Substance Abuse Vs. Addiction

Definition of Substance Abuse and Addiction

Substance Abuse and Opioids | Addiction Vs. Substance Abuse | Find Addiction Rehabs | Morphine and needles on tableUnfortunately, more and more people every day enter into substance abuse. In fact, one 2013 study proved that 24.6 million Americans over the age of 12 used illegal substances at least once during the past month. That is startling, considering it equals 9.4 percent of the population; it represents an enormous jump from 8.3 percent in 2002.

However, one essential thing to keep in mind about these drug users is that they might not yet be addicted to the drugs they have tried. Many are sampling drugs for the first time under peer pressure or out of curiosity about how it feels. Sadly, some will enjoy this experience intensely and continue using the drug until they have an intense physical drug addiction.

Understanding the difference between substance abuse and addiction is critical to know how to handle your personal drug or alcohol abuse. By better understanding your own situation, you can find the best program to help you fight back and reclaim control of your life.

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What’s Addiction?

Addiction is more than just taking bunches of drugs. It’s actually recognized by medical professionals as a chronic disease. That distinction means that it’s a condition that’s most out of your control. While people struggling with addiction might have started to use drugs voluntarily, the decision quickly spiraled out of their hands, and they lose self-control due to physical damage in the brain.

Once a person becomes addicted, they soon develop a physical and mental dependence that does not allow them to quit taking drugs without assistance. They may suffer withdrawal symptoms or be unable to cope emotionally or mentally without their drug of choice. Because of this, their social, professional, and family lives experience negative consequences. Often, they lose it all.

Causes of Addiction

There is, unfortunately, no clear reason a person begins to suffer from addiction. In most cases, there are many contributing factors, including the following:

  • Genetics, which may account for nearly 50% of a person’s chance of developing an addiction


  • Age, because the younger you are when you first use, the more likely your substance abuse will turn into an addiction


  • Environmental factors can include early exposure to drugs, peer pressure, physical or sexual abuse, or inability to cope with stress.


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What’s Substance Abuse?

Heroin Drug Paraphernalia | Find Addiction Rehabs | Woman using syringe to withdraw heroin from spoonSubstance abuse differs from addiction because the user can control it. For instance, a person who abuses substances might use several different drugs. However, because they are not addicted or dependent upon the substances, they can stop whenever they want to. Addiction is a more brutal form of substance abuse because the average person who abuses drugs is considered a “recreational user,” whereas those with substance use disorders are often termed ‘dope fiends, ‘junkies,’ or described as ‘fiending for drugs.’ None of these descriptions gets to the root of why the person is using and engaging in self-destructive behavior and does little good.

Sure, substance abuse doesn’t have either the stigma or the chronic effects of addiction. But it still involves taking illegal drugs or abusing legal drugs by using them in a way that they were not prescribed for use. Substance abuse can be just as risky as addiction and carries just great of a chance of a lethal overdose.

Causes of Substance Abuse

People may begin to use drugs for a number of reasons. Perhaps they’re bored, just curious, having trouble coping with life, or facing intense peer pressure. Regardless of the initial cause, here are some common factors that play a key role in drug abuse:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Chaotic lifestyle
  • Reduced self-esteem
  • Emotional suffering
  • Growing up around drugs

Substance Abuse and Addiction Treatment

Sadly, there is no cure for substance abuse or addiction. That said, there are a few ways to address these issues and help prevent relapse. Perhaps the most successful treatment is behavioral therapy; this modifies a person’s drug use habits and helps them cope with co-occurring mental illnesses that may be feeding the addiction.

In general, the length of treatment for either substance abuse or addiction depends upon how long you’ve been abusing drugs and how severe the addiction is. A person who simply uses casually might not need any intensive treatment; however, a person who faces a true addiction might need months of treatment, including detox, rehab, and therapy.

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