Substance abuse is defined as a harmful pattern of hazardous use of mood-altering substances, often called “psychoactive substances.” This can include alcohol, drugs (both legal and illegal) and even substances (like caffeine or nicotine) that are not drugs at all. Using psychoactive substances can lead to dependence, which usually includes an overwhelming desire or need to take the drug, difficulty or inability to control your use, and continued use despite negative consequences. While there are some people who can use substances without dependence or addiction, abuse means that you are using the substance in a way that is not intended, including using prescription drugs recreationally, or using more of a substance than is recommended or prescribed. At Oceanfront Recovery, our fully licensed treatment facility and highly trained staff are combined with cutting-edge treatment modalities to help you understand your substance abuse and begin your journey to recovery.

addiction recovery patient

Defining Substance Abuse

The words use, abuse and addiction or dependence are frequently used to talk about problems with drugs or alcohol. But it is critical to understand the difference as you are working through recovery.

  • Use – Substance use is consumption of alcohol or drugs, whether it’s a cocktail at a social event or taking a prescription drug for a medical condition. For many people, substance use is occasional, and they are able to self-regulate. For one in 10 people, substance use leads to abuse or dependency.
  • Abuse – Substance abuse occurs when you continue to use alcohol or drugs even after it has started to cause issues in your life, including problems with your health, job or personal relationships. An example may be going into work hungover, knowing it will adversely affect your job performance.
  • Dependence – Substance dependence is having an addiction to alcohol or drugs. This means that you are physically dependent on the substance, and may have severe withdrawal symptoms if you were to quit. It also means that you can’t control your use of the substance, and feel as if you “need” it to function, even if it is actually impairing your ability to function.

In the case of legal substances, the line between use and abuse is often blurred. Are a couple of beers in the evening after work considered use or abuse? What about smoking a pack of cigarettes every day or drinking cup after cup of coffee? It may seem simple, but for many people, it doesn’t take much to step over the line from responsible use into abuse and then dependence.

recovery patient

Symptoms of Substance Abuse

Addiction, or substance use disorder, affects your brain until you can’t control your need for your alcohol or drug of choice, and drastically alters your behavior. There are some symptoms of abuse or dependence that are specific to the drug being used; however, common signs of substance use disorder include (but are not limited to):

  • Feeling an intense need for the drug (daily or several times during the day) that overwhelms any other thoughts
  • Gradually needing an increased dose of the drug to experience the desired effects
  • Loss of interest in social activities and hobbies you used to enjoy
  • Failure to meet deadlines and obligations at your job
  • Continuing to use the drug despite harm to your mental and physical health, as well as your job and relationships
  • Neglecting personal hygiene and appearance
  • Changes in behavior
  • Engaging in risky or illegal activities
  • Spending a significant amount of your time thinking about using the drug, using the drug or recovering from the drug
  • Spending money that you don’t have on the drug, stealing or failing to pay important bills to ensure that you can get the drug
  • Trying to quit and failing, or experiencing withdrawal symptoms

Again, these are just some of the symptoms you may notice in yourself or a loved one who is suffering from a substance use disorder. At Oceanfront Recovery, we offer a multi-faceted approach to recovery in which our clients learn how to manage their own recovery, aided by our experienced and supportive staff. If you are one of the 27 million Americans who suffer from substance abuse issues, we can help. Call Oceanfront Recovery today at 877.279.1777 and speak confidentially to one of our experienced intake specialists. Let us help you begin to reclaim your life, free from the weight of addiction.