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The Difference Between Substance Misuse and Addiction

Are substance misuse and addiction the same thing? If not, what is the difference? Are they connected? If you have a loved one who you believe may be misusing a substance, you may be wondering if they are suffering from an addiction.

No matter the specifics of you or your loved one’s drug use, it can have devastating consequences. Fortunately, there are treatment options available for substance use disorder and addiction. A life of sobriety is possible.

What Is Substance Misuse?

Substance misuse refers to repetitive harmful use of a substance, such as alcohol or drugs. Misused substances may be banned substances, legal prescription drugs, or even substances that are not classified as drugs.

So what defines the misuse of a substance? Substance use disorder occurs when you repeatedly take more than the recommended or prescribed dosage of a drug or when you repeatedly do not use the substance as recommended. You may face significant impairment from this kind of drug use, such as:

  • Loss of the ability to control yourself
  • Sickness
  • Interpersonal and relationship issues
  • Neglect of responsibilities and obligations

What Is Substance Addiction?

Despite the popular belief that addiction is a moral failing, addiction is actually a chronic disease. Overcoming this disorder typically requires participation in a medical addiction treatment program. Addiction can cause health and money problems, along with destroying interpersonal relationships.

Despite all the negative consequences of addiction, this disease can be difficult to overcome, especially without help. Addiction alters your brain chemistry, as your brain acclimates to the excess dopamine that is caused by the substance use. Withdrawal symptoms may include:

  • Fatigue
  • Shaking
  • Anxiety
  • Sweating
  • Irritability
  • Insomnia
  • Nausea
  • Achiness

Some people are more predisposed to addiction. Genetics accounts for a significant percentage of a person’s susceptibility to addiction.

The Difference Between Drug Use and Addiction

What is the difference between drug use and drug addiction? Substance use is not the same thing as addiction. While a person who is using a substance casually may be able to choose to stop, the first sign of addiction is an inability to do so. Even if a person wants to stop, they are often unable to.

Regular use of a substance leads to tolerance, which can then cause withdrawal symptoms when the individual goes a period of time without using the substance. On top of physical dependence, addiction is also marked by psychological dependence, as a person uses the substance to manage emotions and relax. The individual grows to believe using the substance is necessary to function.

Does Substance Misuse Lead to Addiction?

A person does not acquire an addiction overnight. Tolerance to a drug builds up over time, cravings for the drug of choice develop and problems arise in every aspect of a person’s life. Addiction often starts as casual substance use. If you think you or a loved one might be heading down that road, Gateway Foundation can help.  Contact us today to learn about treatment options.

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