Abuse Vs Addiction

By now we should understand that drug addiction and alcoholism are conditions that affect the brain, but did you know that abusing drugs and alcohol is not the same thing as being addicted? 

You see, While abuse CAN lead to addiction, you should know where they differ.



Abuse is typically measured over a 6 -12 month period where a substance has begun to have had a negative effect on the person using. It is however possible to catch the symptoms of drug and alcohol abuse before it gets to the stage of a full-blown addiction and dependence. Here are some of the signs to look out for:

  • Performance at work or school begins to decline
  • Relationships start to become problematic
  • Increased risk taking behaviour as a result of their consumption
  • Financial issue may start as they indulge more in their substance of choice
  • They may cause physical harm to others while under the influence


After an extended period of time where someone has continued to use harmful substances, addiction takes over the brain. Usually, what started as “casual” use of drugs or binge drinking has turned into something more serious, a medical condition. This chemical imbalance in the brain is now calling the shots.


Symptoms of addiction include:

  • Tolerance levels rise and larger amounts of drugs or alcohol must be consumed in order to get high or drunk
  • It becomes increasingly difficult to stop using drugs or alcohol even after repeated attempts to quit
  • Severe withdrawal symptoms may appear such as: nausea, sweating, shakiness and extreme anxiety.
  • Individuals become less interested in passions and hobbies outside of using drugs or alcohol
  • People may isolate themselves from loved ones due to shame and trying to hide their addiction
  • Daily life revolves around getting high or drunk
– there are others.

The good news.

Both abuse and addiction are treatable.The sooner someone can get into some form of  treatment, the better the odds are for recovery. While abuse oftentimes leads to addiction, the one thing that separates one from the other is the person’s inability to quit.

Someone who is abusing drugs and alcohol may be able to walk away, however, someone with an addiction usually feel physically and mentally unable to quit even if they desire to seek help.