Everlast Recovery Centers

substance abuse

What’s the Difference Between Abuse and Addiction?

The terms “abuse” and “addiction” are often used interchangeably when discussing drugs and alcohol, which can lead many to believe that they are wholly synonymous with each other. While there are many similarities between the two terms, they are not necessarily the same thing. Understanding the difference between drug and alcohol addiction and abuse can help each individual better fine-turn their own approach to their situation and move towards the coping strategies and recovery programs most pertinent to them. 

What Is Substance Abuse?

The abuse of an addictive substance is classified by the destructive use of drugs or alcohol in a way that is detrimental to one’s life, either physically, emotionally, or socially. The abuse of drugs or alcohol can often lead to legal ramifications and a neglect of other responsibilities, such as workplace attendance and performance or household duties. However, despite these aspects, those that abuse substances still have a degree of control over their own lives, often faced with the choice of using drugs or alcohol or not regularly. 

Those who abuse substances may also do so in reaction to external stimuli, creating unhealthy associations between the use of these substances as a method of stress relief or a way to relax. Using these substances in this way, or using substances beyond the confines of their intended purpose, such as using prescription painkillers beyond the intended dosage or frequency, can all be classified as abuse.

External stimuli can still dictate how an individual engages with these addictive substances. However, it is also common that an individual will begin to change the way that they view stressful events, and the abuse of addictive substances can continuously reinforce feelings of anxiety, depression, or stress, and pave the way for an addiction to fully develop. 

What Is Addiction?


Addiction is when a person is unable to control or stop abusing substances. With addiction, an individual has lost control over many facets of their lives, and their bodies and minds may be prioritizing the continued use of drugs or alcohol over all other aspects, including professional responsibilities and personal relationships. Those who suffer from addiction may be aware of the severity of the situation and the damage that it is causing but feel overwhelmed, helpless, or otherwise unable to change their situation. 

This compulsion to continuously engage with drugs or alcohol over other aspects of their own lives, as well as their own better judgment, is the hallmark of addiction. It is a disease that can affect an individual on a physiological level, changing one’s brain chemistry to not just accommodate the use of an addictive substance, but convince the individual that their use is necessary for survival. 

Addiction also involves the prevalence of withdrawal symptoms. While the cessation of one’s regular use of drugs or alcohol can lead to many difficult symptoms, those suffering from addiction may begin to feel these symptoms soon after their last drink or drug use. Noticing an increase in one’s anxiety, the onset of depression, or any other kinds of symptoms manifesting, even as soon as a day without the use of an addictive substance, can indicate the presence of a dependent addiction and the need for change. Overcoming addiction is a difficult task, but it is possible to work through the disease and reprogram one’s mind in a sober light. 

Taking the First Step

There is a very fine line between substance abuse and addiction–both are serious conditions that demand a change be made in one’s life. While substance abuse is different from addiction, it can still very easily and quickly continue to develop into addiction. Identifying substance abuse or addiction is the first crucial step towards making the necessary changes in one’s life to live a healthy and sober lifestyle. 

While addiction and abuse should both be taken seriously under professional care, identifying the differences can still be very beneficial throughout the recovery process. Identifying abuse or addiction in oneself can help each individual set appropriate and personalized goals for the recovery ahead and can help each individual better define their path to sustained sobriety. 

The first step towards recovery is always going to be admitting that there is a problem that needs to be addressed, and looking into detox programs can start one’s journey off in a safe way. While there can be many difficulties associated with such a sudden change in one’s life, the professional support offered by detox programs is prepared to help with the unique symptoms and difficult emotions that may arise, providing the proper support to not just successfully detox but also transition into an appropriate program for maintaining one’s sobriety going forward. 

The difference between abuse and addiction is important to realize, but both still indicate the need for professional help and change. At Everlast Recovery, we are prepared to help you take the first step in navigating your own recovery journey and can guide you through the steps to your own sobriety. Our detox program is designed to help you cope with the difficult step of cutting drugs or alcohol from your life, all while providing a comfortable and safe space with professionals to help you through each step. Our residential living space is also curated with a home-like feel, creating an atmosphere of encouragement, comfort, and community. Your time with us can be further personalized based on your needs, as we offer art and music therapy, equine therapy, individual and group counseling, and much more. For more information on how we can individualize your time with us or to speak to a caring, trained staff member about your unique situation, call us today at (866) 338-6925.

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