Most people are unaware that there are actually two types of addiction: substance abuse and substance dependence. Regardless of the substance, either type can cause upheaval in someone’s life. So, what is the difference and how do you address them?  Understanding what addiction can go a long way to addressing the problem with the right treatment.

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Whether it involves abuse of alcohol or drugs, addiction is a serious problem to face. It can also be quite complicated; symptoms of addiction vary widely from person to person, and determining the right treatment plan can be tough.

Substance Abuse

The label “addiction” isn’t entirely accurate and can lead to less than effective treatment. Most medical professionals diagnose patients who misuse substances with either “substance abuse” or “substance dependence. Abuse is a milder form of the disorder than substance dependence. To be classified as a substance abuser, patients must exhibit a repeated pattern of substance use and meet at least one of the following criteria within a 12-month period:

  • Having difficulty fulfilling role responsibilities such as going to work or attending school due to drinking or using drugs.
  • Having reoccurring financial or legal problems due to substance use like DUI citations or drug charges, or bankruptcy due to inability to pay bills.
  • Continuing to use alcohol or drugs to the point of social isolation or aggression

A person who drives drunk once may not medically qualify as a substance abuser. Most of the above would typically have to occur more than once to be considered abuse.

alcohol abuseSubstance Dependence

Substance dependence is a more severe form of addiction and definitely requires treatment by a professional addiction center. A patient must have a recurring pattern of substance use over a 12-month period and meet more than one of following criteria:

  • Over time, an addict may need a larger amount of alcohol or drugs to attain the same effects, building up a tolerance.
  • Patients who are dependent on a substance will sometimes undergo physical duress when they stop using, known as withdrawal symptoms.
  • People who are substance dependent will have difficulty avoiding or cutting down on their drug of choice.
  • The patient spends a lot of his or her time getting, using, or recovering from the substance after use.
  • Missing work or other activities
  • Substance-dependent persons continue to use the drug even though they are aware of its negative consequences. For example, someone dependent on alcohol may continue to drink even if it causes them to have stomach pain and liver problems. They completely disregard the repercussions.

Getting help for addiction

While drug and alcohol dependence are lifelong disorders, they can be managed by an effective treatment program. These programs, which consist of people with substance abuse or dependence helping others with the same problem, can work for many. Most will provide holistic treatment options to treat each patient for their individual needs and how to continue to stay sober. Other treatment methods can include cognitive behavioral therapy, motivational coaching or even medications under professionally supervised conditions.

It’s important for family members as well as those struggling with addiction to understand the difference between abuse and dependence, as both are an addiction and both require treatment. If you or a loved one is showing any signs listed above for either abuse or dependence, it’s important to seek help immediately. While abuse is considered the milder form of addiction, it is still an addiction and needs attention.

If you’re struggling with addiction, contact Scottsdale Recovery Center now to get the help you need. For over a decade, Scottsdale Recovery Center has offered an acclaimed recovery environment that merges upscale and luxury accommodations with affordability, clinical expertise and an unwavering commitment to patient care and aftercare, providing “The Gold Standard in Care” with the Joint Commission Accreditation. 

Talk to Someone Who’s Been There. Talk to Someone Who Can Help. Scottsdale Recovery Center holds the highest accreditation (Joint Commission) and is Arizona’s premier rehab facility since 2007. Call 602-346-9142.

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