Drug and Alcohol Abuse Versus Addiction

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It’s likely you have heard of drug and alcohol abuse and addiction. When in the throws, one may wonder if their abuse is addiction or headed in that direction. While substance abuse or misuse and addiction can lead to damaging and negative consequences, they carry different meanings and consequences for different individuals.

Understanding where the person lands on this spectrum can offer insight into intervention strategies. Best practices for abuse differ greatly from chemical dependency and addiction. The following can help you identify the differences between substance abuse and addiction.

Understanding Drug and Alcohol Abuse

Drug and alcohol abuse may appear as casual use or only in social settings. While still damaging to the body, people in this stage are generally in control of their life. They can hold down a job and manage responsibilities of daily life.

Unlike addiction, the severity of withdrawal symptoms shows up as mild. Although drug and alcohol abuse can lead to personal or financial problems, the uncontrollable compulsion to use is absent.

While abuse can appear strikingly similar to addiction, it is not addiction disorder and treatment can vary from person to person. Sometimes, all it can take is a scary close call, such as a traffic stop or warning from the boss. For some, attending group meetings or individual therapy can help.

Understanding Drug and Alcohol Addiction

Addiction to drug(s) and alcohol can happen at any time. This is highly individual and, unfortunately, does not run on a specified timeline. Drugs and alcohol, by their very nature, are addictive and create a pleasurable response in the brain. Over time, the user can lose control over their life. This is addiction.

Addiction disorder can affect all areas of life, including career, family, and health. Often, those struggling with addiction disorder fall into financial or legal trouble. Despite their lives turning upside down (and the lives of those around them), the urge to continue using endures.

Addiction can prove difficult to overcome. An addicted individual can experience uncomfortable and sometimes serious symptoms of withdrawal. Medical intervention and supervised detoxification to manage withdrawal symptoms may become necessary.

Under normal circumstances, the body maintains homeostasis. In simplest terms, homeostasis is the physiological process of the body to maintain equilibrium for survival. When drugs and alcohol enter the body, the brain compensates for chemical changes within the body. Over time, the body continually adjusts in response to the substance and may rely on the substance to function properly. When removed, homeostasis becomes disrupted and unpleasant reactions can occur. These may show as mild or serious withdrawal symptoms and may include:

  • Poor appetite or nausea
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Increased body temperature or chills
  • Excessive sweating
  • Body or muscle aches
  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures
  • Confusion

A combination of physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms may occur during the withdrawal process. These can differ from person to person and depend on a number of factors, such as the type of drug and overall mental and physical health.

Substance Use and Addiction Treatment

Both abuse and addiction cause detrimental effects on the body and can become life threatening. Current research offers information on how drugs affect the brain and how evidence-based treatment methods can help people overcome addiction.

Individualized treatment programs can help treat substance use disorder. Holistic programs that focus on individual change, engagement, intensive treatment, and continued support can offer many benefits than can help individuals begin a life free from drugs and alcohol.

Evidence-Based Addiction Treatment

You may hear the phrase evidence-based treatment thrown around a lot. Backed by data and clinical research, this type of treatment can offer individuals the most current and best practices for addiction treatment. Some types of evidence-based practices you may encounter include cognitive-behavioral therapy, trauma recovery, and relapse prevention.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is an approach to produce change and based on shifting unhelpful thinking patterns. With CBT, people can develop greater self-worth, use new skills for difficult situations, and reevaluate distorted perceptions.

Trauma Recovery

Traumatic experiences can create strong emotional and even physical responses. People may feel always ‘on’, numb, or anxious. To combat feelings of trauma, some turn to drugs and/or alcohol. This form of self-medicating may relieve the reactions temporarily, only to return once the substance has worn off. Trauma Recovery can help identify experiences and help resolve unhealthy responses, such as drug and alcohol misuse.

Relapse Prevention

People enter a drug and alcohol treatment program in hopes to avoid relapse. Relapse prevention can help people identify triggers and learn coping skills in advance. When you know what to look for, you can better identify the road to relapse.

Some behaviors that may lead to relapse include:

  • Lack of self-care
  • Poor eating or sleeping
  • Social isolation
  • Cravings
  • Romanticized thoughts about past drug or alcohol use

During relapse prevention, people can anticipate thinking patterns, reduce the desire to escape, show up with complete honesty, and ask for help when needed.

Pura Vida Drug and Alcohol Rehabilitation Program in Santa Rosa, CA

Pura Vida Rehabilitation Center helps men and women choose a life of freedom. Through our holistic, evidence-based approach, we help individuals focus on recovery and build accountability.

Our licensed professionals treat substance use disorders and underlying mental health conditions, such as depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress syndrome.

Pura Vida Rehabilitation Center offers an affordable option for drug and alcohol treatment. For a confidential assessment, contact our intake coordinator.