Drug Abuse vs Drug Addiction

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In many cases, “drug abuse” and “drug addiction” are two terms that are used interchangeably. However, they both actually have unique meanings. If you or a loved one is struggling with drugs or alcohol, this guide can help you differentiate between the two terms, as well as signs of both.

What is Drug Abuse?

Before you can understand what addiction is and how it works, it’s important to understand abuse. Drug abuse is the explicit misuse of any type of mind-altering substance, regardless of whether it is legal or not. Taking the correct dosage amounts of a prescribed medication is not an example of abuse. However, once an individual begins taking the medication or any other type of drug in excess, he/she is then guilty of abusing. In some cases, a person using an illegal drug just once can be considered abusing it. This is merely because the drug is illegal and shouldn’t be obtained or consumed at all.

Common signs of Drug Abuse include:

  • A decline in work/school performance resulting from the use of the drug.
  • Reckless behavior resulting from the use of the drug. This behavior often puts the the safety of the individual, as well as others, at risk. A common example is driving while under the influence of alcohol or other drugs.
  • Failure to cease usage of the drug despite its negative effect on the individual’s life and social relationships.
  • Frequent financial and legal problems due to the use of the drug. For example, a person might devote a large chunk of each paycheck to obtaining the drug, or they might often find themselves in jail or court over it.

What is Drug Addiction?

Drug addiction is a disease that can eventually develop after an individual has repeatedly abused drug(s) and/or alcohol. At its basic level, it is defined as a physical dependence on a drug. Addiction is often described as an entire overwrite of a person’s character, moral compass, and motivational factors. When an individual is addicted to a drug, their primary objective at almost any given time is to use the drug. Various aspects of a person’s life, such as their daily routine, family life, work, school, and personal hygiene, will all take a backseat to the addiction.

Common Signs of Drug Addiction include:

  • A tolerance to the drug in question. This means that the individual gradually needs more of the drug over time in order to get sufficiently high.
  • Withdrawal symptoms occurring during a lapse after habitually using drugs.
  • Failed attempts to stop using the drug in question.
  • Frequent situations where the individual consumes the drug in a dangerous amount, risking serious health complications or death.

What are the differences between Drug Abuse and Drug Addiction?

One of the most important things to keep in mind about the two conditions is that abuse can turn into addiction. This is why it’s incredibly vital that a person gets help, even if they have not yet become physically dependent on the drug they’re abusing. It’s important to address the problem, no matter what stage it is in, to prevent it from progressing into a bigger and more complicated situation.

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