Drug Abuse Vs. Drug Addiction: What’s The Difference?

Drug Abuse Vs. Drug Addiction: What’s The Difference?

Most people at some point have a discussion about the differences between drug abuse and drug addiction. One side typically thinks they’re the same thing, and the other sees a myriad of differences between the two. But unlike many commonly debated terms, knowing the difference between drug abuse and drug addiction can radically impact the quality and effectiveness of the treatment decisions you make.

Explanation of Drug Abuse

Abuse is also called exploitation or misuse in the context of both legal and illegal drugs and alcohol. Technically defined, it can mean one of eight things.

  • Fraudulently obtaining drugs from a pharmacy or dispensary using a prescription belonging to another person
  • Using a drug for a purpose other than for what is was prescribed, such as ingesting pain killers to induce a recreational high
  • Consuming a larger dose of a drug than recommended by a label or physician
  • Involvement in adversarial work, family or legal matters due to misuse of drugs
  • Inflicting harm on someone or oneself while under the influence of drugs
  • Constantly changing plans or going to great lengths to obtain drugs or find a safe place to use them
  • Needing to take drugs to engage in or take pleasure in activities formerly enjoyed sober
  • Finding one’s mind is obsessed throughout the day with obtaining and taking drugs


Explanation Of Drug Addiction

Addiction is much more complex than abuse. While some addicts take months or even years to evolve, others claim the addiction was instant and happened on their very first use of drugs or alcohol. No one knows exactly how psychological and biological factors contribute to addiction, if one or the other pays a larger part, or if the factors vary in each individual. The definition of addiction endorsed by The American Society of Addiction Medicine states it 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.”

Here are some signs of addiction:

  • Suddenly losing interest in work or career, cutting off ties with friends, abandoning favorite pastimes, or avoiding public contact
  • Continual use of a substance, regardless of physical deterioration, loss of friends, or legal troubles
  • Obvious physical andorental withdrawal symptoms upon cessation
  • Repeatedly failed attempts to quit using or reduce intake of a substance
  • Being deceitful about ingesting a substance, lying about using a substance, or concealing suspicious activities
  • Blatantly avoiding interaction with friends and family, or isolating oneself from society
  • Requiring larger amounts of a substance to attain the same intensity of its effects


Differences Between Drug Abuse And Drug Addiction

Drug abuse is often a passing act, perhaps even a one-time lapse in judgment, or brought on by stress, a weak moment or peer pressure. However, it can quickly escalate into addiction, so it shouldn’t be ignored.Conversely, addiction is not a passing fancy. The initial signs of addiction typically include a lack of ability stop using a drug, a constant craving for a specific drug, or refusing to acknowledge a problem may exist or ever did.

Approaching The Problem  

 A major problem with addiction is that if often escalates at such a slow rate, it’s not noticeable by people closest to the addict, including coworkers, close friends and family members. If you notice any of the above symptomatic behaviors, talk to a trusted professional before approaching someone you suspect of addiction. If the professional agrees that there may be a problem, calmly broach the subject with your loved one at home, in private. Staged interventions should only be considered as a last resort and if you choose that path, consult with a mental health professional familiar with the process and how to structure it for optimum results.

Seeking Solutions

 If the problem is confirmed after speaking to the person you believe is in trouble, reach out to the professional again, either alone or with the person experiencing the problem. Once the assessment is complete, the professional may suggest several treatment alternatives and nearby treatment facilities. Suggested options will likely include either in-patient or outpatient counseling and treatment at a facility such as drug rehab Irvine. If the addiction is opiate related, you may be advised to explore the center for opiate addiction treatment Orange County.

Important Closing Thoughts

People besieged with drug addiction are often fraught with tremendous guilt, shame, or both. It’s of paramount importance that those feelings are minimized as they can detain or derail the healing and recovery procedures.

It’s also imperative that you recognize that drug addiction is not a moral or ethical shortcoming. It’s a bona fide illness that is documented and accepted by the world medical community. Seeking professional help is the only hope to saving a person from a life of pain or perhaps prevent their untimely demise.

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