Using substances like alcohol and marijuana is commonplace and relatively accepted in society. Substance abuse occurs, is societally tolerated, but is a problem and a sign there may be other mental health issues co-occurring. In 2014, 20.2 million adults 18 and over struggled with substance use disorder (SUD). If left untreated, substance abuse can escalate into chemical dependency, a potentially dangerous physical condition.
Substance Abuse vs. Substance Dependence
The two terms are frequently, but erroneously, used interchangeably. Substance abuse is the medical term for a pattern of using a chemical (drug) that may lead to mental, physical, and societal health problems, but the user is willing and able to stop, usually with treatment.
Substance dependence is the point at which a substance abuser has encountered problems due to their chemical use, but will not and/or cannot stop using.
A substance abuser, if properly treated, usually does not long for the substance again after becoming sober. If someone has a chemical dependency, they will crave the substance after complete detoxification and achieving sobriety.
Recovery from substance abuse may be uncomfortable as the user experiences some withdrawal symptoms, but if a person has a chemical dependency, attempting to stop on their own can be harmful. Medically supervised detoxification is usually necessary.
Effective Treatment for Substance Dependence
It can be a tough road, but treatment and recovery from chemical dependency are possible. A successful substance dependence program should have multiple steps and be customized to the patient. Effective programs include:
- Medically guided detox
- Intensive inpatient therapy
- Education (life skills, anger management, drug use and effects)
- Explanation of and referral to outside resources
- Family therapy
- Transition plan
At Las Encinas Recovery Center in Pasadena, CA, we know that it takes a team effort to wage the war against chemical dependency. If you have any concerns about the substance use, substance abuse, or substance dependence of yourself or a loved one, call us today. Let’s start putting that winning team together.