Those who openly consume drugs and alcohol are usually categorised into the same box. While there’s a mutual standpoint, where consumption of addictive substances is an initial active decision, there are however differences that split the experiences and actions of users.
For example, both substance use and abuse surround the consumption of drugs and alcohol, where a conscious decision to be exposed to their traits is opted for on an initial basis.
Yet, actions are very different, where substance use is commonly irregular or a single encounter, deviating from substance abuse which is habitual, routine behaviour.
The blurring factor here is that both drugs and alcohol have been heavily normalised for consumption, here in the UK. However, there is a threshold that is unacceptable to society, which when surpassed, results in a negative, stigmatised outlook of substance abuse and addiction.
In fact, there’s a high chance that someone with a high tolerance will be simply consuming alcohol yet will be branded as an addict or someone with a problem, by bypassing the ideology of consumption.
Such speculation can be damaging, which is why it’s important to know the difference between substance use and abuse, along with measuring them against the addiction development cycle.
Here is some insight into each, by our team here at Rehab Clinics group, to differentiate them, while gauging whether your norm in fact reflects the controlling, potentially damaging diagnosis of substance abuse.
The difference between substance use and abuse – Defining each
What is substance use?
Substance use is where drugs and/or alcohol are used casually, are used following prescription guidelines, are used irregularly, and are even used through a single exposure.
Such levels of use are normally relaxed, where control is present, where the intentions to merely consume sensible levels of substances is present, and where such substances have a clear, short-term purpose.
For example, substance use is celebrating with alcohol, is taking painkillers, or is socialising amongst the exposure of drugs and alcohol.
Little judgment is usually made of such actions, as substance use has been normalised and accepted as a part of our culture.
What is substance abuse?
Substance abuse is however defined as an uncontrolled experience of consuming drugs and alcohol, where a degree of neglect and ignorance is noted.
One common consensus surrounding substance abuse is that users continue to use drugs and alcohol, even in the event of potential consequences, making it very different to substance use.
While substance abuse is less serious than an addiction, down to the fact that psychological associations are yet to form at this point, it can still be extremely hazardous to rely on and abuse addictive substances to this degree.
Understanding the difference between substance use, abuse and addiction
It is important to understand the difference between substance use and abuse, and especially against addiction, as what’s normal and innocent to you, may in fact rank as abuse.
The clear difference is the strength, frequency and intention of consumption. Substance use defines a comfortable level of consumption, yet substance abuse blurs the lines and reflects the addictive natures attached to addiction.
The use of drugs and alcohol can be minimal, carrying minute life changes. Yet, substance abuse is found to cause a degree of change, as priority begins to take over life.
One way to gauge how mild or severe your drug and alcohol exposure may be is to measure yourself against the criteria of substance use disorder.
- Do you consume drugs and alcohol every day?
- Do you experience cravings for drugs and alcohol?
- Do you make decisions around the potential of drug and alcohol exposure?
- Are you aware of the consequences of substance abuse, and still press ahead with consumption?
- Have you built up a tolerance, requiring higher quantities or more frequent use of drugs and alcohol?
- Do you encounter withdrawal symptoms?
If the above deviates from your actions, it’s likely that substance use will define your choices. If some of the above resonate with you, where drugs and alcohol do have a position in your life, substance abuse will likely be diagnosed.
If, however, the above resonates with you entirely, substance use disorder, also known as addiction, will likely be diagnosed, requiring immediate support.
It is recommended to know the difference between substance use and abuse, with the ability to understand your next best steps and the potential need for change and withdrawal.
Does substance use lead to abuse?
Everyday substance use will not amount to abuse for every individual. While it’s expected to, some individuals can use a moderate degree of such substances, regularly, without developing physical and psychological associations.
However, the development process will be experienced by a proportion of individuals, which is usually how addiction will form. Initial use, reflecting the actions of substance use will be enabled.
Yet, to chase further attributes and highs, consumption starts to reflect substance abuse. Over time, such a habit and priority can develop into an addiction, especially when underlying vulnerabilities and chronic causations are present.
Sourcing treatment for substance abuse
As substance abuse can be damaging, life-changing and can lead to addiction, the sooner that problems can be acknowledged, the greater prospects of recovery will be present.
If you’re therefore abusing drugs and alcohol, on a consistent basis, sourcing professional treatment will be encouraged.
Through detoxification, therapy and a degree of management, the symptoms of substance abuse can be worked through, to either aim for sobriety or to readjust consumption levels to a normal rate.
At Rehab Clinics Group, we appreciate that it can be difficult to gauge how impactful your exposure to drugs and alcohol is. With this in mind, we’re here to support you, to show clear differentiation between actions, and to also offer addiction treatment where appropriate.
Facilitating drug and alcohol rehabilitation programmes, offering advice and promoting recovery reflects our services. We can help you clearly see the difference between substance use and abuse, and whether further action is required.
Stereotypes should be banished. Every form of drug and alcohol exposure is in fact different, deviating from such imagery. Aim to follow suit by understanding where you personally stand with substance use.