Drug Use vs Drug Abuse | What are the Differences? (2023)

Drug Use vs Drug Abuse | What are the Differences? (1)It can be hard to tell the difference between drug use and drug abuse. Drug use vs. drug abuse terms is often used interchangeably, although abuse and use carry different meanings. It is helpful to be aware of these differences as this can help with knowing when the use of a substance has become problematic.

Knowing the characteristics and signs of drug abuse is critical. Addiction to alcohol and various substances can greatly impact an individual’s life and can carry a number of health impacts. While addiction can take hold of a person without warning, it’s still important to seek help and addiction treatment programs sooner.

Understanding the problematic use of a substance has been a significant area of focus in the field of psychology and rehabilitation. Much of the research around problematic use of alcohol and other drugs examines the level of impact the substance may have on an individual’s life. In order to understand how drug use can transition or morph to drug abuse, it is helpful to examine the patterns and consequences of the use of drugs. It’s also important to understand the substance use of choice, as each carries its own distinct characteristic and trait that can affect users differently. Research shows a strong connection between the number of negative consequences and the severity of drug use or abuse. In order to make it easier to explore the progression of addiction, it is important to define drug use vs. drug abuse.

What Is Drug Use?

Drug use is often referred to as a single episode of use of a substance both for medicinal or recreational purposes. The substance of choice can vary from person to person. Some of the most commonly used drugs include alcohol, marijuana, caffeine, ibuprofen, etc. In fact, the most commonly used substance in the United States is alcohol, according to RehabSpot.com.

The use of alcohol and various drugs can carry a sense of normalcy within society. For example, alcohol is often used frequently during celebrations, various rites of passages, and even during family dinners. Prescription drug use, similarly, can be effective for the treatment of ailments, especially when used as prescribed by a practicing physician. When does drug use morph into something more serious like drug abuse and even addiction? Exploring this topic is complex, given the manner in which various substances are portrayed in the media. It is important to delineate drug use from abuse.

Alcohol and Drug Use in Everyday Life

Alcohol and drug glorification is apparent in popular culture. All ages look toward popular culture to interpret social cues, social norms, and examples of behavior deemed “culturally appropriate.” We see drug use in various movies, music, television shows, etc. The danger of normalizing frequent drug use is the promotion of harmful activities that can be life-altering to a person’s health, relationships, and work life. Additionally, it’s much easier for the line between drug use vs. drug abuse to blur. Understanding how drug use can lead to drug abuse is an important topic for all those questioning whether or not they’re battling with the disease of addiction.

Drug Use vs Drug Abuse | What are the Differences? (2)For direct support and information on our counseling and addiction recovery programs, contact AspenRidge in Colorado directly at 855-281-5588.

Many are unsure of how to distinguish drug use vs. drug abuse. Questions often arise such as:

  • When does drug use become drug abuse?
  • Do all substances lead to addiction?
  • What is drug use vs. drug abuse? Am I experiencing issues with drug abuse?
  • Does the use of illicit drugs automatically qualify as drug abuse?
  • How quickly can abuse or addiction occur?

Understanding drug use vs. drug abuse is not always straightforward. Building tolerance levels and requiring more of the same substance can be different for everyone. Across the nation, there are a lot of recreational drug users. Colorado has been ranked number nine in the nation for the highest drug use and third highest for the percentage of adult substance users who need addiction treatment but are not getting it. A national survey estimated that 128,000 people in Colorado, or three percent, abused or became dependent on illicit drugs in 2014, and only 19,000 received treatment, according to a major state report.

What is Drug Abuse?

Drug abuse differs as users will often overlook the consequences of drugs due to compulsion or extreme desire to continue using. It often is referred to as the problematic use of alcohol or drugs. When carefully examining drug use vs. drug abuse, the one distinguishing marker is often the frequency of use in combination with the level of desire or control. Drug use refers to the experimentation, low frequency, or irregular use of alcohol and drugs. On the other hand, drug abuse refers to regular or compulsive urges to use alcohol and drugs. Generally, drug abuse will alter lifestyles and influence psychological dependency on a substance.

Drug abuse is not strictly limited to illicit substances. It can also be prescribed medications and legal drugs like alcohol or marijuana. A problematic pattern of drug use carries the potential of leading to drug abuse and even addiction. Identifying problematic behaviors can be difficult, but it is important to understand the reasons for using drugs in the first place.

Common Reasons for Substance Use

Where drug use is often an innocent past-time, by contrast, drug abuse has a strong behavioral and emotional component. This refers to the emotional and mental impact that one may experience when engaging in substance use behaviors. Because of the strong connection between substance use and emotions, it is imperative to explore the reasons why someone may be using a drug. Common reasons a person may utilize a substance include:

  • Recreational pastime
  • Celebration or major event
  • Relaxation
  • Boredom
  • Social acceptance
  • Rebellion
  • Enhance performance

Drug Use vs Drug Abuse | What are the Differences? (3)Many of these reasons don’t immediately raise red flags or suggest possible drug abuse occurring. Instead, some of the reasons simply highlight situations where some people may be more inclined to actively seek illegal or legal substances like alcohol, cocaine, marijuana, and more.

Then, there are more serious implications that may suggest an underlying issue that may cause a person to discover relief through substance use.

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Trauma
  • Life stressors – home and work
  • Relationship turmoil
  • Severe physical pain
  • Self-medication
  • Sleep problems
  • Grief

The vastness of reasons for use of a substance often makes the diagnosis of a substance use disorder more challenging. This is why those struggling with drug use or abuse are highly encouraged to seek out professional support.

Contributing factors for drug use vs. drug abuse are different for everyone. There are circumstances and genetic predispositions that can either influence a person to seek drugs or exacerbate an existing problem with drug abuse. Additionally, certain substances carry a higher risk of drug abuse or addiction. Opioids, for example, are highly addictive and their higher rates of prescription led to more populations becoming dependent on continued use and misuse. According to DrugAbuse.org, nearly 12% of prescription pain medications will result in a diagnosis of substance use disorder.

How Can AspenRidge Help to Address Drug Use or Drug Abuse?

Has your drug use led to problems at work? Or how about the difficulty in your marriage? What about your finances? These are significant consequences that would warrant further exploration into the personal use of drugs and other substances.

AspenRidge offers a wide variety of services to address concerns with drug use vs drug abuse. These supportive services are designed with effective treatment modalities to help more Coloradans overcome the disease of addiction. AspenRidge is extremely resourceful and is a strong advocate for those seeking further understanding of their substance use. As mentioned, it’s critical that substance misuse is caught early on and our licensed therapists are experienced in helping thousands of clients understand the complexities of innocent drug use vs. drug abuse. Too often, addiction overtakes a person without warning. Thus, we’ve worked to create self-assessment tests that can aid in determining when to seek expert care and addiction treatment in Colorado.

The treatment program at AspenRidge is renowned for its ability to work with substance use and to maintain sobriety during and after the treatment process. AspenRidge has developed a phase-oriented process that lasts approximately 12 months.

Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP)

The first phase is the three-month program that helps to build encouragement as well as develop stability in life. This program is heavily involved and is designed to help obtain and maintain sobriety through a day partial hospitalization. During this time, 15-30 hours of therapy and counseling is utilized to develop a deep understanding of an individual’s drug use.

Day Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP)

This is followed by an Intensive Outpatient Program or IOP. The IOP program is 90 days with approximately 10 hours of therapy a week. It is the goal at this point in the process of recovery that an individual will develop further empowerment and motivation to maintain sobriety.

Outpatient Program

In the final phase of treatment, the individual will go through a 6-month process to develop leadership and growth. 5 hours of evening outpatient therapy is expected in this phase to aid in maintaining long term sobriety. AspenRidge has demonstrated a high level of success through its well established and evidence-based practices. AspenRidge also has online options available should this suit an individual more appropriately.

Alumni Program

The AspenRidge Alumni Program in Colorado establishes a social support network of recovering people and provides structure to help sustain emotional, physical, and mental wellbeing following drug and alcohol treatment. The Alumni Program’s mission is to extend the AspenRidge Recovery program beyond treatment by creating events and providing addiction recovery resources to strengthen the sense of connection that is essential to long-term recovery.

How Do I Get Started With AspenRidge?

AspenRidge operates from a holistic perspective and is dedicated to tailoring treatment as much as possible to each client’s lifestyle. They have several friendly and caring staff members that are able to provide information about the treatment. The first step that AspenRidge will engage in is prior to admittance into the program. This step involves a thorough assessment process. It is the goal of the staff to gain knowledge of drug use, lifestyle, and resources to better aid in the treatment process. AspenRidge staff is highly trained in assessment to allow for a smooth transition into treatment programs. It is highly encouraged for prospective clients to contact AspenRidge Recovery Centers at 855-281-5588 to schedule an assessment, to speak to staff about various programs, or to verify different insurance plans.

Gaining knowledge prior to taking the steps towards recovery is important and AspenRidge is determined to provide clear information.


What is the difference between drug abuse and substance use? ›

Substance use may not be a problem or lead to abuse or dependency in some people. Abuse: Substance abuse is when someone continues to use drugs or alcohol even when it causes problems, such as trouble with work, family, or their health.

What is the difference between drug use and drug abuse quizlet? ›

Difference between drug use and abuse? Drug abuse leads to detriment whereas drug use is the consumption of a drug.

How to differentiate between drug addiction and drug habitation? ›

Tolerance to drug effects, and withdrawal symptoms upon abrupt cessation of use, which develop over time, are characteristic features of physiological addiction. "Habituation" is the term used to refer to psychological dependence on a drug.

What are examples of substance abuse and use? ›

Substances frequently include:
  • Alcohol.
  • Marijuana.
  • Prescription medicines, such as pain pills, stimulants, or anxiety pills.
  • Methamphetamine.
  • Cocaine.
  • Opiates.
  • Hallucinogens.
  • Inhalants.

What is the difference between drug and drug substance? ›

While the term “drug substance” is limited to the active pharmaceutical ingredient, which is often only a part of a final drug product, “drug product” refers to the finished dosage form.

What is the meaning of drugs use? ›

Drug use, or misuse, includes: Using illegal substances, such as. Anabolic steroids. Club drugs. Cocaine.

What is considered a drug? ›

(drug) Any substance (other than food) that is used to prevent, diagnose, treat, or relieve symptoms of a disease or abnormal condition. Drugs can also affect how the brain and the rest of the body work and cause changes in mood, awareness, thoughts, feelings, or behavior.

What is the difference between drugs and recreational drugs? ›

A drug is a substance that has an effect on the body. Medicines are drugs that help people suffering from pain or disease. Recreational drugs are taken by people because they like the effects they have on their bodies.

What is the difference between addictive behavior and addiction? ›

Behavioral addictions such as gambling, overeating, television compulsion, and internet addiction are similar to drug addiction except that the individual is not addicted to a substance, but he/she is addicted to the behavior or the feeling experienced by acting out the behavior.

What is the difference between addict and addiction? ›

People tend to use the word “addiction” to mean very different things. “I am addicted to shopping” might mean only that the speaker likes to shop. On the other hand, “He is addicted” might mean the speaker thinks the other person is completely unable to control his own behaviour.

What is the difference between addiction and non addiction? ›

Abstract. Substance addiction (or drug addiction) is a neuropsychiatric disorder characterized by a recurring desire to continue taking the drug despite harmful consequences. Non-substance addiction (or behavioral addiction) covers pathological gambling, food addiction, internet addiction, and mobile phone addiction.

What are the 4 types of substance abuse? ›

Believe they should lie to others to hide the effects of their parents problems.
  • Prescription Drug Abuse.
  • Illegal Drug Abuse.
  • Alcohol Abuse.
  • Solvent Abuse.
  • “Legal High” Abuse.
Aug 3, 2016

What are 2 types of substance abuse? ›

There are two main types of substance use disorders: alcohol use disorder and drug use disorder. Some people abuse both substances, while others are addicted to one or the other.

What are solutions to drug abuse? ›

Structured treatment programs, substance abuse counseling, and 12-Step programs do help. While they are not the only sources of help, they are the most consistently effective, especially when combined in some systematic fashion. Treatment and counseling provide structure, support, and intervention.

What are the two meanings of drugs? ›

(1) : a substance recognized in an official pharmacopoeia or formulary (see formulary sense 3) (2) : a substance intended for use in the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease.

What are three examples of drug abuse? ›

Types of Drug Abuse
  • Heroin. Heroin is a highly addictive opioid. ...
  • Cocaine. Cocaine, even when taken in small doses, is a very dangerous stimulant. ...
  • Crack. Crack is a potent form of cocaine that people smoke to create a short and intense euphoric sensation. ...
  • Marijuana. ...
  • Alcohol. ...
  • Prescription Drugs.

What is physical dependence on a drug? ›

Listen to pronunciation. (FIH-zih-kul dee-PEN-dents) A condition in which a person takes a drug over time, and unpleasant physical symptoms occur if the drug is suddenly stopped or taken in smaller doses.

What is drug abuse in simple words? ›

The use of illegal drugs or the use of prescription or over-the-counter drugs for purposes other than those for which they are meant to be used, or in excessive amounts. Drug abuse may lead to social, physical, emotional, and job-related problems.

What is drug in one sentence? ›

A drug is any chemical substance which is given to people in order to treat or prevent an illness or disease.

Which characteristic is associated with drug abuse? ›

Generally, those who use drugs or alcohol are characterized by having high Neuroticism, high Openness to Experience, low Agreeableness, and low Conscientiousness.

Is water considered a drug? ›

A drug is any substance (with the exception of food and water) which, when taken into the body, alters the body's function either physically or psychologically. Drugs may be legal (for example alcohol, caffeine or tobacco) or illegal (for example cannabis, ecstasy, cocaine or heroin).

What are 10 examples of drugs? ›

Commonly Used Drugs Charts
  • Alcohol.
  • Ayahuasca.
  • Cannabis (Marijuana/Pot/Weed)
  • Central Nervous System Depressants (Benzos)
  • Cocaine (Coke/Crack)
  • GHB.
  • Hallucinogens.
  • Heroin.
Aug 20, 2020

Why are drugs important in human life? ›

Medicines can help control things like high blood pressure (hypertension) or high cholesterol. These drugs don't cure the underlying problem, but they can help prevent some of its body-damaging effects over time. Among the most important medicines are immunizations (or vaccines).

What drugs make you happy and energetic? ›

Stimulants speed up the central nervous system. They act like adrenaline, a hormone that is one of the body's natural stimulants. Other drugs with similar effects include cocaine, ecstasy, caffeine, and many others.

What is hard drugs? ›

The risks associated with hard drugs are greater than in the case of soft drugs, especially in terms of health hazards, addiction, and the impact on public order. Hard drugs include, for instance, heroin, cocaine, amphetamine, LSD and ecstasy.

What are the six classification of drugs? ›

DREs classify drugs in one of seven categories: central nervous system (CNS) depressants, CNS stimulants, hallucinogens, dissociative anesthetics, narcotic analgesics, inhalants, and cannabis.

What are 3 characteristics of addictive behavior? ›

Some signs of addiction are:
  • Always wanting more.
  • Constantly needing more.
  • Continuing despite negative outcomes.
  • Inability to follow rules you have set.
  • Not being able to stop.
  • Obsessing.
  • Replacing relationships.
  • Secrecy.
Mar 10, 2019

What are the six major characteristics of addictive behavior? ›

6 Personality Traits Linked to Addiction
  • Impulsivity. Impulsive people are often viewed as fun to be around due to their spontaneous nature, but this personality trait has a serious dark side. ...
  • Nonconformity. ...
  • Anxiety. ...
  • Low Tolerance for Stress. ...
  • Sensation Seeking. ...
  • Blame Shifting.
Sep 13, 2017

How do you get rid of addictive behavior? ›

5 action steps for quitting an addiction
  1. Set a quit date. ...
  2. Change your environment. ...
  3. Distract yourself. ...
  4. Review your past attempts at quitting. ...
  5. Create a support network. ...
  6. For more information on finding an effective path to recovery, check out Overcoming Addiction, a Special Health Report from Harvard Medical School.
Jan 14, 2021

What are examples of addictive behaviors? ›

5 Problematic Addictive Behaviors
  • Impulse Control and Addictive Behaviors. Impulse control is the ability to fight temptation and stop using. ...
  • Lying. Often, people struggling with addiction lie. ...
  • Stealing. While in the throes of addiction, people steal as well. ...
  • Manipulating. ...
  • Obsessing. ...
  • Seeking Addiction Treatment.
Jun 1, 2021

What are addictive behaviors? ›

Any activity, substance, object, or behavior that has become the major focus of a person's life to the exclusion of other activities, or that has begun to harm the individual or others physically, mentally, or socially is considered an addictive behavior.

What are the 2 types of addiction and what is the difference? ›

Drug addiction changes the body, specifically the brain, and can have visible physical side effects. Behavioral addiction does not exhibit the same physical symptoms that accompany drug and alcohol addiction or substance abuse.

What is substance use mean? ›

Substance use. Refers to the use of selected substances, including alcohol, tobacco products, drugs, inhalants, and other substances that can be consumed, inhaled, injected, or otherwise absorbed into the body with possible dependence and other detrimental effects.

What are the different types of substance abuse explain? ›

There are two main types of substance use disorders: alcohol use disorder and drug use disorder. Some people abuse both substances, while others are addicted to one or the other.

What is substance use disorder? ›

Substance use disorders occur when the recurrent use of alcohol and/or drugs causes clinically significant impairment, including health problems, disability, and failure to meet major responsibilities at work, school, or home.

What is substance abuse and substance dependence quizlet? ›

Terms in this set (39) What is the difference between substance abuse and substance dependence? Substance abuse: use of drug interferes with ability to function (fails to meet work or family obligations, NO physiological dependence) Substance dependence: involves either tolerance or withdrawal.

What is another word for substance use? ›

Terms to avoid, terms to use, and why
Instead of…Use...
HabitSubstance use disorder Drug addiction
AbuseFor illicit drugs: Use For prescription medications: Misuse Used other than prescribed
4 more rows
Nov 29, 2021

Is substance use a mental health disorder? ›

Substance use disorder (SUD) is a treatable mental disorder that affects a person's brain and behavior, leading to their inability to control their use of substances like legal or illegal drugs, alcohol, or medications. Symptoms can be moderate to severe, with addiction being the most severe form of SUD.

What does substance mean in life? ›

What is a Person of Substance? A Person of Substance adds value to the world. They create something, whether it is a material item, a thought, an emotion. They work hard and accomplish something. They can be thinkers, or they can be doers.

What are the three forms of substance abuse? ›

Generally speaking, drugs of abuse fall into one of three categories: stimulants, narcotics, and sedatives. The federal government tightly regulates the prescribing criteria for each class of medication, whether it is an analgesic pain-killer or a stimulant.

What are the 4 categories of substance use? ›

The symptoms associated with a substance use disorder fall into four major groupings: impaired control, social impairment, risky use, and pharmacological criteria (i.e., tolerance and withdrawal).

What are 4 different forms of addiction? ›

However, in terms of substance addictions, some of the more common types of addiction include:
  • Alcohol addiction.
  • Prescription drug addiction.
  • Drug addiction.
  • Heroin addiction.
  • Opioid addiction.
Sep 8, 2021

What are 3 signs of a substance use disorder? ›

Substance Use Disorders
  • Drop in attendance and performance at work or school.
  • Frequently getting into trouble (fights, accidents, illegal activities)
  • Engaging in secretive or suspicious behaviors.
  • Changes in appetite or sleep patterns.
  • Unexplained change in personality or attitude.
Apr 24, 2023

What is substance abuse most accurately defined as? ›

(SUB-stunts uh-BYOOS) The use of illegal drugs or the use of prescription or over-the-counter drugs or alcohol for purposes other than those for which they are meant to be used, or in excessive amounts.

How do you diagnose substance use and abuse? ›

Diagnosing drug addiction (substance use disorder) requires a thorough evaluation and often includes an assessment by a psychiatrist, a psychologist, or a licensed alcohol and drug counselor. Blood, urine or other lab tests are used to assess drug use, but they're not a diagnostic test for addiction.

What is another term for substance abuse? ›

INSTEAD SAY: Substance use disorder (SUD), alcohol and drug use disorder, active addiction, problem use, non-medical use, unhealthy use, risky use, harmful use; person struggling with substance use, person with substance use disorder, person who suffers/suffered from addiction.

What is the relationship between drugs and substance abuse? ›

Substance abuse refers to the harmful or hazardous use of psychoactive substances, including alcohol and illicit drugs. One of the key impacts of illicit drug use on society is the negative health consequences experienced by its members. Drug use also puts a heavy financial burden on individuals, families and society.

What is substance dependence also known as? ›

Substance dependence, also known as drug dependence, is a biopsychological situation whereby an individual's functionality is dependent on the necessitated re-consumption of a psychoactive substance because of an adaptive state that has developed within the individual from psychoactive substance consumption that ...


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