What is the Difference Between Abuse and Addiction?
Many people are not aware that there is a difference between drug abuse and drug addiction. Individuals of all ages and genders are affected by different types of substance abuses and addictions. Studies show, however, that these demographic differences may cause abuse and addiction to manifest in specific ways. With differences stemming from their effects and length of time of the behavior, the two are distinguished from one another in recovery and professional settings.
The primary difference between abuse and addiction, whether of drugs or alcohol, is that the former describes the abuse or misuse of substances, whereas the latter describes an uncontrollable use of substances. These factors reflect the different motivations or intentions of the individual.
The differing characteristics of drug abuse and addiction separate them into categories. Although distinct, drug abuse and addiction to drugs still hold in their common their potential to be destructive and even life-threatening.
Definitions of Substance Abuse and Addiction
The definition of abuse focuses on the way a person uses substances. When it comes to prescription drugs, for example, drug abuse can include:
Taking them more frequently than their doctor prescribed
Taking a different dose than what their doctor prescribed
Mixing them with other substances, such as alcohol or other drugs
Taking them without a prescription
Taking them with the intention of feeling “high” or elated
Taking a dose at the incorrect time
Forgetting to take a dose
Stopping a prescribed medicine before a doctor’s recommendation
All of the above are behaviors that qualify as substance abuse. When taken under proper medical supervision, prescription medications can help with longevity and overall quality of life. But these same prescribed medications also have the potential to lead to harmful side effects and possibly deadly results when misused or abused. Because of their potential for harm and misuse, prescription drugs should be used precisely as directed by one’s doctor, and taken only by the individual for whom they are prescribed.
When it comes to illicit or illegal substances such as heroin and methamphetamine, the definition changes. Since such substances wouldn’t be prescribed by a doctor at all, using them can be considered abuse in and of itself, especially since they have a high potential for abuse.
Substance abuse also includes the abuse of alcohol. While it is true that a person might abuse such substances without being addicted to them, it is rare for an individual to remain sober after regularly engaging in substance abuse.
A person engaged in substance abuse is one who chooses to continue to do so even though they are aware of its negative effects on their health, relationships, work life, and overall well-being. Such individuals will likely continue to abuse substances despite the deterioration of their social life and financial stability.
Substance addiction refers to person’s inability to stop using such substances altogether. Dependence on these substances occurs when an individual has built up a tolerance to a particular drug or drugs. Such examples include:
Physical body craving a substance such as drugs or alcohol
Exhibiting symptoms when a craving isn’t met known as withdrawal symptoms
Due to tolerance, needing to take more and more of the drug in order to achieve a “high”
Because consistent substance abuse in the context of addiction causes a chronic dysfunction of the brain’s reward system, it may affect memory, personality, and sense of motivation. These changes may develop into a compulsive or obsessive pursuit of the “reward” or sense of euphoria that substance highs provide for the body. Addiction, thus, can create a type of “tunnel vision” and cause the individual to focus on solely on the next fulfillment of their craving.
Often times, substance addiction is accompanied by other types of addictions. Studies show that education for young adults in the different types of addictive behaviors decreases their risk of engaging in abuses that lead to addictions. Such addictions may include:
How are Abuse and Addiction Linked?
Addiction and abuse are closely related in the fact that consistent substance abuse often develops into addiction. When a person forms an addiction to any substance, whether it be drugs or alcohol, it’s usually extremely difficult for them to quit their addiction without the help of outside resources such as recovery centers.
Substance abuse for long periods of time can cause a number of serious of health problems, including:
Drug-induced skin disorders.
Increased chance experiencing death by overdose
Furthermore, the engagement in abuse of prescription drugs such as opioids, central nervous system depressants, and different types of stimulants can lead to a number of detrimental health consequences, including that of addiction.
An individual who has just started to engage substance abuse still has an opportunity to avoid addiction if they stop, whereas a person with an addiction to substances may require drug or alcohol addiction treatment(s) in order to recover toward sobriety.
What can you do to prevent substance abuse and addiction?
Educate yourself with your own research and talking to your doctor
Discuss abuse and addiction with your family and friends
Keep the conversation open for them to express where they might be abusing substances
Keep prescription medications safe and secure when they are brought into the home
Store your medications safely to prevent accidental exposure to the elements
Safeguard drugs from those looking to abuse them
Properly throw away prescription drugs when expired or no longer prescribed
If you suspect that any of your friends or family members are abusing substances or have a substance addiction, have them seek immediate professional assistance by contacting a recovery center for more information and treatment options.