Addiction | 4 min read

Where Is The Line Between Substance Use, Abuse, Dependency, and Addiction?

Medically Reviewed

Medically Reviewed By

Dr. Po-Chang Hsu

Dr. Po-Chang Hsu

On September 2, 2022

Written By

Amanda Stevens

Amanda Stevens, B.S.

On March 26, 2019

Coke Nose
Reading Time: 4 minutes

In today’s world, many individuals find themselves dealing with addictions that compromise their ability to lead productive, rewarding lives. Yet, in many cases, people cannot determine whether they’re grappling with substance addiction or mere substance use. If this is the case for you, now is the time to get educated about drug dependency. Read on to learn more about what drug and alcohol addiction are, as well as which resources you can utilize to overcome substance abuse:


Drug And Alcohol Abuse


Although defined broadly, drug and alcohol abuse is a condition in which the individual is physically and psychologically dependent on an illicit substance. Many signs and symptoms indicate that an individual is in the grip of addiction. Some of them may include:

• Intense urges to use the drug which blocks out other thoughts
• Feeling that you must use the substance regularly
• Ensuring that you have a steady supply of the drug
• Continually using the drug despite awareness of the problems it causes
• Engaging in dangerous or unethical behaviors to obtain the drug

It’s important to note that drug addiction can lead to legal consequences. Specifically, addiction to an illicit substance can cause an individual to engage in various illegal activities. This can include the acquisition and use of an illegal substance. When this activity occurs, the individual is at risk of being arrested, going to jail, acquiring a record, and developing a lackluster relationship with the police.

In addition to causing the individual to experience legal consequences, drug addiction can compromise productivity in the work and school settings. This process transpires for several reasons, including that drug abuse entails substantive psychological and physical complications. Some bodily complications from drug abuse include a weakened immune system, nausea, and vomiting. In addition, some of the psychological effects of drug abuse can include impaired thinking and lowered self-esteem. Together, these adverse effects can prevent a person from working productively.


Statistics About Drug And Alcohol Abuse


More than 20 million US residents above the age of 12 have a drug abuse issue.
• Over the past 20 years, the rate of individuals who die from drug overdoses has quadrupled. At this point, 100 individuals die each day due to drug overdoses.
• 2.6 million individuals with addictions deal with dependence on illicit substances and alcohol.
• In 2011, 9.4 million individuals reported driving under the influence of illicit substances.
• 6.8 million individuals with an addiction also grapple with a mental illness.
• Rates for substance use are highest amongst individuals between the ages of 18 and 25.
• Over 90% of the individuals with addictions started smoking, drinking, or using an illicit substance before the age of 18.
• In 2010, 70,121 individuals were admitted to non-profit drug abuse treatment facilities for drug and alcohol abuse.
• Between 2012 and 2016, the number of heroin-related deaths doubled.


Abuse Vs. Use: Recognizing The Difference


In some cases, individuals may have difficulty determining whether they are dealing with drug addiction or using a substance recreationally. Several factors can be considered to determine whether drug abuse is operative in an individual’s life. A substance abuse issue involves the nonmedical use of alcohol or drugs. It can lead to many undesirable consequences, including difficulties with school, family, and work. Substance abuse can also damage the individual’s mental and physical health.

When an individual is in the grip of physical dependence, they may experience several uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms when they attempt to discontinue use. Some of them can include tremors, nausea, and sweating. Additionally, individuals may experience cognitive or emotional withdrawal symptoms when they cease using drugs. Those symptoms may include restlessness, irritability, anxiety, and depression.

A wide range of social and behavioral realities can indicate that a person is addicted to an illicit substance. An example would include withdrawal from family and friends. In addition, in many cases, individuals realize that the dangerous, unhealthy behaviors that result from drug addiction will be deemed unacceptable by the individuals they are close to. This realization can cause the drug abuser to become socially isolated or develop unhealthy relationships with other abusers and dealers. Thus a sudden or slow shift in one’s social network, particularly with the shift involving the development of relationships with those who actively participate in drug cultures, can be an indication of addiction.

As one may have gathered from reading the above information, substance addiction differs from mere drug use. While there is no specific point during which drug use evolves from recreational to problematic, it’s important to note that the consequences of the individual’s drug use can be a strong, accurate indication of whether addiction is present. Some might argue that the consequences of drug use are a more accurate way of gauging addiction than the frequency of use.


Substance Treatment  Facilities: A Brief Overview

Once an individual realizes that she or he is addicted to drugs, it’s time to seek viable solutions. One of the most effective solutions is attaining professional help in a drug treatment recovery facility. By taking this step, individuals can remain under the care and guidance of a trained professional who knows how to offer effective solutions and customized support. While each treatment facility is different, one will typically find that the recovery center in question offers a wide range of services. Some of them may include:

• Cognitive therapy (such as talk therapy)
• Group therapy
• Nutritional counseling (such as meal planning)
• Exercise therapy (swimming, hiking, tai chi, yoga, etc.)

When searching for the ideal substance treatment New York facility, it’s important to ensure that the professionals there have adequate education and training. Doing your background research to ensure that this is the case will ensure you obtain your services from qualified, competent people. These days, many, if not most, recovery facilities will list the qualifications and credentials of their employees on the business website.


Don’t Delay: Start The Recovery Process Today!


If you or a loved one is currently living with a drug abuse issue and seeking addiction services, it’s important to know that viable solutions are available. By enrolling in a facility now, you can get on the path to holistic recovery and empowered living. When you choose Ascendant NY, you’ll attain comprehensive treatment services. The first step will be a customized, cutting-edge detox that ensures that the illicit substance is removed from your body while you are under the care and supervision of our trained representatives. Following the detox process, our recovery experts will provide several other treatment services that ensure you recover both physically and psychologically. We’re ready to assist you with your recovery, so contact us immediately to schedule your consultation. Contact our detox center in New York today.

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Amanda Stevens


Amanda Stevens, B.S.

Amanda is a prolific medical content writer specializing in eating disorders and addiction treatment. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Purdue University with a B.S. in Social Work. Read more

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  1. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. EARLY INTERVENTION, TREATMENT, AND MANAGEMENT OF SUBSTANCE USE DISORDERS. US Department of Health and Human Services; 2016. Accessed September 2, 2022.
  2. Abuse NI on D. Overdose Death Rates. National Institute on Drug Abuse. Published January 20, 2022. Accessed September 2, 2022.