October 28, 2022

Substance use often starts in adolescence. At its earliest points, this use can seem recreational or benign, but this simple beginning can lead to increasingly dangerous complications, both physical and psychological. The relationship between drug abuse and addiction is connected to the early stages of substance use patterns, and the effects grow out of this early relationship.

What Is Drug Abuse?

Drug abuse is connected to the behavioral patterns within overall substance use. While drug abuse and addiction may coincide to some extent, drug abuse focuses explicitly on the pattern of use and how it negatively affects users. But drug abuse does not include some of the most dangerous consequences of addiction.

However, drug abuse still carries with it several detrimental effects:

  • Poor performance at school or work
  • Risky decisions that could impact both the user and others
  • Unwillingness to stop using a substance despite its harmful effects
  • Both legal and financial consequences from risky behaviors

If just one of these effects is present in a user’s life, their drug use is considered abuse. Still, it does not equate to tolerance or dependence, let alone addiction. Most users at this point can still freely choose to stop without withdrawal symptoms or psychological resistance. Instead, drug abuse is a behavioral pattern that often leads to these consequences more than recreational use does. The real threat of drug abuse is that it frequently leads to dependence, tolerance, and addiction if left unchecked.

What is Drug Dependence?

Long-term abuse of a substance will often lead to drug dependence. At this point of substance use, the user feels like drug or alcohol use makes them feel “normal.” For example, someone who frequently uses cigarettes or chewing tobacco may feel on edge or anxious when they have been abstinent for a while. Using the substance again relieves these feelings of anxiety or unease, likely due to chemical changes that occur in the brain after prolonged drug use.

In many cases, drug dependence is both a chemical and psychological issue. While a user may be able to quit without full-blown withdrawal symptoms, their daily life is still greatly affected by their use patterns. This reliance on a drug can often lead to tolerance and even addiction.

Tolerance in Drug Abuse and Addiction

Alongside the development of drug dependence, drug tolerance often comes from drug abuse issues. Tolerance develops through repeated substance use. As substance use continues, neurotransmitters that regulate brain function are overstimulated, releasing a flood of chemicals like dopamine, serotonin, and endorphins. The effects of these chemicals in the brain are dulled over time, leading to drug tolerance. Achieving the same high that users experience at the beginning of substance use becomes harder, requiring greater amounts of the drug. In most cases, tolerance leads to addiction.

Tolerance is a physical condition, but it is reversible with abstinence. However, those who abuse drugs and have built up a tolerance to a drug are at increased risk of accidental overdose. If a user achieves abstinence, the level of drug consumption they were once accustomed to could prove deadly should they ever relapse.

What Is Drug Addiction?

When abuse and tolerance go beyond dependence, the end result is drug addiction. At this point, the user will see major consequences. In drug abuse and addiction, this final stage of drug use keeps the user from being able to stop using, even after multiple attempts. And the user will experience withdrawal symptoms when not using the drug.

One of the many dangers associated with addiction is increased tolerance and cravings, which can lead to using dangerous amounts of drugs. Additionally, drug addicts often present risk-taking behaviors that can prove detrimental, even deadly, in some situations. Actions such as driving under the influence or working under the influence put themselves and others at risk of severe injury or death. More personally, the long-term behavior patterns of drug-addicted users lead to insecurities related to housing and food due to the financial consequences of continually feeding their addiction.

Finally, addiction’s many physical and mental repercussions are irreversible, even when a user enters recovery. Altered brain chemistry from substance use changes how a brain functions. Long-term physical health deteriorates as users often develop heart disease, emphysema, and organ failure. And co-occurring disorders like depression, anxiety, and schizophrenia lead to higher death rates by overdose and suicide.

The Line Between Drug Abuse and Addiction

On a chemical level, the line between drug abuse and addiction comes down to tolerance. While abusers of drugs may have no tolerance, those suffering from drug addictions have developed a high tolerance and therefore depend on their drug(s) of abuse.

On a behavioral level, drug abuse and addiction differ in the degree to which they affect the life of a user. Abuse is more occasional, although still dangerous and detrimental. Addiction is habitual and interferes with nearly every aspect of daily life.

In both cases, serious consequences can occur due to legal and financial issues surrounding substance use. Drug abuse and addiction also impact family dynamics and relationships, leading to child welfare issues.

Drug Testing for Drug Abuse and Addiction Treatment

To begin recovery, users need significant support and guidance from community resources, counseling services, and accountability measures. These support systems are essential for users with families to remain together during and after recovery. One accountability measure that both courts and case workers use to help in the recovery process is drug testing.

But drug testing must achieve a specific goal: positive change. When used punitively, testing results become less dependable due to a user’s desire to avoid negative consequences. Instead, drug abuse and addiction recovery benefit from motivational enhancement therapy and contingency management.

Drug Abuse and Drug Testing

At its center, drug abuse is a behavioral issue. For those involved in court cases due to the consequences of drug abuse, drug testing serves as a safeguard against future use. A consistent method of accountability can improve recovery in these cases, allowing users to rebuild safe habits and decrease the likelihood of risky choices.

Drug Addiction and Drug Testing

With increased tolerance and the higher mental and physical dependence associated with drug addiction, the need for accountability increases greatly. Drug testing, in these cases, serves not only to support behavioral changes but also to prevent chemical dependence from further damaging the user’s physical and mental well-being.

The Sweat Patch and Addiction Recovery

Drug abuse and addiction recovery depend on consistent support. But in many cases, conventional drug testing does not provide the level of support necessary to prevent relapse. The PharmChek® Sweat Patch is the solution to the accountability gap within recovery.

The Sweat Patch provides a long sampling period, with up to 14 days of continuous wear in some cases. A recovering user experiences consistent accountability throughout the wear time of the sweat patch rather than just a few days surrounding the sample collection of conventional testing methods. For addicts in recovery, this could mean the difference between maintaining abstinence and experiencing a relapse. And relapses, when a once-high drug tolerance has decreased, can be deadly.

Along with continuous drug detection, a trained professional can easily detect attempts to tamper with the sweat patch. And there is no way to alter the outcome of the test through dilution or substitution.

With its proven reliability and tamper-evident design, the PharmChek® Sweat Patch provides a level of accountability that helps users achieve and maintain abstinence within a whole-person recovery plan.