The Difference Between Drug Use, Drug Abuse, Drug Dependence, and Drug Addiction

The Source Addiction Treatment Center - Fort Lauderdale - The Difference Between Drug Use, Drug Abuse, Drug Dependence, and Drug Addiction

Understanding Drug Addiction Terminology

Drug addiction is a complicated condition and with so many different terms used to describe it, it can be very confusing to understand.  To keep it simple, typically addiction refers to the behavioral aspects of drug use, such as driving while under the influence or stealing from loved ones to pay for more drugs.  Dependence, on the other hand, refers to the physical symptoms associated with drug use.  These could be experiencing withdrawal symptoms when not using or developing a tolerance to the drug.

Are Drug Use, Abuse, Dependence, and Addiction the Same Thing?

While all of these terms are in some ways interconnected, they are not exactly the same thing.  Each describes varying degrees of the role drugs play in someone’s life.  Understanding the difference between these can help identify when you or a loved one may need treatment for drug addiction.

If you or a loved one is struggling with drug or alcohol addiction, reach out for help today! Call to speak to our compassionate staff confidentially at 800-204-0418 now.

What is Drug Use?

Drug use involves the use of illegal drugs such as marijuana, heroin, cocaine, methamphetamines, or steroids.  It can also include taking medications prescribed by a physician in excess, or differently than they are prescribed.  This could mean taking medication that is prescribed to someone else, taking a larger dose than prescribed, or crushing and snorting the medication that is meant to be taken by mouth.  Some over-the-counter medications can also be taken for the purpose of getting high.  People who frequently use drugs are at significant risk of developing addiction to them. 

The Source Addiction Treatment Center - Miami - The Difference Between Drug Use, Drug Abuse, Drug Dependence, and Drug Addiction

What is Drug Abuse?

Drug abuse is considered a precursor to drug dependence.  As the frequency of drug abuse increases, so does the likelihood of becoming physically dependent on the drug.  The American Psychological Association recommends providers use The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V) as a guide to diagnosing mental health conditions.  In the past, drug abuse and dependence were classified as two separate conditions, however, the latest version uses a scale to determine whether it is abuse or dependence.

What is Drug Dependence?

Drug dependence has both physical and mental elements.  Mental dependence happens when an emotion or event triggers the desire for drug use.  Because of the way drug use changes how your brain responds to stressful situations, these triggers signal to the brain that it needs the drug.  More specific examples of triggers could be anxiety, an argument with a loved one, or strong urges to use. 

What is Drug Addiction?

Once a person reaches the level of physical or mental dependence, addiction is typically in play as well.  The distinguishing factor between addiction and dependence is the uncontrollable urge to get and use drugs.  Drug Addiction, or substance use disorder has three classifications; mild, moderate, and severe.  While not everyone who uses drugs will become addicted to them, there are known risk factors for addiction.  Genetics and the environment you grew up in play a huge role in determining if you will become addicted.  If one or both of your parents had substance use disorder, your risk is significantly higher than a child of someone without it.  Mental health conditions and trauma also contribute to addiction.

Drug Detox and Rehab for Substance Use Disorders

Treatment for substance use disorder starts by completing a detox supervised by trained medical professionals.  Once the drug is out of your system, the true healing will begin.  After detox, treatment includes a variety of therapies focused on processing the root cause of the addiction and teaching you skills you need to be successful in recovery.  If you have experienced trauma in your life, therapies that specifically target trauma will be included in your treatment plan.  The Source Treatment Center is proud to provide life changing drug addiction treatment and help people live a life better than they ever imagined.  For more information about The Source, please call (800) 204-0418 or visit their website at