User, Abuser, and Dependent: What’s the Difference?

Use, abuse, and dependence — you’ve heard these word before in the context of alcohol addiction or drug addiction. What’s the difference?


A drug user and alcohol user could be defined as an individual who drinks occasionally or has tried a drug. On holidays, very special occasions, large celebrations, or less then two times a year, they will indulge in some type of substance usage. However, they do not drink to get drunk. They may only have one to three drinks over the course of a couple of hours, or they may try or experiment with drug use a few times.

Users are also lacking the obsession of a heavy alcohol user or drug user. They live life normally without any kind of craving or obsession (either mental or physical) of any type of mind-altering substance to use. Someone who has a glass of wine with dinner would be classified as such.


A substance abuser uses quite frequently, on the weekends, or once to three times a week. An alcohol abuser and drug abuser drinks to get drunk and has a subtle obsession for mind-altering substances. They may use engage in drug abuse or alcohol abuse several times a month. The may go to the bar every weekend and drink very heavily. They seek out the mind-altered mood, they want to get drunk or high. They are able to hold a job, make sober rational decisions, and maintain healthy relationships and still be seen as functioning like a normal person.

A problem with this usage is that over time the chance of them becoming a drug and alcohol dependent because of their routine drug usage and alcohol usage. Those who have the tendency to become dependent on drug abuse and alcohol abuse (substance abuse) will become dependent. It is a matter of when, not if, they become dependent. This type of drug and alcohol abuse requires an intervention specialist to help them get back on path!


A drug or alcohol dependent individual is quite noticeable (unless the observer is in denial) from those looking from the outside inward. A dependent engages in substance consumption despite the consequences. They may have lost their job, dropped out of school, or isolated themselves from friends and family. They spend most of their time under the influence of some type of drug or alcohol. They drink or use drugs, if not everyday, a minimum of four times a week.

They used to feel normal. They obsess about drinking or taking their drug of choice. They may steal, pawn, or trade items they have once valued in the past. They’re financially bound to drug and alcohol dependency. They may hide their usage or lie about how much they abuse. They are or will become either emotionally, mentally, spiritually, physically, socially, and/or financially bankrupt. They display bizarre or erratic behavior that, to them, is justified or normal.

The responsibility or accountability is projected onto the ones closest to the dependent. This type of drug dependency and alcohol dependency requires an intervention specialist to help them get back on path immediately!

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