Drug Abuse or Addiction

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.

Drug addicted husband?

by Linda
(Melbourne, Victoria, Australia)

My husband is addicted to ICE but has taken all other illegal drugs also in the past. When I first met him he smoked marijuana but then in the last 10 years started using harder drugs.

He would have episodes of hard drug using for days in a row and would disappear and stay awake for this period of time. He also has periods where he seems clean (I think? as his behaviour seems normal).

Of late he has started again and when he does he hates everyone but normally I am always his punching bag (not literally) he would be very abusive verbally but has never hit me but I am scared that may change.

I did leave him several times but have come back because I feel sorry for him and because I know he is normally a very nice person but these drugs have changed him, plus we have 3 children who love him so much.

I don't know what to do, I want to leave but again have this idea that maybe he will get help and I try to drill that into him over and over but he keeps denying he has a problem then turns it onto me somehow and how everything is my fault.

What should I do?

Take Action
by: Ned Wicker

Dear Linda,

Call it a substance use disorder, drug abuse, or call it addiction, but it is a brain disease that robs people of the ability to make good choices, it robs them of their ability to establish and maintain healthy relationships and it robs them of their humanity.

It sounds like your husband is on a downward spiral and soon it will get in the way of everything. He won’t want to be a husband, a father or a person with any ambition. He’ll just want to get high.

Feeling sorry for him is not going to help him overcome his disease. Your leaving and coming back sends the wrong message. It tells him he can manipulate you. It tells him he can do anything and get away with it.

You also say he abuses you verbally and that you believe it could become physical abuse. That should tell you a lot. Do you really want to live in the same house with a person you feel will strike you someday? Is he going to harm the children?

Ask a simple question--is your husband good for your children? You will say he loves them. OK, how much does he love them, enough to stop using drugs? You have to determine how you want to live and what kind of future you want for your children.

I would explore treatment centers in Melbourne and at the same time call Alcoholics Anonymous to seek some help and support for yourself. You need to come up with a plan to help get your husband into treatment. His problem isn’t going to just vanish on its own, so you need to have some help from professional people.

If your husband refuses to get treatment, or stop his drug use and continues to display the same behavior characteristics, you will be left with an important decision to make--to leave permanently or be a victim. You have your children to think of.

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

Subscribe to our Drug-Addiction-Support.org weekly email:

Recent Articles

  1. Resources for Making Life Easier

    Sep 27, 19 09:34 AM

    Life's challenges are hard, no matter who you are or what you're facing. Whether it's everyday struggles you're working to overcome like setting up and

    Read More

  2. Overcoming Common Stigmas of Mental Illness

    Sep 16, 19 10:01 AM

    There are millions of Americans suffering from some form of mental illness. Yet, the number of people that actually get help for their condition pales

    Read More

  3. Where?

    Sep 09, 19 09:46 AM

    Is there any Al-anon meetings in Saint Francis Kansas? If so where??

    Read More

Follow us on Twitter #AddictionSuport