Abuse vs Addiction

Substance Abuse vs. Addiction

The terms ‘substance abuse’ and ‘drug and alcohol addiction’ are often confused and used interchangeably. While both are serious social, psychological, and physical problems that require medical detoxification and professional treatment, there is a difference between the two terms, and how clinicians treat them. How can you tell the difference of abuse vs addiction?

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) is the foremost medical resource for diagnosing and understanding mental health and addiction disorders. The DSM-IV defined substance abuse and addiction as two different disorders. The most recent version, DSM-V, does not create a distinction between the two terms. By medicalizing both substance abuse and addiction, people and facilities can then receive the proper funding for treatment and research programs to learn more about the addiction epidemic spanning our country.

What Is Substance Abuse?

Substance abuse can appear to be less invasive into a persons everyday life, compared to a full blown addiction.Substance abuse can also many times mark the early stages of what could later turn into an addiction. For a person using alcohol, substance abuse is described by The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration as:

  • Up to one drink each day for women
  • Up to two drinks per day for men

Consuming more than that level can be considered alcohol abuse and has a possibility of turning into developing an alcohol addiction. The same can be applied to misuse of prescription drugs.

  • Taking more of your medication than prescribed
  • Using your medication to get “high”

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), substance abuse is clearly marked by defined symptoms. Catching these symptoms earlier, before the severity of the substance abuse progresses can allow treatment to work effectively.

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Symptoms can include:

  • Experiencing cravings to use more alcohol or medication
  • Taking more of a drug or using medication longer than intended
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms
  • Building a physical tolerance to your medication

NIDA states that experiencing even 2 of these symptoms over a 12-month period could qualify you to get help for substance abuse.

What Is Addiction?

Addiction is a disease of the brain as defined by the American Medical Association, that causes a person to continue using drugs or alcohol even after facing dire consequences to their lives. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) does not use the term addiction, but rather substance abuse disorder defined as “mild, moderate, or severe to indicate the level of severity, which is determined by the number of diagnostic criteria met by an individual. Substance use disorders occur when the recurrent use of alcohol and/or drugs causes clinically and functionally significant impairment, such as health problems, disability, and failure to meet major responsibilities at work, school, or home. According to the DSM-5, a diagnosis of substance use disorder is based on evidence of impaired control, social impairment, risky use, and pharmacological criteria.”

Symptoms can include:

  • Obsessive thoughts and actions
  • Disregard of harm caused by ones behavior or words
  • Loss of control over reducing or stopping their use
  • Denial of their addiction problem

If you are unsure whether you fall into the abuse or addiction category, there are clinical assessments available that can be conducted over the phone to see if you qualify for addiction treatment. To get your free assessment, call one of our addiction specialists today.

To get admitted into a medical drug detox, call our admissions specialists immediately.

We will work with you to get you the help you need, today.