The Difference Between Substance Dependence and Substance Abuse

substance abuse vs dependenceThe substance use disorders known as abuse and dependence stem from a broad range of substance related disorders caused by both legal and illegal substances. Substance abuse and substance dependence are often confused, but they are actually two different things, though they warrant a similar kind of rehabilitation treatment. It is simple to think of substance abuse as the precursor to substance dependence, which is the more advanced of the two disorders.

Substance abuse can be identified by certain maladaptive behaviors. Work and school are often the first things to deteriorate because of continued substance abuse. Personal relationships and obligations quickly decline as well, and the substance abuser may even find themselves in trouble with the law.

A different set of behaviors and tendencies constitute substance dependence. Considered the more severe of the two disorders, substance dependence is largely reflective of the longevity of the substance problem. Even after the addict has become aware that the substance is controlling and unravelling their life, they will continue to use it out of what they deem as necessity. Indeed, in many instances of dependence, the person’s body has become so accustomed to the substance that it goes into withdrawal if the substance is not ingested. The user’s body has become tolerant to the substance as well, and requires a larger quanitity of it to receive stimulation.

The substances associated with these two disorders are numerous, and may include prescription medications, cocaine, PCP, heroin, morphine, marijuana, hallucinogens, inhalants, amphetamines and alcohol.