Substance Abuse and Addiction

The expression “substance abuse” has lost its recognition as the accepted terminology in recent years. Scientists, physicians, and advocates alike contend that the word “abuse” does not fit the situation at hand. This term belongs, and rightly so, as a way to define matters dealing with physical, mental, or emotional manipulation of one human being against another. Substance abuse has transitioned to the more applicable substance use. It’s not just a change in wording, it changes the conversation, too. Those who use drugs are no longer affiliated with the abuse narrative if their other actions haven’t deserved it. This subtle but powerful alteration in the vernacular has not made it to the entire general public quite yet. For this reason, the remainder of this explanation will refer to both terms synonymously.

Substance Abuse | Substance Abuse and Addiction
The use of substances can hurt more than one’s health. Families, relationships, careers, and more are all in the crosshairs of addiction and its oftentimes permanent consequences. Substance abuse disorders are the byproduct of repetition, in this case, using dangerous products over and over again. Over 300,000 Americans succumb to ailments linked to substance abuse each year, and the numbers grow all the time. This is in part to an increased prevalence of opioid painkillers and their illegal offshoots, namely heroin, and fentanyl. On top of these, people are most likely to indulge in alcohol, antidepressants, sleeping pills, and tobacco-based products. Additionally, illicit drug variants including methamphetamine, bath salts, cannabis, hallucinogens, and more are prevalent. Truthfully, this is just the tip of the iceberg. “Substance” is a catchall term for anything that can be ingested — whether swallowed, snorted, injected, or otherwise — into the human body to get high.

Technically, taking a sip of a beer, a puff from a joint, or a pill from one’s prescription can be considered substance use. With this interpretation, almost everyone fits within the category of someone who has used. However, the designation is mostly reserved for use over and above recommended or accepted amounts. Which proves subjective, given society’s opinion of the substance, the substance’s legal status, and the context of use. Going back to a previous example, most would not consider sipping a beer as substance use. And they might be right, depending on if that beer was being drunk with others to celebrate in a social setting, or alone to cope with stress or depression. Same amount and different settings, equal differing views on the label of “substance use.”

Substance abuse disorders are uniquely personal. No one person may exhibit the same intensity or desire for using, and the drug of choice differs as well. There is thought to be a correlation between these two points. The more potent and the higher a drug’s addictive potential, the more common and volatile the abuse disorder. Also, some drugs, such as marijuana, have among the highest number of people using the drug, but virtually no addictions. Instances such as this bring into question the validity of terms like “abuse.” Beyond the argument for decency made above, this is another reason for the ensuing name alternation.

In addition, addiction and substance use or abuse are not the same things. Addiction should be seen as the second-most unfortunate personal result of substance use, second only to death. Though, addiction is often one step closer to that even worse outcome if treatment is sought. Just because someone uses a substance does not make them addicted. It could very well happen in the future, but the term addiction cannot be applied to anyone and everyone.

Many who delve and research deeper into substance use disorders want to discover why someone they know or love cannot quit; or perhaps why they themselves can’t seem to stop. Everyone is different in this regard, but certain life factors make use a greater likelihood. Said factors include but are in no way limited to, how someone was raised, if they were abused as a child, if the trauma of tragedy struck during their childhood, their parent’s substance use problems, no coping skills, genetics, behavioral predispositions, the age of first substance usage, and more. Again, this is only scratching the surface. Human lives are an amalgam of memories, experiences, hopes, dreams, fears, and myriad other intangibles that have an infinitesimal or infinite effect on us. Where drug use may fit within that picture is truly anyone’s guess.

Though there still may be perplexities as to how a substance use disorder begins in each of us, there should be no confusion on how to make one end. Treatment resources can be found online to help cut back on usage in the here and now. But, if this is not enough, thousands of rehabilitation centers exist across the country. Their expertly crafted programs can help anyone who partakes in substances be able to one day say that “using” was just something they used to do — but not any longer.


Substance Abuse | Substance Abuse and Addiction
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