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Abuse vs. Addiction: Is There a Difference?


When it comes to substance use, many people confuse substance abuse and addiction as one and the same. While there are similarities between the two, there are also some notable differences. For instance, just because someone misuses drugs or alcohol, this does not necessarily mean that they are addicted. Substance abuse can lead to addiction, but not the other way around. And not everyone who uses drugs or alcohol becomes addicted.

What is Substance Abuse?

Substance abuse is often gauged over a 12-month period. During this time a person continues to use drugs or alcohol despite the negative impact that it has had on their health, relationships, or work performance. They may engage in risky behaviors such as driving under the influence, and this can lead to legal troubles. In addition, it can take a toll on their finances. Unlike with addiction, they have not built up a tolerance due to their continued use. The person feels the effects it has on them, but does not require increasingly larger amounts to continue feeling the same effects. This type of ongoing use however, can lead to addiction.

What is Addiction?

Addiction occurs when the person no longer has control over their drug or alcohol use. They may try to stop on their own, but this only lasts for a short time and then they go back to using. Their body develops a tolerance for the substance and they keep using increasing amounts to get the same impact they felt before. This becomes increasingly dangerous because it can lead to an overdose. When they try to stop using, they experience withdrawal symptoms because their body has become addicted. In order to relieve withdrawal symptoms, they continue using. Addiction is a disease that alters the way the brain functions and its reward system.

What Can You Do About It?

One of the first steps is to recognize that you or someone you love may have a problem. Monitor use to keep track of the extent, any patterns that occur, and the effect. There are many drug and alcohol rehab centers that can provide professional treatment and help you to overcome your use or addiction. By identifying the root causes, determining triggers, and implementing strategic plans to maintain sobriety, you can begin the path to recovery and a substance-free lifestyle.

Drugs and alcohol impact physical, mental, emotional, and social health. Being proactive and seeking help before more serious effects occur can support better health and decision making. There are also a wide range of support groups available for ongoing assistance both during and after treatment. This can prove a valuable resource for helping prevent relapse and build a strong support network for dealing with challenging situations.

If you or a loved one is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, Chapters Capistrano can help you to overcome these issues and start a new chapter in your life. With a wide range of treatment options available, as well as flexible length of stay, we create a treatment plan that meets your individual needs. Contact Chapters Capistrano today to learn more about how you could benefit from making the decision to seek treatment.