Having an alcohol or a drug problem does not depend on the frequency of use. Most people think that a problem exists only when a person drinks or consumes drugs on a daily basis. A person does not need to go through withdrawal symptoms when he/she is not using in order to be considered addicted to drugs or alcohol.
A look at the meaning of the word dependent is somewhat revealing. The McMillan dictionary defines dependent as:
if you are dependent on someone or something, you need them in order to live or succeed.
Dictionary.com defines it as:
relying on someone or something else for aid, support, etc.
Addiction is a dependency to a substance or an activity that brings pleasure, which the individual cannot be without in spite of his own will and despite the bad consequences it generates.
This can be true of a person using or drinking every week-end whose bad consequences can be a severe hangover or financial tightness for the rest of the week as compared to the fully blown addict whose consequences are much harsher, much more apparent.
Substance Abuse vs Alcoholism or Drug Addiction
A substance abuser is someone who would use on a frequent basis. If a person uses cocaine or drinks to get drunk every week-end like clock work and sometimes during the week whether to have fun and/or relax, then this could be considered substance abuse. The substance abuser can hold a job and maintain good relationships, etc, he or she appears to have a fairly “normal” life and can make sound decisions.
Their consumption is frequent and they appear to have some control over the substance yet they drink heavily or show some propensity for getting high. That is a classic case of substance abuse and the person is at risk and should be confronted before the problem gets worse. Substance abuse has definite potential to turn into addiction if not handled.
The person who is addicted is one that most likely have lost their jobs, lost their girlfriend / boyfriend / spouse or quit school and have secluded themselves from family activities and when questioned become upset and blameful. They are hanging out with new buddies and cannot make sound rational decisions. Things start disappearing around the house and they display strange unusual behavior. Addiction changes people emotionally, mentally, spiritually, physically and socially. The only thing that becomes important to a substance dependent person is the next hit. These signs of addiction include:
- Everyday usage of drugs and alcohol
- Long-term binges that reoccur over and over
- Disappearance, usually for several days
- Inability to hold a job, may resort to immoral or criminal activity to support habit
- Increased depression and anxiety
- Intense blame of others for the individuals problems
- Isolation from family and friends
Understanding Alcoholism, Drug Addiction, and Substance Abuse
Needless to say, substance abuse and drug addiction affects all sectors of life and society. It is undoubtedly a serious subject.
Throughout the ages alcoholism and drug addiction have broken families apart, caused companies to spend enormous amounts of money, caused many motor vehicle accidents and is responsible for the rise in criminality.
There is no discrimination for substance abuse or addiction. It does not depend on age, sex, race, religion or financial status. Of course no one starts using drugs with the intention of developing a drug problem along the way.
Often people will have a hard time understanding why people just don’t stop using. To a person who does not use or using recreationally from time to time it is hard to fathom why some people get hooked. One might start recreational use out of boredom or to party, or maybe it is because of peer pressure but somewhere along the way something negative happens and the person is unable to deal with it. Drugs or alcohol use becomes a solution.
Alcohol and drugs numb, they temporarily make everything look and feel better until they wear off then more alcohol and drugs are needed.
Addiction and Withdrawal
Withdrawal is the group of symptoms that occur when an individual discontinues or decreases the amount of drugs or alcohol they are consuming. Some drugs such as opiates, prescription medications and alcohol can cause severe physical withdrawal symptoms. These physical symptoms can be very painful and potentially fatal. Please see the National Addiction Resources page on Withdrawal/Detox for more information on how cessation of drugs and alcohol can have real consequences.