There is no universally accepted or official defined truth of what substance abuse is or isn’t. There are general ideas of a substance abuse definition, and there are definitely a set of guidelines that form a set of parameters around the substance abuse definition. The very basic and generalized idea of what substance abuse is is the use of a substance in a matter that is not intended or in an amount that is not suggested. A person does not at the beginning need to be addicted to be abusing a substance. They just need to use it as defined above with the foreknowledge that it is indeed harmful or dangerous.
Substance Abuse Definition Expanded
A substance abuse definition does not include addiction, for a person need not have a deep craving, but definitely enjoys the physical, emotional, or psychological effect of the substance. They seek it out. Because of this they exhibit the same pattern of abuse as an addict. They begin to neglect other aspects of their life, such as work, school, or social pieces of their life.
Now, when we are discussing a substance abuse definition, there are three aspects that must be included, and they are abuse, dependence, and addiction. Substance abuse need not be comorbid with addiction. Substance dependence always includes abuse and had to have to have had developed into a dependency issue. Substance abuse has the potential to lead to dependence or addiction, but regardless it is always damaging to the user and his or her family and friends. One thing that should always be included in a substance abuse definition is that substance abuse requires treatment and involves recovery.
Substance Abuse Definition Further
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders constantly tries to narrow down and tweak the substance abuse definition. It is in the fourth edition now and does and always has refered to a pattern of substance use that is unhealthy and generally results in at least three of a list of certain experiences. These are as follows:
- Tolerance – The user finds a need for more and more of the substance to get the same effect or to even feel normal.
- Withdrawal – The person uses again to eliminate the feelings of withdrawal, and these symptoms are felt when use hasn’t occured in some time.
- Unplanned – The abuser finds that he or she is using more and beyond the original planned time. He may even be purchasing enough to save for “next time.”
- Desire to Quit – The person now is finding a desire to quit or at least cut back on his or her use of the substance, as it is interfering in their life.
- Interference – The user is spending much time trying to obtain the substance, use it, or come down from its effects.
- Life Changes – Activities that were once pleasurable are given up. Work and school are being affected. Social life is being disrupted.
- Damages – Physical and psychological damages are taking place yet the person keeps using.
If three of these is occuring in a persons use then they can be considered a substance abuser. This is a fairly decent substance abuse definition with specific parameters and guidelines. Other very general substance abuse definitions exist, such as “the excessive use of a substance.” Others include items such as risky behavior. There is no universal substance abuse definition. As a substance abuse counselor this is okay, for we should be comfortable enough with all of the varying aspects to know intuitively if a person is actively engaging in substance abuse or not. If you can’t tell, keep studying! It should be second nature.