Finding the Line Between the Two and What Makes Them Different

In the world of addiction and mental health recovery, there are a lot of different terms and phrases that are used that may seem to refer to the same thing. But the smallest difference in words or subject matter can cause a difference in definitions. It can be confusing, we know. There’s a lot to decipher in all of this, but we hope to help make it easier for you. Two such words that may seem to be the same, but possess different definitions and factors are abuse and addiction. You may be asking yourself: but isn’t an addiction an abuse of something? Doesn’t’ that constitute using both words? The answer is sort of. Both are related to each other, but refer to different moments in the process. 

You see, abuse doesn’t mean that a person has an addiction. Abuse can exist in one singular moment and not mean an addiction is forming or has already formed. Abuse is classified as the destructive use of a drug or substance that can affect or alter an individual’s everyday life. The abuse of a substance can affect a person’s life negatively, but the person still retains control over their use of the substance. They will use it frequently and far too often, but will not feel dependent on it. It’s a beginning stage of developing an addiction. Substance abuse can be treated through counseling, self-help groups, and outpatient care, while more severe cases of abuse may require detoxification, inpatient care, and self-help support. In the end, abuse is more of a recreational use rather than a perceived “necessary” use. While still unhealthy, it doesn’t possess the same physical and clinical definitions as an addiction.

Addiction is much more severe. Addiction is defined as a chronic neurological and biological disease that can be developed. If someone has an addiction, they are uncontrollable and compulsive in their use. It can be characterized by the “Four C’s” of addiction: impaired control over their drug use, craving, and compulsive and continued use despite negative and harmful consequences. There is nothing that they or anyone else can do to stop them from indulging in using. The person has lost all control over their actions in regard to their drug or substance use. If an addiction forms, a person is much more likely to put themselves, and others, at risk in order to be able to use. When addicted, a person can experience withdrawals if unable to use the substance they’re addicted to. Withdrawals can be both physical, mental, and emotional. A person may experience headaches, difficulty breathing, nausea, vomiting, tremors, or shakes. Emotionally and mentally, a person experienced anxiety, panic, irritability, depression, or insomnia. Their body is malfunctioning because it craves the substance to be in its system. It’s dependent on it. 

As we said before, abuse and addiction are tightly bound to each other but different enough that it can be important to know the difference. Abuse is an early stage of an addiction developing. It’s a reckless use of a substance with negative impacts to your personal life, but a sense of control is still present. A person can knowingly be abusing a substance but not be dependent on it. An addiction is a much more severe evolution of an abuse. With enough abuse and repetitive negative behavior, the body can start to depend on having the substance in its system. It craves it and will begin to malfunction if it cannot have it. It starts to have a negative impact on a person’s physicality and psyche. It’s not longer about using a substance recreationally or socially, it’s about needing that substance to function, even if the repeated use of it stops them from doing so. An abuse isn’t an addiction, but an addiction is an abuse. Though one can exist without the other, they are both a part of the same cycle that can lead a person down a dangerous path. 

We know how much it can be to take all of this in. To find and understand the differences between the terms and phrases being thrown around at you. We want to help ease you into your recovery process and experience, and want to help make your understanding as easy and seamless as possible. It’s a daunting thing to come into this world and try to learn everything as fast as possible. We strive to bring you comfort in your time of need. By knowing these words and what they mean, how they differ from one another, you can begin to form a sense of familiarity and comfort that can help ease you into your journey and give you a sense of inspiration and hope. Which, when it comes to putting in the work to better yourself, motivation and hope can be all the difference. 

If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction or mental illness, do not hesitate to contact the team here at Our program, founded in 2014, is built around finding what’s best for you to overcome your addiction. Our facility is located in Newport Beach, California, with our supportive housing located close to our campus in Costa Mesa. Take advantage of the local beaches, nature preserves, and Orange County community while we fight for you. Contact us at (866) 399-6528 and [email protected]