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Abuse or Addiction

Abuse or AddictionSubstance Abuse vs. Substance Addiction

Even though the two terms are often used interchangeably, it is important to distinguish between substance abuse and substance addiction in order to fully understand a patient’s situation and determine the right treatment for him or her. One can abuse drugs without necessarily being addicted to drugs.

Sovereign Health Group is a residential rehabilitation treatment company for substance abuse, mental health disorders and dual diagnosis. Our expert staff provides our patients with cutting-edge treatment programming and a full continuum of therapeutic care monitored by various licensed health professionals.

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What is substance abuse?

The term “substance abuse” is used to refer to the emergence of a behavioral pattern involving substances such as drugs and/or alcohol. Substance abuse involves a patterned consumption of any and all mood-altering substances.

Substance abuse involves a wide range of behavioral patterns, which include consuming greater amounts in order to achieve the desired effect and sometimes having withdrawal symptoms when consumption is decreased or halted. When use becomes compulsive and uncontrollable, it is normally referred to as addiction. It is important to note that substance abuse can develop into an addiction, but not the other way round.

What causes substance abuse?

Substance abuse can result due to environmental stress, social pressure, personality traits and psychiatric issues. Adolescents and young adults often abuse drugs and alcohol socially and recreationally in environments such as bars, parties and clubs. A family history of substance abuse or child abuse or other trauma can further raise the risk of such behaviors. Mental health disorders such as depression, low self-esteem, anxiety and stress may also lead people to initiate substance abuse as a form of self-medication.


Symptoms of substance abuse include a combination of physical and behavioral signs:

  • An inability to sleep and being awake at odd hours
  • Changes in eating habits
  • Shaking and poor physical coordination
  • Red, watery eyes and a runny nose
  • Nausea, vomiting or excessive sweating
  • Deterioration of one’s health, hygiene and physical appearance
  • A change in overall attitude/personality
  • Drop in grades at school or work performance often attributed to lack of focus
  • Loss of interest in family activities or hobbies often leading to social isolation
  • Frequent dishonesty
  • Sudden oversensitivity, temper tantrums or resentful behavior
  • A lack of motivation and self-esteem
  • Rapid changes in energy levels
  • Paranoia, giddiness, moodiness and irritability
  • Possession of drug or alcohol paraphernalia
  • Unexplained need for money; theft

What is addiction?

Addiction refers to when a person uses a substance, or engages in an activity, until it becomes a compulsive habit. It involves a cluster of behavioral, cognitive and physiological conditions that develop after substance abuse and is characterized by a strong desire to take the substance, difficulties in controlling its use, persisting in its use despite harmful consequences, a higher priority given to the consumption of the substance than to other activities and obligations, increased tolerance and a physical withdrawal state.

These behavioral changes are closely associated to changes in brain functioning as well, especially in the brain’s natural inhibition and reward centers.

Addiction can be physical and/or behavioral.

Physical addiction occurs when the body adapts to the presence of a substance, builds up a tolerance to it and ends up relying on the substance in order to function. Physical addiction causes a severe withdrawal when use of the substance is decreased or halted.

Behavioral addiction is based on the euphoric feelings created by the use of a substance that has a lower risk for addiction. Behavioral addictions may also occur in the form of addictions to activities such as gambling, sex, eating and shopping.

What causes addiction?

As with substance abuse, addiction can be caused by a number of factors. Family history can also influence addiction as presence of certain genes may put an individual at a higher risk for addiction. Additionally, being around those who abuse drugs and alcohol or are addicted can also result in greater vulnerabilities.


The symptoms of substance addiction are largely similar to those present in substance abuse. They vary in the extent that they affect the individual with increasingly severe symptoms including:

  • Drastic fluctuations in mood and energy levels
  • Changes in weight
  • An extreme need for privacy, secretive behavior
  • Dishonesty and theft
  • Irregular use of money; missing money
  • A preoccupation with the addiction; planning, engaging in and recovering from the substance
  • All social, occupational or recreational activities seem to focus on the addiction
  • They have serious difficulty cutting down on their addictive behavior
  • They have developed a higher tolerance to the substance
  • They experience severe withdrawal symptoms when use of the substance or engagement in the activity is decreased or halted

How to treat abuse and addiction

It is important for someone struggling with substance abuse to get the proper treatment for it, before it develops into an addiction or leads to greater adverse effects. If the substance abuse does develop into addiction, treatments vary. It must begin with the process of detoxification, supervised by a medical professional due to severe withdrawal symptoms.

The Sovereign Health Group is a behavioral health treatment provider for substance abuse, mental health disorders and dual diagnosis. Our expert staff provides our patients with cutting-edge treatment programming and a full continuum of therapeutic care monitored by an assortment of licensed health care professionals. We have specialized facilities located throughout the United States and accept most forms of insurance. If you or a loved one has additional questions concerning substance addiction or abuse, contact a representative online or call 888-530-4614 for more information.

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