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Addiction VS Substance Abuse

A commonly asked question is, are addiction and substance abuse the same thing? The short answer would be no they are not. Today's blog will look at the difference between the two and how to recognise both and help with both.

Although substance abuse and addiction are very similar, abusing substances does not always lead to developing an addiction. Recognizing early on that one is abusing substances means that one will be able to receive help sooner rather than later. Therefore making it easier to fight an addiction.

Statistics show that last year 275,896 adults were in contact with drug and alcohol addiction services. ( This highlights how high the numbers are, but it is worth noting that not everyone who suffers would have reached out.

Addiction and substance abuse

Substance abuse can often lead to developing an addiction. However, it does not always lead to developing an addiction and can be prevented if found, (and admitted to themselves) and treated early enough.

What is meant by addiction?

An addiction is looked at as a treatable medical problem. An issue involving complex interactions within the brain, environment and an individual's life experiences. Those with an addiction often use substances to experience emotions and situations they may not have without a substance.

After a while, they get used to these feelings and begin to become dependent and dislike how they are naturally without the use and influence of their chosen substance or substances, as addiction does not always stop at one.


What is meant by substance abuse?

Substance abuse is the misuse of illegal drugs or even sometimes can be legal prescription or over-the-counter drugs and including alcohol. People can abuse any substance if they wish. Substance abuse does not always have to do with illegal substances.

Substance addiction is the misuse of any substance other than the use it has been provided to the individual for.

Again the reasoning for substance abuse is similar to addiction. Someone may begin to rely on the feeling they experience when taking their substance/substances of choice.

Substance addiction-related illnesses

Many individuals who develop a substance use disorder (SUD) are often diagnosed with a mental illness and vice versa. Multiple surveys have found that half of those who experience mental health problems also experience substance use disorder. (

This is not to say those who do suffer from mental ill health are going to miss using substances, these statistics are simply highlighting that those who struggle with poor mental health are more likely to misuse substances.

Data indicates high results of substance misuse in illnesses such as;

  • Anxiety disorder

  • Panic disorder

  • Post-traumatic stress disorder

  • Depression

  • Bi-polar

  • ADHD (Attention deficit hyperactive disorder)

  • BPD (Borderline personality disorder)

  • ASPD (Anti-social personality disorder)

  • Schizophrenia


Top 10 most addictive substance

People can get addicted to any substance, however, the top 10 addictive substances are;

  • Heroine

  • Cocaine

  • Tobacco

  • Street Methadone

  • Barbiturates

  • Alcohol

  • Benzodiazepines

  • Amphetamine

  • Buprenorphine

  • Cannabis

Notice an addiction/substance abuse problem

The best way to help with both addiction and substance abuse is by recognising the signs early on. The earlier you identify the signs of struggle the easier it becomes to treat them.

When someone is struggling with an addiction they may have a change in their personality. This could be anything from acting more positive to more negative, there is not a certain personality an addict will have. An addict will also often have bloodshot eyes and even a frequent bloody nose.

Addicts also often have shakes, tremors and slur their speech as well as making many changes to their daily routine. Many addicts will also have a lack of concern for their hygiene. Finally, another indicator would be a constant need for money and financial problems.

How to help with an addiction/substance abuse

Admitting that help is needed is the hardest part of fighting an addiction or even substance abuse.

There are many ways someone can receive help, one is going into rehab to receive in-patient treatment. Depending on the individual addiction depends on the course of treatment.

Another method one may choose might be AA meetings. Self-help therapy sessions where you talk to others and in a group who have the same struggles as yourself. Similar to AA there is also therapy you can attend to try and change your path of thought that may also help.

Also never be afraid to talk about your struggles, being open and honest about them will help you to address them fully, remembering if someone talks to you about their struggles the best thing you can do is listen.

If you feel you would like a better insight into the ongoing mental health problems, we do offer an online Mental Health First Aid course.

Provided by an instructor qualified under Mental Health First Aid England, allowing yourself to become a qualified Mental Health First Aider.

For further information Email:

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About Me

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I am a multi-award-winning women's healthcare advocate.


I am extremely passionate about women's healthcare and mental health.

Did you know that - You are more likely to meet someone about to attempt suicide than about to have a heart attack? Everyone should know what to do.


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