Addiction vs. Habit: What’s the Difference?

Published On: September 30, 2016|Categories: Addiction|
habit or addiction

There is plenty of gray area in the development of an addiction. A person can easily say that he isn’t addicted to drug after having used them only a few times. An addiction seems obvious when someone has lost employment or relationships trying to get the next fix. Yet many people ask themselves where the habit has crossed into a full-fledged addiction.

Weighing habit vs. addiction is something many individuals have to do as a form of self-assessment, but figuring out where you fall on the scale can be tricky. In this article we’ll help you discover whether your drug use is a habit or an addiction and list some signs that substance use has gotten out of control.

What’s the difference between a habit and an addiction?

Understanding habit vs. addiction starts with a basic definition of addiction. According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, an addiction is a chronic disease that results in compulsive behaviors despite negative consequences. An addiction involves an interplay of several factors like brain circuitry, genetics and environmental factors.

There are several components of addiction that can help clarify the different between casual drug use and addiction, too. The International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health states that an addiction is characterized by the following:

  1. participation in drug use behavior to achieve desired effects (pain relief, euphoria, relaxation, etc.);
  2. a preoccupation with drug use behaviors;
  3. temporary relief after drug use;
  4. a loss of control;
  5. experiencing damaging consequences.

While some people are able to partake in recreational drug use without these effects, when these five marks of addiction start to manifest, a drug habit can’t be considered casual anymore.

How do I tell if my habit has become an addiction?

There are several measures that can be useful in determining whether your substance use is still within your power. Keep in mind that the best way to tell if you’re struggling with drug addiction is through a consultation or assessment with an addiction specialist like a doctor or psychologist. This article is only meant to act as a guide to recognizing signs of addiction in yourself or another.

Frequency of use

One of the sure-tell signs that a substance use habit has become an addiction is by the frequency that a person obtains and uses drugs. While there is some blurry middle ground, there are some qualitative marks that can help you if you place yourself on a timeline.

Consider how often you use drugs when you are using them most frequently. If you’re partaking in substance use once a week, once a day or more, you can bet an addiction has taken hold. If you’re using substances every month or once a week, you’re at a critical point where you use is turning into an addiction. If you’re using substance less than once a month you can still consider it recreational use, but drugs can still have a disastrous effect even at this point.

Amount of substance used

Another way to determine when drug use has escalated out of your control is to consider the amount of the drug that you used and compare it to when you first used. Has the volume of substance increased? How much has it increased by? If the amount of the drug you are taking has doubled, you’re definitely in need of intervention.

Requiring increasing amount of a drug to get the same high is a certain sign of addiction. This is because a body that consumes drugs repeatedly will build up a tolerance. A tolerance means that the system grows accustomed to the drug so it has less effect with each use, but the body craves it more due to the positive feelings associated with it.

Broken bridges

Drug use has consequences that have ripple effects on the people around us. The irritability and restlessness that comes with addiction may break the bonds we had with friends, urges to use may make us forgo job responsibilities and financial issues may lead to rifts within families.

Casual drug use can also cause damage to relationships, but addiction has a much more severe impact. If you’ve noticed plenty of broken bridges in your life that all occurred since you’ve started using drugs, there’s no doubt substance use is behind it.

Criminal activity

Many highly addictive drugs are obtained and consumed illegally. Heroin, LSD, cocaine, fentanyl and many more drugs are illegal or are only legal for a few approved uses. Other common drugs of abuse like Adderall, oxycodone and methadone are prescribed for medical purposed, but are sold or stolen illegally.

Drugs are often obtained against the law, but they can also cause erratic behavior that results in some legal consequences. Addictions can drive people to do things they wouldn’t with a sober mind. If you’re done risky or illegal things to get drugs, your drug use can be considered an addiction.

Questions to ask yourself about habit vs. addiction

If you’re concerned that your habit may be harmful, ask yourself these questions:

  • Have you tried repeatedly and unsuccessfully to break your habit?
  • Is your use of drugs or alcohol leading to poor decision-making or risky behaviors?
  • Do you find yourself craving drugs or alcohol?
  • Do you hide your substance use or defend it to others?
  • Is your habit negatively impacting work, school, or relationships?

Your answers may reveal a dependence on substances that requires professional treatment. If you are struggling to stay in control of your substance use and feel like it’s a losing battle, Pyramid Healthcare can help.

Call Pyramid Healthcare today to schedule an appointment. Get the help you deserve learning the difference between habit and addiction.

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