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Drug And Alcohol Abuse vs. Addiction

By November 15, 2015August 2nd, 2022No Comments

How do you know which will be best for your recovery — residential drug and alcohol rehab or outpatient treatment? To understand your options, you must first understand the difference between substance dependence (addiction) and substance abuse.

Substance abuse is common in today’s society, especially with alcohol. You often hear a person described as a “social drinker,” with no negative connotation attached to the words. But for every 16 social drinkers, one will become addicted or dependent on alcohol.  So how do you know when casual use has become abuse, or even worse, addiction that requires residential rehab?

Substance Abuse

Abuse – whether of a substance or alcohol — is a clear and present danger when the substance of choice is having unhealthy influences and negative consequences on your life.  Abuse starts with a person using drugs or alcohol more frequently, and at intermittent times it gets out of control. One of the telling signs that your substance use is out of control is when a negative event happens as a result of the use.  Telling signs of abuse include becoming argumentative, getting into a fight, having a wreck, and becoming uncharacteristically promiscuous or adversely impacting a job or relationship.

The fact that a person abuses a substance does not necessarily mean that he or she is addicted and in need of long-term residential drug and alcohol rehabilitation.  The difference is that during this stage, the individual still has the ability to stop the use on their own or with the help of professional outpatient services, a shortened residential rehab stay, and/or 12-step support groups.

Recognizing and understanding the signs of substance abuse are the first steps to preventing substance addiction.  However, at this stage, people still have a minimal level of self-control, giving them a false sense of being in the ‘safe’ zone.  In reality, the signs of abuse should be a big red flag, warning against going down the path to becoming addicted or dependent.

Substance Addiction or Dependence

Once a person loses the ability to willingly stop using or drinking, they are now dealing with the disease of addiction.  The lack of self-control is one of the key indications that the drugs or alcohol have damaged the brain in both structure and function, making it physically impossible for the individual to stop using on their own for any prolonged length of time.  By this point, the brain has been damaged, making it highly unlikely that traditional 12-step programs could work for any significant length of time.

The definition of substance dependence also has a chronic component to it… long-lasting, ever-present, habitual, and/or reoccurring.  Aside from the inability to abstain, symptoms include increased tolerance for the substance; replacement of healthy activities with substance use; and continued use despite adverse medical, psychological, and/or personal consequences. Dependence requires sustained treatment in a residential rehab environment in order to address the long-term damage and cyclical aspects of the addiction.

Are you or someone you know addicted….or abusive?  If you still need help determining the answer, contact your trusted advisors at Enterhealth, today.