What is the Difference Between Substance Abuse and Addiction?

If you’ve noticed someone you love has been using drugs, it’s easy to assume the worst. However, not all cases of drug use or abuse mean the user is spiraling downward into addiction.

The main difference between substance abuse and substance addiction comes down to how much control the person has over their use. In short, someone abusing drugs can choose to stop if they want to, while someone with an addiction has developed a need to continue having these substances.

Someone Who is Abusing Drugs Will…

Someone who is just abusing drugs may be experiencing problems in his or her life because of their drug use, but they can stop whenever they want.

Taking a drug for non-medicinal purposes is the basic definition of what it means to abuse drugs. All addicts abuse drugs or alcohol, but not all those who abuse drugs or alcohol are addicts.

Substance abuse may be sporadic or situational, such as someone who gets drunk alone after a particularly difficult day, or it may be prolonged, such as someone who uses drugs to deal with depression.

Just because an addiction is not present doesn’t mean the substance isn’t causing problems in the user’s life. The substance abuse may be causing strain on the person’s relationships or in other areas of his or her life.

Someone Who is Addicted to Drugs Will…

Drug abuse is the first step toward drug addiction. When a person’s abuse of drugs becomes more compulsive or uncontrollable, they have developed an addiction.

Addiction re-programs the brain to prioritize the feeling of the high. Any problems caused by their use will be amplified if the person is addicted. Getting drunk or high will become the most important thing to the person.

They may begin pushing away long-term friends, not showing up for work, or experiencing financial strain. Despite this, the person continues to use or drink because they physically cannot stop themselves.

Are You Dealing with Substance Abuse?

Abusing drugs or alcohol is the first step to developing an addiction. If you or someone you love is abusing drugs or alcohol, it’s important to deal with the underlying issue while the substance use is still relatively easy to stop.

If you or your loved one has developed an addiction to drugs or alcohol, know that many people have successfully overcome it and gone on to live a full, happy, recovered life.

Let’s Talk

Any Length Retreat is a 5 acre ranch in Austin, TX where addicted men and their families find lifelong recovery through the application of the Twelve Steps. Contact us to tell us your story.

Get In Touch With Us