Two questions we commonly get asked are, “what’s the difference between drug abuse and drug addiction?” “Is there a difference at all?” Although the two terms sound similar, there are some key differences to be aware of. In this post, we’ll explore the differences and similarities between drug abuse and drug addiction and how to get help.

Are you or a loved one struggling with a drug addiction? We can help! Olympus Recovery rehab in Delray Beach treats substance use disorder and the underlying mental health conditions that fuel it. We recognize the needs and experiences of each individual client, and our program is designed with that in mind.

Difference Between Drug Abuse and Addiction

Drug abuse and addiction are two separate diagnoses. The term drug abuse refers to the misuse of drugs for non-medical purposes. The most common drugs that are abused include prescription medications, alcohol, and illegal drugs such as cocaine and heroin. Drug addiction on the other hand is used to describe the repeated use of drugs despite negative consequences and physical dependence. You can abuse drugs without being addicted to them, although drug abuse leads to addiction.

The key difference between drug abuse and drug addiction lies in how much and how frequently you use and the severity of the problems the drug use has created in your life. For example, someone who uses cocaine one time at a party but vows to never do it again has abused the drug, but they are not addicted to it. On the other hand, someone who tries cocaine once at a party, loves the way it makes them feel, and goes on a path of destruction — financially, personally, and professionally — to continually seek out more cocaine would be considered addicted.

Drug Abuse Signs

The signs of drug abuse and drug addiction also vary. It’s important to recognize the signs of drug abuse so that you can get help before it spirals into addiction. Common signs of drug abuse include:

  • Recurring legal and financial issues that were not present before
  • Problems with personal and professional relationships and responsibilities
  • “Risking it all” just to get illicit drugs or prescription drugs, i.e., ignoring childcare duties and obligations, skipping work and/or school, and going on “benders” where you disappear from friends and family for days on end
  • Erratic behavior
  • Mood swings and changes
  • Secretive behavior and lying for example about their prescription medication
  • Physical damage to someone else or their property caused while under the influence of the substance

Stop drug abuse before it leads to a bigger drug problem

Drug Addiction Signs

Drug addiction is much more severe than drug abuse. In fact, addiction is considered a chronic disease of the brain and is accompanied by a physical and psychological drug dependency. The more drugs you use, the more drugs your body will need to feel “normal.” Unsurprisingly, the signs of drug addiction are a bit more severe and include:

  • Severe withdrawal symptoms after stopping drug use abruptly, including nausea and vomiting, sweating, intense cravings, agitation, depression and anxiety, tremors and shakes, panic, clammy skin, and psychosis
  • Drug addicts continue to use the drug, despite the life-altering consequences it is having
  • Becoming extremely angry and aggressive when access to the substance is cut off
  • Lashing out at family, friends, and co-workers for minor issues
  • Feeling powerless to stop using, even if you want to
  • Not being able to function productively without using
  • Losing interest in activities you once enjoyed
  • Co occurring mental health disorders
  • Frequent relapse
  • Collapsed veins
  • Liver failure
  • Respiratory problems
  • Stroke
  • Heart attack
  • Cancer
  • HIV/AIDS from needle-sharing
  • Hepatitis B and C from needle-sharing

If you meet the criteria mentioned above, you need immediate help. Call us confidentially at (866) 305-7134. Our substance abuse specialists can answer all your questions and put you on the road to recovery. Seek treatment today.

Stop drug addiction and substance use disorders

 Treatment for Drug Abuse and Addiction

Addiction is a disease, and the good news is that, like most diseases, addiction can be cured. The path to recovery is not easy, but it is possible, and you don’t have to go at it alone. There are many support groups and proven therapies that can help. Some ways to overcome addiction and drug abuse that have been proven effective include:


Psychotherapy and other behavior-based therapies are great ways to teach coping skills, help people who are addicted to drugs or alcohol develop new behavioral patterns and change their underlying thoughts that are contributing to addiction. Some common types of psychotherapy include:

Cognitive behavior therapy

CBT is focused on identifying and changing the thoughts and behaviors that are causing the addiction. CBT has been proven effective in helping people overcome all different types of addiction. CBT can be done at an inpatient or PHP drug rehab center.


Mindfulness also aims to resolve underlying mental health issues, like anxiety and depression, that are continuing to the addiction.

Family therapy

Family therapy is especially helpful for teens and young adults, as it focuses on getting the whole family involved in the recovery.

EMDR therapy

An EMDR therapy program is an evidence-based psychotherapy that has been proven to be effective in treating substance use disorders and mental health issues such as PTSD, depression and anxiety. A trained therapist directs their attention to different stimuli, such as eye movements or images and helps process the emotions in that person’s life in a safe and supportive environment.

Experiential therapy

Experiential therapy for addiction treatment complements other forms of psychotherapy and is recommended by the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual in treating co occurring drug addictions. This psychotherapy incorporates art, music, yoga and animal assisted activities in the treatment program.


Certain medications are used to treat withdrawal symptoms to help keep people in treatment and prevent relapse. These medications are best suited for people under medical surveillance, and it’s important that each person speaks to a healthcare provider to find the right MAT program in Florida and setting that will work best for them.

Managing Symptoms of Withdrawal Through Detox

Oftentimes, people have every intention of getting clean, but the withdrawal symptoms are so severe that they push them back into drug use in order to cope and into the cycle of repeated drug abuse. These symptoms include flu-like symptoms, physical pain, and nausea, and they can often be life-threatening. Detoxification programs are excellent, medically supervised ways to safely go through withdrawal while managing the nefarious side effects of coming off long-term alcohol or drug misuse.

Substance abuse outpatient treatment at Olympus Recovery

Olympus Recovery Can Help With Substance Abuse

We hope this post has been helpful in determining the differences between the signs of drug addiction vs. the signs of drug abuse. If after reading through the signs of drug addiction, you believe you or a loved one are dealing with drug abuse and addiction be it from illicit drugs or prescription drugs, Olympus Recovery is here for you.

Our team of dedicated, empathetic, and skilled treatment professionals treats substance use disorder and the underlying mental disorders and issues that fuel it. We recognize the needs and experiences of each individual client, and our program was designed with that in mind. Contact us today to learn more.

Start a new journey!

For immediate help call us confidentially at (866) 305-7134. Our admissions specialists can answer all your questions, and put you on the road to recovery.

Home Page

Home page description

  • Name
  • Phone
  • Email address