Drug Abuse or Addiction
There is a difference between drug abuse or addiction. The difference is not that great, but it’s important to understand when a person goes from abusing drugs to being addicted to drugs.
What is drug abuse?
The easiest way of defining drug abuse is observing that a person uses a drug for something other than a medically prescribed purpose. That is, they have a habit of taking a drug to “get high” or “feel better.” They take more than prescribed amounts. They take the drugs for recreation.
Some “drugs” that are used for recreation may not be prescription meds, or over-the-counter medications, or even street drugs. They can be common, everyday chemicals. For example, people inhale glue or solvents to get high. People want to have a mood change, to feel good.
Professional drug counselors will tell you that any use of illegal drugs is drug abuse. Those drugs are illegal because they are potentially very addictive and harmful to a person’s health. That broadens our definition of drug abuse even more. Therefore, any illegal drug use, or any use of prescription or non-prescription medication use beyond what is prescribed by a medical professional, or any use of a chemical to get high, is drug abuse.
There are some drugs that are used to relax, to feel good, to be sociable. Alcohol is the most common drug used in America for this purpose. It’s legal, and if taken in moderation, is not harmful. But alcohol is addictive. Some people say marijuana is not addictive, and therefore should be legal, but researchers have found that marijuana has other harmful effects, even if someone is not “addicted.” People can become psychologically addicted, even if there is no physical dependence.
Almost any substance can be abused and abuse or addiction are possible. Cigarettes, caffeine and other common, legal substances are abused by people every day. Sometimes the line between use and abuse is fuzzy.
For example, people might go to the tavern after work and have a couple of drinks with their friends. Is that abuse? Some might argue that it becomes abuse when it becomes a regular, daily occurrence. Too many cigarettes, too much coffee, to many diet sodas. The line is determined by the person.
What is drug addiction?
We will now try to determine when drug abuse becomes addiction. When a person is abusing a drug they are making a choice. They choose to get high. When a person goes into addiction, their choice in the matter is either severely limited or taken away entirely.
The 12-Step process begins with a very important statement, “We admitted we were powerless…”
You can insert the drug that is doing the damage. When the drug takes over, when a person’s life is all about getting the drug and taking the drug, when nothing but the drug matters, that is addiction. A person might develop a physical “need” for the drug, or a psychological craving for the drug. The first step in the 12-Step process ends with:
“that our lives had become unmanageable.”
Powerless and unmanageable
Powerless and unmanageable are the hallmarks of addiction. When brain chemistry changes, the mind is tricked into thinking it NEEDS the drug to function. A physical addiction sets in and the person must have the drug. Just like the body needs food to survive, the addicted mind needs the drug to survive. It doesn’t matter if the person is dying, it doesn’t matter if their health has deteriorated and even if their life has been ruined. All that matters is the drug.
The addicted person might even holler and scream that they are in control, that they can “handle it,” or that every other person who is watching is wrong and only they are right. Sadly, addiction is easier to see from the outside looking in.
There are medical explanations of addiction, but suffice it to say that addiction owns the addict. From the perspective of the addicted person, they have to take the drug to feel “normal” or to feel “good.” There is no choice. People do things they normally would never think of doing. They steal money. They become prostitutes. They break off relationships, even the ones with those they love the most. Why? The drug is dictating their life.
So now what?
Whether a person is struggling with abuse or addiction to drugs, it’s a problem. It is not a problem that a mere “I’ll cut back,” or “I can handle it” is going to solve. Abuse or addiction are both serious problems.
Perhaps a person can recognize that their drug use is really abuse and they will stop on their own. God bless them. But most people can’t. They need professional help. They can talk to their doctor and maybe get a recommendation on a treatment program. There are social service agencies that deal help deal with drug abuse or addiction.
There are treatment centers. There is Alcoholics Anonymous. Recovery from abuse and addiction is vitally important. Seek professional help and guidance. Drug abuse or addiction are both serious problems that should be dealt with as soon as possible because the situation is only likely to get much worse.
Learn more about the 12-step treatment program for Drug Abuse or Addiction
Summary of Abuse or Addiction:
How can you tell if a problem is Abuse or Addiction? Addiction is usually characterized an absolute NEED to use because the withdrawal is so severe it can't be tolerated.
Abuse or Addiction is an important difference but both problems need to be addressed with treatment. If addiction has not set in yet then it may be less difficult to end the abuse.
Whether it's Abuse or Addiction don't wait to address the problem. The longer the use goes untreated the more difficult it will be to treat. The longer it goes unchecked the more likely it will move from abuse to addiction.
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and Finally Remember:
"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened."
- Matthew 7:7-8
Step 3 may be the most difficult and important of the steps in the program, what is it and why is it needed, this week on Recovery Now!