Difference Between Drug Abuse and Drug Addiction

There Is a Difference Between Drug Abuse and Drug Addiction

Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference between drug abuse and drug addiction. Some would argue that there isn’t much of a difference at all. I’m here to tell you that there is definitely a big difference, and recognizing what the differences are can save your life and make or break your recovery.

There is a bit of a gray area between drug abuse and drug addiction. I know that for me personally, this topic hits me a bit differently. I started using drugs in high school, and by the time I was in college, I was a full-blown drug addict. I always excused my behavior as just experimenting. Before I knew it, I had to admit to myself that I was an addict.

When I finally sought treatment for my substance abuse, I chose South Shores Recovery. My drug addiction consumed all aspects of my life, and by some miracle, they got me out of it and back to where I needed to be. Based on my personal experience, I will try and lay out what these differences are so you have a better understanding of the line between abuse and addiction.

Keep reading and you can learn how I learned the differences between abuse and addiction the hard way, and how South Shores Detox helped me find a new path in life!

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When Substance Abuse Becomes Addiction

I was no different than a lot of other young people who dabble in drug abuse. I initially used drugs to have fun. I wanted to be accepted by the people who I thought were cool. I began smoking marijuana and drinking alcohol, and my drug misuse slowly became a more prominent thing in my life.

There is always the risk of negative consequences when you begin experimenting with substance abuse. I developed a substance use disorder very quickly after I started experimenting with drugs. A substance use disorder is classified as a mental disorder where you are unable to control your use of drugs.

I, like a lot of others who engage in drug abuse, didn’t think I had a real problem. Yes, I used a little bit more drugs than the average young person, but I was just trying to have a good time. It didn’t take long before I made the leap from marijuana abuse and alcohol abuse to prescription medication. Opiates ended up being my ultimate downfall.

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The Warning Signs We Avoid

There are plenty of warning signs when it comes to developing a drug addiction. We go out of our way to avoid these and not give them any thought. My use of illicit drugs didn’t affect my life very much at first. I was going to classes, getting decent grades, and going to my regular job. I assumed there was no issue and I could keep going the way I was going.

It didn’t take long before the cracks began to appear. My drug abuse became more frequent. My grades slowly dropped. I called out of work when I was too hungover. I started noticing withdrawal symptoms after my repeated drug abuse. I still avoided these warning signs and went on my merry way.

My use of prescription drugs grew. My drug dependency worsened. I stopped caring about other activities beyond just getting high. I required higher doses in order to feel the way I wanted. When you abuse drugs, the drugs slowly become your number one priority. I didn’t want to admit it, but I was just like all of the other drug addicts I was surrounding myself with.

Substance use disorders are difficult to identify when no one around you is willing to call out your behavior, and if anything, the peer pressure then comes in the form of encouraging denial of any kind of problem.

How We Define the Term Drug Abuse

How we define drug abuse and drug addiction isn’t too far off, but as I mentioned above, there are some key differences. Drug abuse is defined as the repeated, excessive use of drugs despite physical, mental, and social consequences. More often than not, drug abuse leads to drug addiction and it doesn’t take very long for this to happen.

There are plenty of different drug addictions, and because everyone is unique in their personality, the way they begin and continue can look different. We all end up having a drug of choice once we begin to dabble in drug abuse. My drug of choice quickly became opiates. My use of prescription medications like Percocet and Oxycodone began at parties, then bled slowly into my everyday life.

My drug use went beyond just social gatherings and led me to start using drugs out of boredom. This eventually led to me needing the drugs just to feel normal. When you become physically or mentally dependent on the drug, this is when you become a drug addict. Eventually, addiction will consume every aspect of your life and nothing else matters.

How We Define the Term Drug Abuse 1

How We Define Drug Addiction

Drug addiction is defined as a chronic disease that requires specific treatments in order to fix. When a person’s life revolves entirely around how and when they use drugs, it’s a very difficult problem to solve without outside help. I never anticipated that my use of illegal drugs would lead me into a full-blown drug addiction, but we typically don’t see it until we are deep into it.

Because I became addicted to prescription drugs, my life quickly became very complicated. Illicit drugs aren’t hard enough to find on the street, but drugs like opiates lead to physical dependence very quickly and are not always easily attainable. The price of one pill can cost you upwards of fifty to one hundred dollars. Once you’ve used long enough, you need much more than one pill to feel anything.

My physical dependence meant that I needed to get my hands on the drugs no matter what. This led me to spend every dollar I earned in order to feed my drug addiction. I began stealing from my work, which led me to face legal trouble and eventually end up in jail. I dropped out of college, and my life continued to spiral out of control.

Considering Addiction Treatment

I knew that my drug abuse had gotten really bad, but the thought of reaching out for help made me feel ashamed. Drug abuse is one of the trickiest mental disorders, and it can send your brain into a tailspin. At this point, I still didn’t understand the difference between drug abuse and drug addiction. I never considered that I had an addiction. I knew I had a problem, but I didn’t want to admit it was a full-blown addiction.

When I finally decided to seek treatment, it gave me a lot of anxiety. What if it didn’t work? What if my mental health was too far gone at this point? If it didn’t work this time, would it ever work in the future? I had so many questions, but I decided to give it a shot. When I began to experience withdrawal symptoms the first few days, I wanted to leave right then and there.

The Benefits of a Trauma Informed Treatment Approach

The people at South Shore Recovery were very gentle with me and guided me through the process the best they could. Withdrawal symptoms from opioid painkillers are super uncomfortable. I had chills, depression, an upset stomach, and an overall sense of fear and dread. It was like a living nightmare. When I came out of the initial drug withdrawal, I never wanted to feel that pain again.

Finding The Right Treatment Program

It pays off to do a little research on what treatment options will work best for you. Drug abuse and addiction have a lot of harmful consequences on your mind and body, so it is important to figure out what your options are as far as therapy and aftercare services. I had no idea that I had a family history of drug abuse, so that gave me a lot of insight into why I ended up the way that I did.

I was terrified of addiction treatment, but once I gave it a shot, I found that it paid off. Your attitude and approach is everything. A drug problem doesn’t cure itself. It requires attention and grunt work in order for you to see any kind of results. Support groups made a world of difference for me as well.

When I find myself in support groups, I feel nurtured and understood. I am around like-minded people who have had their own battles with substance abuse and drug addiction. Abuse and addiction affect all different types of people. There is no one personality type that is immune to drug abuse and addiction.

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Kicking Illegal Substances For Good

It’s very difficult to determine that you are cured of your drug addiction. There are some treatment approaches that claim you can cure your addiction and no longer become an addict. I don’t know how true that is, but all I know is that it’s not impossible for me to fall back into my old behavior.

I have my good days and bad days. I still have thoughts about using drugs. This is where honest conversation helps a great deal. I talk about these feelings with my family members and my fellow recovering addicts. There is a huge psychological element to drug abuse and addiction. Just because you got the drugs out of your body, doesn’t mean they are totally gone from your thoughts.

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Becoming Part of a Thriving Recovery Community

I try to educate others on the warning signs. I try to let other people know that drug misuse and experimentation can often lead to drug addiction. You may think you have it all under control, but it doesn’t take much for you to lose that control entirely. I keep this in mind every day so that I don’t go back to where I came from. Sobriety is so much more fun than the dark despair of abuse and drug addiction.

Seeking Help Before Hitting Rock Bottom

Long before I knew the difference between drug abuse and addiction on a personal level, I knew I was in real trouble. These days, a person who abuses drugs has more options than in the old days, and you really don’t have to force yourself to find out where your ‘rock bottom’ is.

Although it will be challenging, and you may have to overcome strong urges to return to drinking or using, the staff at South Shores can help you, just like they helped me. Give yourself a fighting chance to overcome abuse and/or addiction with their caring staff. I know they treat all their calls seriously and confidentially, so why not reach out today to get options for yourself that don’t include the same old pain and suffering?