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Chemical Dependency versus Substance Abuse

The line between chemical dependency versus substance abuse is very fine.

chemical dependency versus substance abuse - addiction - Fair Oaks Recovery Center

These are just a few of the many consequences associated with substance abuse. Addiction, which is also called substance dependence by the American Psychiatric Association, is defined as a “maladaptive pattern of substance use leading to clinically significant impairment or distress.” (4th ed., text rev.; DSM-IV-TR; American Psychiatric Association, 2000). This text can help clarify further the issue of chemical dependency versus substance abuse.

This impairment is classified using 3 different criteria occurring at any point within a 12 month period. Tolerance is a definitive quality of chemical dependency. This refers to the addict needing to use more and more of the substance to achieve the same results, or to just maintain. A lot of times after continued use, the amount needed is just enough to keep from getting sick due to withdrawals. Other characteristics of chemical dependency are to take the substance for longer than initially intended, or being unable to quit altogether. Continuing to use the chemical or substance in spite of psychological or physical harm is another characteristic of chemical dependency. To simplify, chemical dependency may be present if you or a loved one has begun using more of a particular substance or combination of substances, if you are seeing negative effects in your physical and mental health, or if you have tried to quit and been unable to do so. This may be the time to seek treatment.

When it comes to chemical dependency versus substance abuse, substance abuse is the prolonged and recurring use of a substance, in spite of the negative consequences that continue to pile up. The DSM describes substance abuse as a pattern of recurrent use that leads to damaging consequences. Some of these consequences could have started off as relatively minor inconveniences, but over time and without treatment, they get worse not better. They can include failure to fulfill obligations such as work, school, or family functions. Other factors can include repeated legal problems, in spite of previous issues, or continuing to use the substance even in dangerous situations. Basically, substance abuse is the continued use even when there are thousands of reasons not to.

These are just some of the factors that make up the disease of addiction. Chemical dependency versus substance abuse go hand in hand, and both will continue to get worse if left untreated. If you or someone you love is suffering from chemical dependency or substance abuse, professional help is the key to changing the vicious cycle. Entering a treatment program can be life-saving, and if nothing else, it is definitely life changing.

American Psychiatric Association. (2000). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (4th ed., text rev.). Washington, DC: Author.

If you or a loved one needs help in their fight with addiction, please contact Fair Oaks Recovery Center at (888) 989-9690.