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What is the Difference Between Abuse and Dependence?

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The terms “abuse” and “dependence” get used a lot when discussing drug addiction. Unfortunately, many people don’t get their terms correct and end up interchanging these two, very different, references.

So What Is the Difference?

Drug abuse refers to an individual who continues to use drugs even though they know it is having an adverse affect on their health and well being. Drug abusers will continue to use even though their social life is falling apart and their financial stability is collapsing.

Drug dependence occurs when an individual has built up a tolerance to a particular drug or drugs. With tolerance comes the need to take more and more of the drug in order to achieve a “high”. Those with a drug dependence problem are also likely to experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop taking the drug in question. To help better identify drug abuse and dependence, it is important to understand the medical criteria for each.

More Details About Drug Dependence

The medical community defines drug dependence as three of the following occurring within a single year:

  • Building a tolerance for the drug. This may include the need to take more and more of the drug to get its desired effect, or a lessening of the effect one gets when they continue to take the same amount of the drug.
  • Withdrawal symptoms. These may include physical and psychological symptoms such as nausea, sleeplessness, irritability, muscle aches, etc. The length of time that withdrawal symptoms are experienced varies according to the individual and the intensity of the drug addiction, but as a general rule, they will last between two to five days.
  • The inability to stop taking the drug(s) in question
  • The individual takes more and more of the drug over time. More than he or she originally had intentioned.
  • The individual becomes obsessed with the drug, and the pursuit of it begins to overtake their life.

More Details About Drug Abuse

Drug abuse is defined by the medical community as one or more of the following:

  • Use of the drug in question has led to poor performance at school or on the job.
  • The individual uses the drug in situations that are potentially harmful to himself or others (i.e., while driving, caring for children, etc.)
  • The individual incurs legal problems as a result of the drug use.
  • The individual experiences considerable social problems as a result of the drug use (i.e., losing old friends, martial difficulty, etc.)

At Michael’s House, located in Palm Spring, California, we understand the difference between drug abuse and drug dependence. In fact, our residential treatment programs are all customized to meet the very specific needs of our patients. We take extra time to understand the extent of your problem, assess your needs and goals, and then craft an effective plan to help you complete the road to recovery. There’s no drug rehab facility that takes better care of the ones you love than Michael’s House. Call 760.548.4032 now.

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