The terms “substance abuse” and “addiction” are often used interchangeably, but they actually have different working definitions. In the context of drugs and alcohol, the primary difference between the two is that one precedes the other. Substance abuse is the introduction to addiction; addiction can never precede substance abuse. A key component to a substance abuse rehab center is targeting substance abuse before it develops into addiction, and the first step is making it possible for anyone to identify what kind of drug / alcohol problem they or their loved ones are experiencing.
Substance abuse is characterized by a person exhibiting one or more negative behaviors over the span of a year. For example, a person may be noticeably reckless when they are using the substance, engaging in activities that are illegal while under the influence. They may show signs of a declining school or job performance, or may be damaging personal and professional relationships. Run-ins with the law and problems with money are also common. Often the individual is aware that substance abuse is contributing to their problems, but they continue to engage in it anyway.
Addiction, on the other hand, is even more serious than substance abuse. The behaviors that can be observed in a drug or alcohol addict are more regular and more severe. An addict will experience withdrawal symptoms if they stop using the substance they are addicted to, which can include shaking, sweating and delirium. In many cases they will have developed a tolerance to the substance and require it in increasingly greater amounts than in the past. It is possible they are using unsafe quantities of the substance in order to feel its effects. The addict will feel like quitting the substance is impossible due to past failed attempts to do so.