Please click here for our latest coronavirus (COVID-19) response and preparedness.

Understanding the Difference Between Drug Abuse and Drug Addiction

drug addiction vs. drug abuseLeft untreated, an addiction to drugs or alcohol can be devastating for your mental and physical health. People who struggle with an addiction can face serious legal, financial, and social issues that can be difficult to overcome. Too often, addiction can be life-threatening. It is important to get treatment for addiction as soon as possible to avoid the worst consequences to yourself and others.

It can be hard to tell when drug abuse has crossed the line into an addiction. Both drug abuse and addiction can have negative consequences, but addiction is usually much harder to treat than drug abuse.

Understanding the differences between drug abuse and drug addiction can help you get the life-saving treatment you need as soon as possible.

Recognizing the Signs of Drug Abuse

An unhealthy relationship with drugs can start in many ways. Some people who receive a prescription for opioid painkillers may continue to use it for days, weeks, or months after it is intended to be used. People who begin using recreational drugs to socialize may find themselves wanting–or needing–to use them more often or in larger doses to get the same effect. Others may develop a substance use disorder (or addiction) after using drugs to self-medicate. The line between drug use and drug abuse is not always clear.

Some signs of drug abuse include:

  • Getting hurt or hurting someone else when under the influence of drugs
  • Being unable to keep up with your responsibilities at home, work, or school
  • Continuing to use even though you are experiencing negative consequences
  • Having others express concern about your drug use
  • Using drugs to numb difficult emotions, help you socialize, or avoid feeling the effects of trauma

The longer you live with untreated drug abuse, the more likely you are to experience serious, negative consequences. Drug abuse can lead to legal and financial trouble, health issues, and addiction. It is important to get treatment as soon as you realize that you are abusing drugs so that you can avoid these and get back to a safe, healthy lifestyle.

Signs of Drug Addiction

Any addiction has the potential to be life-threatening. Addiction is a serious condition that requires immediate, comprehensive treatment. In general, addiction is characterized by a total loss of control over your use of drugs.

Some signs of addiction include:

  • Increased isolation
  • Decreased interest in activities you used to enjoy
  • Continuing to use despite experiencing negative consequences
  • Increased tolerance
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms if you stop or reduce your consumption of drugs
  • Thoughts and behaviors are focused on getting, using, and recovering from using drugs

Living with untreated addiction puts you at risk for health issues, such as:

  • Collapsed veins
  • Kidney disease and failure
  • Breathing problems
  • Liver failure
  • Heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Certain cancers
  • HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis B and C (related to needle sharing)

Many people with addiction also develop or exacerbate existing mental health conditions. It is not uncommon for people with addiction to experience psychosis, depression, anxiety, or paranoid thoughts. People with addiction are at a higher risk for self-harm and suicide, as well as overdose.

Ultimately, the main difference between drug abuse and addiction is that people who are addicted to drugs experience physical and psychological cravings for the drug of choice. They are unable to stop using drugs, even when facing devastating consequences. People who abuse drugs, however, may not have crossed the line into addiction. These individuals may be able to control how often they use drugs and how much they consume. They may also be able to stop using drugs if they need to.

How to Treat Drug Abuse vs. Drug Addiction

You must get treatment for both substance abuse and addiction, but the treatment plan you follow might be different for drug abuse vs. drug addiction.

Drug Abuse Treatment

If your substance abuse issues have not reached the stage of addiction, it is still important to get treatment so that you can recover and move in a healthy direction. Treatment for substance abuse often includes a mix of education, medications, and therapy. These treatments can help you identify the reasons you abuse substances and give you new skills to manage your challenges.

Addiction Treatment

Addiction is a serious condition that requires immediate, serious intervention. Addiction treatment usually includes medically supervised detox, a residential or outpatient treatment program that includes therapy, education, and mental health treatment, and lifelong aftercare.

Addiction is never truly cured, only managed. This means that you will need to find ways to stay active and engaged in recovery for the rest of your life.

Whether you live with substance abuse or addiction, it is important to surround yourself with care and support and to get the life-saving treatment you require. Pay attention to the signs that your relationship with drugs or alcohol has become unhealthy and seek treatment right away. Your health, happiness, and future are worth it.

Find Help Today

If you or someone you love needs addiction treatment or support in any stage of recovery from addiction, reach out to the staff at Woburn Wellness Addiction Treatment. We offer a variety of comprehensive, adaptable services to people living with substance abuse and addiction.

We believe that anyone can recover from addiction and live a fulfilling life if they have the right support. Don’t wait another moment to ask for the help you need. Call now to get started.

Ready to Make a Change?

We know that overcoming addiction is not easy and requires courage to ask for help. At Woburn Wellness Addiction Treatment, our team of professionals has decades of combined experience in helping men, women, and families overcome substance abuse.

For Confidential Help, Call: