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.
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
- Social acceptance
- Enhance performance
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.
- Life stressors – home and work
- Relationship turmoil
- Severe physical pain
- Sleep problems
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.