Chemical Dependency Versus Substance Abuse

Is there a difference between having a chemical dependency versus a substance abuse problem? If so, what is the difference and is one worse than the other?

chemical dependency versus substance abuse - rehabilitation - great oaks recovery center

Let’s look a little closer at chemical dependency versus substance abuse.

Chemical dependency:

When one becomes dependent on a chemical such as alcohol or drugs, the body both physically and mentally rely/need the chemical (drug) to feel and function. If the body doesn’t get the drug, it can result in withdrawal symptoms.

Substance abuse:

Substance abuse is a medical term used to describe a pattern of using a drug or alcohol (substance) that causes significant problems or distress.

To take a closer look at chemical dependency versus substance abuse, let’s compare the symptoms and signs of both.

Chemical dependency:

Some signs of chemical dependency can range from tolerance level of chemical, meaning it takes more of the drug or alcohol to reach desired effect. Withdrawal symptoms that happen when usage is stopped and continued use of the drug even though awareness of the physical, psychological and social problems are caused by the usage.

Substance abuse:

Signs of abusing a substance can be harder to identify but may include putting oneself in dangerous situations. Some examples are: driving while under the influence, operating machinery, and engaging in aggravated behaviors. Other signs of substance abuse may involve failure to fulfill responsibilities and legal actions related to substance use.

Having a chemical dependency versus a substance abuse problem sounds more serious, but user beware: Chemical dependency often starts with substance abuse.

If you or a loved one is suffering from chemical dependency, or if you believe there may be a problem with alcohol or drugs, please seek professional help. Contact us anytime at (877) 977-3268.

Substance Abuse/Chemical Dependency. (n.d.). Retrieved February 16, 2016, from
B. H., RN. (n.d.). Substance use disorder. Retrieved February 17, 2016, from


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