Substance use

When Does Substance Use Become an Addiction?

In For Addicts, For Friends, For Parents by Rebecca Flad

Everyone’s reaction to alcohol and drug intake varies by individual. Each and every person has their own tolerance, social experiences and influences that lead them toward drug or alcohol intake. Some take medication to aid a disease or physical pain, while others strive to get a high off of it. Many people drink alcohol out of habit at the dinner table or after a long-days’ work. When underaged substance users being abusing the drugs or alcohol, they tend to blame it on a phase they’re having that they’ll soon grow out of. And most adults justify substance abuse by claiming it to be a way to escape from the problems or depression in their lives. They tell others that if they were in their situation they’d use drugs/alcohol too. For some people, substance use is just a phase, but what about when it’s not?

What is Substance Abuse?

Substance abuse can be seen as an overconsumption or intake of drugs and/or alcohol that is harmful or excessive for the body. It is an overindulgence of substances that can lead to overdose and death. Some drugs, such as heroin and cocaine, are harmful in itself and qualify as substance abuse after one time use. Others, such as prescribed medication and alcohol take some time to classify as abuse. For example, taking one 30mg Oxycodone medication every 4 hours up to 4 times a day is fine when prescribed by a doctor, but once you go over the prescribed amount it becomes abuse.

Doctors prescribe a specific amount of medication to ensure substance abuse is not taking place, which is why harmful substances are not always harmful when taken in moderation. Similar situations appear when consuming alcohol. One beer or glass of wine here or there could be harmless, but drinking more than that is excessive and could harm the body.

What is Addiction?

An addiction can be described as being unable to stop or become moderate with the substance you are using. It is not willingly, but it is needing. The medical term for this is “substance dependency.” It is when your body is now going to depend on that substance and will react in unpleasing ways when it doesn’t get it. This is when withdrawal symptoms begin and the toll starts to become apparent. You know you are addicted to a substance when your body becomes irregular when the substance is not in your system. Addiction is not a choice, but it is a result of, sometimes excessive, substance abuse.

From Substance Use to Substance Abuse to Addiction

While some forms of substance use lead to stance abuse, it could in fact be a phase for some people, but it no longer is when it turns into addiction. Abuse becomes addiction when the substance no longer is the escape. It’s when the substance is now the problem, and you find yourself depending on it. You now can’t get through a week, or even a day or two, without having the substance in your body. Many people get headaches and migraines when they become addicted to alcohol and don’t have their glass a day. Other withdrawal symptoms are more tolling for the body such as with seizures or an increased heart rate as a result of not having a fix of heroin.

Not many people understand that substance use can easily lead to abuse which can quickly lead to addiction. Whether or not it is a phase, it’s important to stop before any signs of addiction begin kicking in.