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Abuse or Addiction

The differences of Abuse and Addiction

Many individuals often confuse substance abuse with substance addiction. Many think that they are one and the same. Unfortunately, many of today’s media outlets use them interchangeably leading to more confusion as to what really constitutes substance abuse and substance addiction. It is very important to distinguish one from the other because the treatment plan will often be dependent on whether it is a substance abuse that is being treated or it is an addiction that needs to be managed.

Substance Abuse

substance abuseHealth experts define substance abuse as a pattern of behavior that is characterized by the unusual, or out-of-the-ordinary, consumption of a particular substance. For example, taking prescription opioids for very severe pain is not considered substance abuse. However, increasing the dosage as well as the frequency of the medication is considered abuse. Drinking a glass of wine every single day is largely considered beneficial. Drinking a few cases of beer every single day is already considered an abuse.

Substance abuse is a pattern of behavior that is largely grounded on what is considered socially and medically acceptable limits for a particular substance. Anything that is well beyond this “norm” is considered an abuse. Unfortunately, there are a variety of factors that can lead individuals to abuse substances. Substance abuse has strongly been linked to a genetic predisposition, the immediate environment, peer pressures, personality traits, and existing psychiatric mental health issues.

Manifestations of Substance Abuse

There are a variety of manifestations that are closely linked to substance abuse. Unfortunately, many of these manifestations are also seen in substance addiction cases. This is where the line gets really blurred. As the signs and symptoms of substance abuse and substance addiction are quite similar, this is where the clinical eye of an expert clinician comes in. Generally, however, if the manifestation is coupled with an intense desire, an intense compulsion, to take the substance without regard for its effects or consequences, then it is considered an addiction. Anything less than this is typically considered abuse. Therefore, it is possible for an individual with substance abuse to get addicted or not at all. However, a substance addict would have always started with substance abuse.

The following are some of the more common manifestations of substance abuse.

  • Declining interest in things or activities that previously were enjoyable
  • Declining performance in either school or work
  • Episodes of risky behavior, mood swings, aggression, irritability, passivity, and resentful behavior
  • Personality changes including sudden shifts in attitude
  • Physical changes including hygiene and grooming
  • Constant need for money without obvious reason

Substance Addiction

substance addictionAs described above, substance addiction is always a result of long-standing substance abuse. With repeated exposure to the addictive substance, the body develops tolerance and dependence. Tolerance develops when the body is no longer deriving the perceived beneficial effects of the substance with the current amount and frequency. Hence, the individual will have to consume more of the substance and at increasingly more frequent intervals. This is done in order to produce the perceived effect. If the individual fails to consume the substance in due time, the body experiences both physiologic and psychological manifestations. When these occur, the body cannot function optimally. Hence, it can be said that the body has grown both physically and psychologically dependent on the substance in order for it to function optimally. These are the ingredients of addiction. And the main culprit is in the rewiring of the brain which started with substance abuse.

Addiction occurs when the individual clearly has become overly dependent on the substance. In the example given above, the individual taking prescription opioids can be said to have become addicted to the substance if they regularly uses the opioid in order to feel a lot better about themselves. The individual also believes that if they do not take the drug, they will go insane. In fact, they firmly believe that the drug is the solution to all of their problems. This is what makes a substance abuser an addict. There clearly is an uncontrollable urge or compulsion on the individual to consume the substance.

Sprout Health Group provides an excellent array of therapeutic modalities that are geared towards helping the individual develop healthier thought patterns and more positively adaptive behaviors in relation to their substance abuse disorders. We create highly individualized plans of care so that each client will fully benefit from a patient-centered approach to substance abuse or addiction treatment.

Treating Substance Abuse and Addiction

Because substance abuse is largely considered as the basis of substance addiction, it is very important to recognize the beginning manifestations of a substance abuse disorder. This is needed to help make sure that appropriate treatments can be instituted before the condition becomes an addiction and requires more intensive treatment modalities. Once substance abuse has progressed into addiction, medically-supervised detoxification may be warranted in order to manage the moderate to severe withdrawal symptoms that are often associated with long-standing addictions.


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