The Difference Between Substance Abuse and Addiction


The Difference Between Substance Abuse and Addiction

Many people confuse the difference between substance abuse and substance addiction as they tend to be grouped together in the same definition. However, it may surprise you to learn there are a wide variety of differences between the two terms as far as the short-term and long-term effects, the type of behavioral, emotional and physical ailments each person goes through, and the big difference between their recovery and treatment options.


Typically, substance abuse happens before addiction, but the differences between the two things are more varied than that very basic generalization.

About Substance Abuse

Substance abuse is the term which refers to the condition where someone will show one of several different behaviors that take them from casual drug use to substance abuse. These behaviors include their work or school attendance or performance suffering as a result of the substance abuse, continuing to abuse the substance even when they notice how it is negatively effecting their personal friendships and relationships, ignoring warnings about its negative affect on their life, going through legal or financial problems where they didn't go through them before, and being involved in illegal or reckless activities. Someone who is abusing drugs or alcohol is using it excessively even knowing the potential dangers of the substance abuse and ignoring the warnings from their friends and family.

About Substance Addiction

Drug and alcohol addiction has its own set of signs and symptoms which can point you towards addiction rather than substance abuse. The signs and effects on a person's physical and emotional wellbeing are typically more severe than substance abuse. These include a tolerance to drugs or alcohol and the desire to continue to get higher doses of the drugs, use them more often and use different types of drugs in order to get the same effect; intense withdrawal symptoms that occur after stopping use or drugs or alcohol even for a short period of time; the inability to stop using drugs or alcohol in any sort of situation and making excuses why they can't quit the drugs or alcohol, and ingesting very dangerous amounts of their substance of choice.

Understanding the Differences Between Abuse and Addiction

One of the biggest differences between substance abuse and addiction is that substance abuse can lead to addiction; but this does not mean they are the same thing. It also does not work the other way around; nobody starts being addicted to drugs and then starts abusing them. Substance abuse typically occurs between an individual using drugs or alcohol casually and socially, such as drinking during happy hour with friends or doing recreational drugs and parties; and becoming completely addicted to the drugs.

One of the big differences is how it affects their personal and professional life. While individuals who abuse substances show behavioral differences in work, school and relationships, individuals who are addicted are more severe in the way their lives are altered. They let the drugs or alcohol consume their every thought where all they care about is how to obtain more alcohol or the next time they will be able to get high.

Another big difference is the withdrawal symptoms experienced after stopping use. Substance abuse will lead people to experience some mild withdrawal symptoms such as pain if they were taking pain relievers for chronic pain, mild insomnia or headaches. On the other hand, individuals who quit using drugs or drinking alcohol when they were addicted will experience these symptoms along with more severe ailments such as anxiety, depression, muscle weakness and spasms, seizures, heart palpitations, fever and chills, delirium and hallucinations. Someone who is abusing drugs or alcohol may have an easier time quitting use than someone who is completely addicted and the treatment options will also vary.

Drug Rehab Centers

While there are a lot of differences between substance abuse and drug addiction, one thing is similar; it is dangerous to be involved in either one of these and getting help is crucial. Even before substance abuse becomes addiction, you are putting your body and emotions through a horrible ordeal, with many long-term effects. In order to lessen some of these lasting effects, you need to seek treatment. If you are having trouble quitting on your own and remaining sober from the drugs or alcohol you have been abusing or been addicted to, seek help from a local drug rehab facility. They have experienced and knowledgeable staff that will guide you through your treatment options which may include inpatient or outpatient treatments for overcoming your substance abuse problem and helping you with your drug or alcohol addiction.

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