max Payne 3: The painkillers and alcohol (and V drug) combined make Payne superhuman when fighting normal mooks, but half of Payne's problems and failures throughout the game wouldn't have happened if he didn't have a serious need to drink himself stupid. Most notably, Mrs. Branco (his boss's trophy wife) might have stayed alive if Max wasn't busy drinking instead of doing his job as a bodyguard.
  • Grand Theft Auto:
    • Anthony "Gay Tony" Prince from Grand Theft Auto IV: The Ballad of Gay Tony is pretty much constantly off his ass on cocaine. And he somehow manages to run two of Liberty City's hottest nightclubs.
    • Trevor Philips from Grand Theft Auto V is a psychotic meth-head, alcoholic, and gasoline huffer. He's also a crack pilot, and pretty much rules the meth scene in the desert almost single-handedly, gleefully stating that meth keeps him young.
  • LISA has party members who are often addicted to Joy, which has a lot of nasty withdrawal symptoms that more often than not render the party member useless. The two exceptions are Brad and Carp, who still can hold their own while in withdrawal. The latter retains good attack power, has awesome agility to start with, and his Fevr River skills are incredibly useful despite his withdrawal.
  • In Metal Gear Solid 2, Solid Snake wryly notes that his "retirement" consisted of him being "holed up in the middle of nowhere in Alaska, drinking too much." He was still, however, able to properly raise and race an absurd number of huskies during that time, and when called back to do the mission on Shadow Moses, he seems to suffer from no ill effects from being away from alcohol over a 24-hour period. As well as this, Snake is a heavy smoker for the entirety of the series; it's only when his health begins to fail him in Metal Gear Solid 4 that the other characters become concerned and insist that he quit, despite his refusal to do so (the logic being that if he's going to die soon anyway, what harm could it do now?). He does eventually quit, however.
  • In Piss, Moira functions well enough to maintain her job as a mercenary, despite a severe drinking problem.
  • Stardew Valley:
    • Pam (bus driver) and Shane (Joja Mart stocker) are both alcoholics with jobs, and both jobs are affected more by your actions (funding the bus repairs/driving Joja Mart out of business) than by the drink. The same can not be said for their personal lives; Pam's husband left her and her daughter is The Resenter, and Shane is suicidally depressed.
    • Sebastian's smoking (implied to be marijuana) doesn't affect his programming work, and the only time he even tries to quit is if you marry him and have children, since he doesn't want to set a bad example for them.
  • Stellaris implies this with leaders who develop the "Substance Abuser" trait. The description notes that the leader has turned to substance abuse (the specific substance being left to the player's imagination) to cope with the stresses of their position. While it noticeably shortens their lifespan, they're not any worse at doing their job until they shuffle off the mortal coil.
  • High Elves in World of Warcraft were essentially too addicted to magic and functioned for generations by sustaining themselves on the magic of their sacred Sun Well, but when the Sun Well was destroyed their entire race descended into withdrawal and they became the Blood Elves. The Blood Elves started siphoning fel magic from demons to soothe their withdrawal and a faction of them even enslaved an angelic entity to feed off of it. Player Character Blood Elves up to restoration of the Sun Well were functional addicts, and various forms of degenerate blood elves who had descended too deeply into their depraved addictions were common antagonists in the Burning Crusade expansion.

    Webcomics 
  • Imp: Celina appears to be addicted to alcohol, but seems to have no problem staying sober when she's away from home, according to her imp.
  • String Theory (2009): Dr. Schtein, without a doubt. Considering all the drugs he's on, it's astonishing he can manage to walk, let alone work as a super-scientist for the government.
    Schtein: I sometimes take amphetamines. You know, to stay alert... but that's more of a casual use thing... Um, then... sometimes I take sleeping pills. You know, the speed sort of keeps me awake. Maybe a little pot, and if someone offered me coke at a party I wouldn't exactly say no, uh... Spent an entire weekend when I was nineteen tripping balls on Ayahuasca... that's not important though, is it?

    Web Original 
  • Hazbin Hotel: Angel Dust is a drug addict and Husk is an alcoholic, but they're mostly coherent and no more comedically sociopathic than the rest of Hell.
  • Mahu: In "Frozen Flame", prince Arius finds a drug den full of stoned orc barbarians with his army. Attempts at communication all fail and soon a battle takes place between the forces of the prince and those orcs, which, high as they might be, manage to group themselves into regiments to face their new foe.
  • RWBY:
    • Qrow Branwen's alcoholism doesn't seem to dull his abilities as a professional Huntsman all that much. He can fight with the best huntsmen, is quick on the uptake, and perceptive. Aside from the occasional bout of severe drinking where he ends up insensible, most of the time he acts like he isn't drunk beyond a slight slur to his speech. In Volume 6, learning Ozpin's secrets about Salem so shatters his faith and trust in Ozpin that he quickly stops being functional, with Ruby being increasingly worried about his ability to cope; when the group is attacked by a horde of Apathy Grimm, he is so insensible that he doesn't even notice the danger the girls are in — they instead have to rescue both themselves and him. By the end of the Volume, he decides to quit for good.
    • Willow Schnee, who was driven to heavy alcoholism by her marriage to a cold, abusive Corrupt Corporate Executive, is capable of downing half a bottle of vodka in one go and still holding a perfectly coherent conversation. She also retains the mental faculties to secretly install cameras throughout Schnee Manor to spy on her husband in case he does something truly heinous.
  • Parody Janeway in SF Debris's reviews of Star Trek: Voyager survives mostly on a cocktail of coffee, booze, nicotine, and an ever-shifting blend of Romulan marijuana and old-fashioned human cocaine. While it wouldn't be technically accurate to call her "functional", given her status as a Memetic Psychopath, most of her dysfunctions are independent of the drugs and come from her being a cackling supervillain.
  • Jhoira from Tolarian Community College comes off as one while describing her methods and suggestions for defeating Nicol Bolas. Giant robots, super-soldier slave races, and time water...
    The Professor: I'm sorry, did you say "Time Water"?
    Jhoira: Yeah, you just drink a bunch of it and you find yourself in the future. I drink Time Water like crazy!
    The Professor: [sniffs at an offered bottle and recoils] This is vodka.
  • We Are Our Avatars: Basse is confirmed to be an alcoholic and regularly engages in drug usage. However, she is frankly one of the group's more consistently rational and collected characters.

    Western Animation 
  • Archer:
    • Sterling Archer, like Max Payne above, is constantly drunk (or seeking drink due to his high tolerance), yet can still shoot and/or whore his way out of any combat situation. At least three-quarters of said combat situations are egged along (or outright started) by Archer's whoring, lack of social empathy, and addiction to his own adrenaline; yet the alcohol itself is (rarely) the direct cause of his woes.
    • In Season 5, Pam becomes addicted to cocaine, sometimes eating pounds of it in a day. The only problem this causes is to ISIS's finances since they want to sell the stuff; Pam's health isn't affected (in fact, she loses quite a bit of weight) and her behavior is mostly the same barring the comedic rampage she goes into once she gets cut off.
  • Disenchantment: In late Part 2 and Part 3, while Bean is still obviously The Alcoholic, she doesn't get blackout drunk in the streets like she used to, and is able to balance her drinking with getting things done.
  • Bender, and Futurama robots in general, are essentially a commentary on functional alcoholism, as they literally need alcohol in order to function, or else their fuel cells run dry and they get uncoordinated, have difficulty speaking, and are prone to erratic behavior. In other words, sobriety is to robots as drunkenness is to humans. Bender could actually survive on mineral oil, but it makes him surly.
  • Andre from Inside Job (2021) is high on almost everything possible and then some, but he's also the head of biochemistry and the resident surgeon despite the fact that he has no medical degree. In fact, he can barely function when he isn't higher than a weather balloon, as sobriety causes his Tourettes and OCD symptoms to kick in hard.
  • Rick and Morty:
    • Rick is constantly drunk yet remains the most intelligent (albeit idiotic) person in the series no matter how drunk he is. He's also dexterously athletic with lots of stuttering and burping. While the symptoms of extreme alcoholism are apparent, Birdperson is quick to explain that the abusive nature of alcohol is the only thing preventing Rick from committing suicide due to the horrors he has witnessed/committed.
    • Parodied with Shrimply Pibbles, effectively an alien version of Martin Luther King Jr. who needs Jerry's penis as a heart transplant (just roll with it). Jerry finds out that in spite of the man's accomplishments he's a heroin addict and tries to make this public to discredit the man and get out of donating his penis... only for the audience to point out that the atmosphere of Shrimply's planet is 10% heroin and the man isn't addicted; his species needs to breathe heroin to survive. Naturally the audience quickly surmises Jerry's intentions and proceed to boo him off stage.
  • Homer from The Simpsons is one, as he can guzzle some truly absurd amounts of beer and still live a (relatively) normal life and work as a power plant safety inspector (which he's incompetent at, but that's for reasons unrelated to his alcoholism). However, Depending on the Writer, this can vary greatly.
  • Dr Venture on The Venture Bros. is described by the creators of the show as "an addict, not a junkie." He needs the pills to function (and take care of his various neuroses) but is never portrayed as pathetic because of that, more as a side-effect of why he's really pathetic.

    Real Life 
  • Drinking enough to get an elephant drunk was a popular and widely tolerated pastime in the Eastern Bloc throughout the Communist Age (in the top of yearly alcohol consumption per person, the former Communist countries held 11 of the first 12 places as late as 2010) and shunned only when the drunkard became too dysfunctional to work and socially interact properly.
  • Theodore Dalrymple's Romancing the Opiates, among other interesting facts, describes studies in which people with opiate (i.e. opium, morphine, heroin, Oxycontin) addictions were able to maintain jobs for years, quite sufficient to maintain their habits. Compared to other abused substances, the short-term effects of opiates are not all that debilitating (compared to say, alcohol or cocaine).
  • Christopher Titus's father was a functional alcoholic — in his own words:
    My father never missed a drink in his life. Or a joint. Or a party. Or a chance to get laid. He also never missed a day of work. Or a house payment. Or a car payment. I never went hungry, though he did a couple times so I wouldn't.
  • Studies have shown that giving pure medical heroin on prescription left a group of heroin addicts more functional than a control group that was treated with methadone. In countries that allow these kinds of programs, they figure it's better to have addicts get their fix in a medically supervised setting with known purities of the drug rather than them getting them off the street. The theory also applies to methadone maintenance where heroin maintenance is politically infeasible. Methadone doesn't get users high, but as with heroin maintenance therapy allows addicts to develop a stable lifestyle instead of committing crimes to get their fix or risk overdoses from the varying purity of street heroin.
  • Ernest Hemingway was known as a functional alcoholic who drank heavily but still managed to write classic literature.
  • William S. Burroughs became a heroin addict during WW2 and remained one to his death at 83. He was a well-regarded Beat Generation and postmodern artist.
  • "I wrote my songs despite the fact that I was a drunk, not because of it." — Warren Zevon, commenting on the early days of his success.
  • Hunter S. Thompson put his drug use on center stage in much of his work, including Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. He was also a legendary drinker. To the point where his biography notes that at one point he went in for an operation and nearly died after the surgery from alcohol withdrawal.
  • Billie Holiday, among many other successful jazz musicians, was a frequent heroin user.
  • Oskar Schindler was a very heavy drinker who was noted to have a nearly superhuman tolerance for alcohol. One of his favorite tactics to getting favors from the Nazi government was going out drinking with Nazi officers. They would get sloppy drunk, while he stayed level-headed.
  • Hungarian mathematician Paul Erdős was well-known for being jacked up on speed and caffeine most of the time. He died at the ripe old age of 83, being one of the most celebrated scientists of the century. His many friends had long tried to get him to drop the habit, but once he went sober for a month on a dare, the man complained that while high his head was teeming with ideas after just stealing a glance of a piece of paper, but the only thing he saw while sober was a blank piece of paper.
  • Up-and-coming Soundcloud rapper Lil Peep was self-described as a "productive junkie", but also advised his audience to stay away from drugs. However, he ended up overdosing on fentanyl and dying at the age of 21.
  • NFL legend Lawrence Taylor. Two-time Superbowl champion, Hall of Famer, 2x defensive player of the year, sack machine, and big, big fan of crack cocaine. As LT himself has stated numerous times, most times in the huddle he wasn't thinking of the play. He was thinking of going back to the locker room and smoking crack. Despite his prodigious love of said drug, it seemed to have zero impact on his playing career.
  • Ron White is a chain smoker, an alcoholic, and recreational drug user who says his habits could have sent him to an early grave. However, he finds sobriety to be unedurable so he moderates his usage instead.

 
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Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Functional Alcoholic

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Caroline

While not functional in a "giving to society" sense, Caroline takes cocaine, crack, crystal meth, black-tar heroine and "an entire bottle of Flintstones vitamins" and she seems to be a lot more adjusted than those addictions (alone and together) imply. Especially funny when being sober for three hours is a long time for her.

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