(CNN) – They’re not slumped over in alleyways with used needles by their sides. Their dignity, at least from outside appearances, remains intact. They haven’t lost everything while chasing an insatiable high.
They are functioning heroin addicts – people who hold down jobs, pay the bills and fool their families. For some, addiction is genetic; they’re wired this way. For others, chronic pain and lack of legal opioids landed them here. Or experimentation got them hooked and changed everything.
What addicts have in common, according to experts, is a disease that has more to do with their brains than the substances they use. About 85% of people can take a pain pill, for example, and never crave it again.
This is a story about the others, those travelling the dangerous road of functional addiction. What works for them now, experts explain, can easily and lethally be derailed.
Hanging in the balance are people you may never imagine: peers, co-workers and neighbours. Loved ones, bosses and teachers. Respected members of your community who, for the benefit of everyone’s understanding, want to be heard.