The Difference Between Substance Use and Substance Abuse

substance use abuseSubstance use and abuse are two entirely different things. People often think they can be used interchangeably, but this is not the case. Substance use can be entirely harmless. It is a way of referring to the responsible use of a recreational or medicinal substance, such as drinking moderate amounts of alcohol. Substance abuse, on the other hand, refers to an irresponsible use of a recreational or medicinal substance, such as driving under the influence of marijuana. The differences between the two are not subjective. It is true that there is a gray area that makes it more difficult to distinguish between the two, but they are inherently different things.

Examples of substance use can range from taking a prescribed medication according to the doctor’s orders to having no more than one glass of wine per day. It essentially means that, whatever amount of a substance the experts have determined is good for a person is all that is being consumed by the person in question. According to everything we know about medical and mental health, proper quantities and dosages of the substance are being consumed.

Substance abuse, on the other hand, cannot claim this kind of responsibility. The terminology speaks for itself. An abuse of anything means it is not being handled correctly and the mistreatment is causing harm. The harm being caused by substance abuse may fall on the substance abuser or on the people in the substance abusers life, and often falls on both. The harm is due to excessive consumption of the substance to the point that it is doing physical and mental damage. A substance abuser defies scientific opinions about how much of the substance should be used and uses it recklessly, often damaging their health, relationships, reputation and finances.

Substance use is, obviously, the smarter option and substance abuse is, obviously, the worse option. Substances with powerful effects on the body and the mind are not meant to be used frivolously. They can have very serious long term consequences on those who abuse them. Anyone who uses these types of substances should always research expert opinions on how to use them and take the information seriously.