Is It Abuse or Addiction?
Substance abuse or addiction is the chronic or habitual use of any chemical substance - alcohol, drugs, tobacco, and prescription medication - used with the intention of altering states of body or mind for other than medically warranted purposes. This maladaptive pattern can be identified by the presence of three (or more) of the following occurring at any time in the same 12-month period:
- The substance is often taken in larger amounts or over a longer period than intended;
- Persistent desire and/or unsuccessful efforts to cut down or control substance use;
- A great deal of time is spent in activities necessary to obtain the substance (e.g., visiting multiple doctors or driving long distances), use the substance (e.g., chain smoking), or recover from its effects;
- Important social, occupational, or recreational activities are given up or reduced because of time and/or energy and/or money involved in using substance;
- Continued substance use despite knowledge of having a persistent or recurrent psychological, or physical problem that is caused or exacerbated by use of the substance;
- Tolerance for the substance becomes defined by either:
- Need for greater amounts of the substance in order to achieve intoxication or desired effect; or
- Markedly diminished effect with continued use of the same amount.
- Withdrawal from the substance is manifested by either:
- Characteristic withdrawal syndrome for the substance; or
- The same (or closely related) substance is taken to relieve or avoid withdrawal symptoms.
Treatment Can and Does Work
Extensive data document that drug addiction treatment is as effective as treatments for most other similarly chronic medical conditions. Because of such obstacles to the right facts as personal denial and incorrect information issued by the press, thousands of people are getting misinformation instead of the help they need.
In spite of sound evidence that establishes the effectiveness of professional drug abuse treatment; many people still believe that treatment will be ineffective. Distrusting treatment can also stem from unrealistic expectations. Many people equate addiction with simply using drugs and so they expect a quick cure--and if it is not cured quickly, they think treatment is a failure.
Addiction is more than an uncontrollable desire for substances; it is an underlying behavior pattern with deeply emotional roots. Successful treatment requires digging down and revealing the long-ingrained pattern at the root level. What's often revealed is behavior born of anger, helplessness, and shame, compounded by intense desires for immediate escape from these unsettling feelings. Because addiction is a chronic disorder, the ultimate goal of successful, long-term abstinence often requires dedication to sustained and repeated treatment.