The term “Use” means an appropriate consumption or amount of either alcohol or some other drug.

The appropriate use of some type of a chemical means that the consumer is using the chemical at:

1. The appropriate time
2. In an appropriate place
3. In the proper quantity.

It involves using the drug in a way that it was meant to be used and by an individual defined as an appropriate consumer.

When a minor uses alcohol or any other non-prescribed drug that either alters his/her mood, it is considered abuse.

Any consumption of an illegal drug, by anyone, is considered abuse.

When someone takes a prescription medication that was actually prescribed to someone else, it is considered abuse.

This constitutes using the chemical in a manner that is inconsistent with its intended purposes.

This could include:

1. Taking a prescription drug in a manner not prescribed (quantity, form, or frequency).
2. It could mean consuming the chemical at an improper time or place.
3. It could involve drinking excessive amounts of alcohol to get drunk.

The actual consumption of a chemical or alcohol is also considered abusive when the chemical takes on elevated importance in the life of the consumer.

Abuse also involves continued consumption of alcohol or the chemical, despite adverse consequences.

Someone who drinks too much or too often could still be abusing alcohol, rather than being considered dependent on alcohol or an alcoholic.

The diagnostic criteria for abuse usually include a set of symptoms that do not satisfy the criteria for dependence.

This could include symptoms such as these:

1. Continued drinking despite problems in various areas of a drinker’s life.
2. Having an impaired ability to take care of one’s roles and responsibilities.
3. Drinking in situations that are dangerous (drunk driving).

Alcohol and/or the consumption of other drugs is considered an addiction or dependence if the previous criteria are present, with additional symptoms that include:

1. Consuming alcohol or other drugs in larger amounts over a longer time.
2. Failure to reduce use or stop consumption.
3. Spending a great deal of time trying to obtain the chemical, including alcohol, using it, and recovering from using it.
4. Eliminating, abandoning, or reducing important life activities because of the chemical.
5. Tolerance to the effects of alcohol or other drugs
6. The presence or emergence of withdrawal symptoms when quitting or cutting back usage.

Tolerance is the need to consume more of the chemical to get the same result or the effects, as the same amount of the chemical has a reduced effect.

Withdrawal symptoms involve both physical and psychological symptoms that occur when the chemical is suddenly stopped or significantly reduced.

The actual progression of addiction from the first consumption of the chemical to the end-stage may involve some or all the previous symptoms, beginning with “using”, then progressing to “abusing” and finally to “dependence” or “addiction”.

For some people, “using” will not progress into the subsequent stages. For others, consumption may get to the next level and stop.

Alcoholics or addicts typically progress from using to dependence. The progression can occur quickly or slowly.

An alcoholic, in denial, can exhibit the symptoms of alcoholism to a trained professional) for a long time, before they have an awareness of their own addiction.

Once a person’s consumption becomes an addiction, they cannot go back to “abusing”.

For some people, the progression to addiction begins with the very first use of alcohol and/or other drugs.

For other people, there might exist a period of responsible consumption of alcohol and/or prescription drugs that will persist over time.

This occurs before the pattern progresses to the subsequent stages and ultimately into an addiction.

Some people have or experience a genetic predisposition to addiction. Others do not, but they become addicted over time, because of their behavior.

There are some people who experience alcohol and/or drug dependence in their families and in their genetic predispositions, but they do not get addicted.

While it helps to distinguish between using, abusing, and addiction, you must keep this in mind.

“Using” may not be simply “using”. If you have any genetic and/or other environmental, emotional, and behavioral risk factors, “Using” could be the beginning stage of your progression to addiction.

See also  What is the Difference Between a Habit vs. Addiction?

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