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What Are the Differences Between Drug Abuse and Addiction?

Many people use the terms drugs abuse and drug addiction interchangeably, even though they are very different terms. If you are struggling with drugs in your life, it’s important for you to know the difference between these two terms so you can seek the right treatment. Only then, when you identify your problem, will you begin to make the first steps towards your recovery.

Although drug abuse and drug addiction are different terms, they are related. Drug abuse refers to using drugs even though it has become a problem in your life. You may have begun using drugs without any noticeable negative consequences, but as you continued to abuse drugs, the negative consequences became more apparent.

*Identifying Drug Abuse

Some questions to ask yourself are:

  • How is my relationship with my family and friends?
  • How am I performing at school or work?
  • Have I had any legal troubles because of my use?
  • Have I been using drugs before or during activities I previously enjoyed sober?
  • Am I going out of my way to use drugs?
  • Do I think about using drugs throughout the course of a day?

One of the worst consequences of drug abuse is its ability to develop into drug dependency, or addiction. You must understand that drug addiction is not a moral failing but rather an illness that is recognized by the medical community. Like any illness, sometimes treatment in the best exclusive addiction treatment center is the only way to recovery.

Medical Criteria for Addiction

For people struggling with drug addiction, there can be a sense of guilt or shame associated with the addiction. This stigma can be harmful to the recovery process. Like any illness, addiction should be treated as something that is beyond your control, and you can seek treatment that can help you recover from your illness. The DSM-IV, The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, is the standard used by medical professionals to diagnose and treat illnesses, including addiction.

*Medically Recognizing Addiction              

The medical community defines addiction as meeting three (or more) of the criteria outlined by the DSM IV over the course of a 12-month period.

  1. Tolerance, defined by using more to achieve the desired effect or a diminished effect by using the same amount, is present.
  2. Withdrawal, defined by having withdrawal symptoms when not using or using to avoid these withdrawal symptoms, is present.
  3. The substance is taken in higher amounts or taken over a longer period of time than the user intended.
  4. The user unsuccessfully tries to cut down the amount of use.
  5. The user spends large amounts of time trying to obtain the drug, use the drug, or recover from the drug’s effects.
  6. Social activities, work and recreational activities are given up or reduced because of use.
  7. Continued use occurs, despite recognizing that the substance is causing negative physical and psychological consequences.

It’s important to understand the difference between drug abuse and addiction, so that you, or a loved one, can seek the treatment needed. Neither drug abuse nor addiction is a moral weakness, but rather a diagnosable illness that can be successfully treated to achieve a happier, drug-free life. If you feel that you are suffering from drug abuse or addiction and want a way out, through treatment you can begin your successful road to recovery.