Substance Abuse: Substance Abuse Overview

To begin the discussion of substance abuse we must first address the difference in use, abuse, and addiction.

Let’s start with use. Most everybody uses drugs. It could be an aspirin or Tylenol for a headache, a prescribed antibiotic from the doctor, or maybe that cup of coffee or soda that you need to get you going in the morning.

Abuse is when you continue to use a drug even when adverse things happen as a result of the use. For example, you continue to drink alcohol even though you have lost your last two jobs because you can’t get to work on time after drinking all night. Maybe you continue to use prescribed medication inappropriately or past the necessary time of need and get in trouble at work for sleeping on the job. The continued use of a drug, legal or illegal, when it has negative consequences is abuse.

Addiction is when the chemical makeup in the brain has changed and now your brain needs the drug to function as your normal brain function has been altered. These changes in normal brain function drive a person to seek out and use the drugs compulsively, despite negative consequences.

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