Use, Abuse & Dependency - What's the Difference?

Social Users
  • do not experience problems of any kind associated with their use
  • no surprises or unpredictability
  • no loss of control
  • no thoughts of or need for limit setting
  • no one ever complains or worries about how much they drink/use
Substance Abusers
  • use alcohol or drugs to change the way they feel about themselves or some aspect of their life
  • unhealthy pattern of use – continued use despite knowing causes social, occupational, psychological, or physical problem
  • does not experience tolerance (need for more of substance for same effect)
  • does not experience withdrawal
  • substance taken in larger amounts over longer period than person intended
  • attempts unsuccessfully to cut down or control use
  • persistent desire to use, obsesses about use
  • great deal of time spent in activities to obtain substance, in use of substance, or recovering from use
  • intoxication or withdrawal interferes with major life functions (work, family…) or uses when physically dangerous (e.g. DUI)
  • gives up or reduces social, occupational, or recreational activities for use
  • continues use despite knowledge of negative consequences
  • tolerance – marked increase in amount needed to achieve desired effect
  • experience withdrawal
  • uses to avoid withdrawal