Substance abuse and addiction are closely related, but they are not the same thing. Knowing the difference makes it easier for you to take the next steps and help yourself or a loved one.
What Is Substance Abuse?
The act of abusing a substance involves taking any drug or alcohol for the wrong reasons, in the wrong amounts or without medical approval. If you use the term substance abuse to refer to the clinical health concern, you are actually referring to “substance use disorder.” This phrase gives the issue the medical backing it deserves. It is marked by clearly defined symptoms. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), these symptoms involve, “impaired control, social impairment, risky use, and pharmacological criteria.”1 So what does that mean? If you are looking for signs of substance abuse in yourself or a loved one, look for the following:
- Taking more of the drug than intended
- Taking the drug for longer than intended
- Wanting to or being unable to cut back on use
- Spending a significant amount of time getting and using the substance
- Experiencing cravings or urges to use
- Using despite experiencing problems in your relationships with others
- Giving up personal or professional activities because of use
- Experiencing tolerance
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms
You don’t have to experience all of these to be experiencing substance abuse. In fact NIDA explains that if you have experienced any 2 of these over a 12-month period, you should begin to ask questions about and look into resources for help with substance use disorder. When you take action, you begin to heal.
What Is Addiction?
Substance abuse leads to addiction. The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) explains, “Addiction is a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry. Dysfunction in these circuits leads to characteristic biological, psychological, social and spiritual manifestations. This is reflected in an individual pathologically pursuing reward and/or relief by substance use and other behaviors.”2 You will experience more, or more severe, versions of the symptoms listed above. You’ll find that you can’t stop using on your own no matter what consequences you begin to face. Addiction is a disease, and it needs professional medical care. However, with this care, it is entirely treatable. ASAM continues, “Addiction professionals and persons in recovery know the hope that is found in recovery. Recovery is available even to persons who may not at first be able to perceive this hope.” Addiction is a chronic disease, but it is not a life sentence. You can find a healthy, happy life.
You’ll also find that, when you choose recovery, you’re in good company. Substance abuse and addiction often leave you feeling alone. However exactly the opposite is true. The National Institutes of Health shares a study that found, “4 percent of Americans met the criteria for drug use disorder in the past year and about 10 percent have had drug use disorder at some time in their lives… More than 23 million adults in the United States have struggled with problematic drug use.”3
Substance abuse and addiction are nothing to hide. They are reasons to stand up and speak out. Put an end to substance abuse and addiction.
How Do I End Substance Abuse and Addiction?
No matter where you are in your recovery journey, Michael’s House can help. We meet you where you are, answer your questions and design personalized treatment plans. Our expert medical professionals and caring counselors can help you find freedom from drugs, alcohol and the mental health concerns that often overlap these issues. We are here for you any time of day, so please call 760-548-4032 for more information.
1 “The Science of Drug Abuse and Addiction: The Basics.” National Institute on Drug Abuse. Oct. 2016.
2 “Definition of Addiction.” American Society of Addiction Medicine. 19 Apr. 2011.
3 “10 Percent of US Adults Have Drug Use Disorder at Some Point in Their Lives.” National Institutes Health. 18 Nov. 2015.