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What is the Difference Between Substance Abuse and Addiction?

What is the Difference Between Substance Abuse and Addiction?

The terms substance abuse and addiction are often used to describe the same thing.  But, there are some significant differences between the two disorders.  Knowing the difference between them can help a person seek treatment before drastic consequences occur.  

Substance Abuse or Addiction?  Which Is It?

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH):

Substance abuse is “the use of illegal drugs or the use of prescription or over-the-counter drugs or alcohol for purposes other than those for which they are meant to be used, or in excessive amounts. Substance abuse may lead to social, physical, emotional, and job-related problems.”

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA):

Addiction is defined as a chronic, relapsing disorder characterized by compulsive drug seeking, continued use despite harmful consequences, and long-lasting changes in the brain.”

The main difference between substance abuse and addiction is as follows:

  • When a person struggles with substance abuse, they still have control over their daily functioning. 
  • When substance abuse progresses into addiction, the drug becomes the individual’s primary focus.  The person has no control over their substance use.  As a result, they may lose their job, family, friends, home and ruin their health. 

Contrary to the NIDA and NIH definitions, the DSM-5 categorizes substance abuse, dependence, or addiction under the single category of substance use disorder (SUD).  Under this category, there are three subclassifications of mild, moderate, or severe SUD.  The DSM classifies the symptoms associated with SUD into four groups: (1) impaired control, (2) social impairment, (3) risky use, and (4) pharmacological criteria such as tolerance and withdrawal.  

Understanding Drug Use, Misuse, and Addiction

Many studies have not yet been modified to reflect the DSM-5 classifications.  Therefore, the reports still refer to substance abuse and dependence as separate disorders.  The terms drug use, misuse, and addiction are still defined as follows:

  • Drug use:  refers to any illegal substance use such as cocaine, heroin, tobacco, or others.
  • Drug misuse:  refers to unhealthy or improper use of prescription medications or alcohol in moderation.  It also includes using drugs in ways other than prescribed or using someone else’s prescription.
  • Drug addiction:  refers to a person’s inability to control their drug use despite negative consequences.  

The terms can be confusing and hard to know which to use when.  For instance, rather than use the term “drug abuse”, the NIDA now uses “drug misuse.”  They believe the term “abuse” is shaming and adds to the stigma surrounding SUD.  

Differences Between Dependence, Tolerance, and Addiction

To make things even more confusing, we have to look at the differences between dependence, tolerance, and addiction.  Understanding these terms can help when trying to determine whether professional treatment is necessary.  

Dependence can happen with regular use of a substance whether legal or illegal.  Many prescription drugs cause dependency even when taken as recommended.  With regular use of a substance, the body adapts to the chemicals.  When the substance is withheld, the body produces symptoms of readjustment.  Over time, the symptoms diminish without any further issues.  

Tolerance refers to the body’s response to repeated substance use.  The person finds that they need larger doses of the drug to get the desired effects.  

It’s often difficult to distinguish between dependence, tolerance, and addiction.  The main difference between the three is that addiction can cause a person to resort to drastic means to obtain more of the drug.  They have no regard for the damage to their life, health, or loved ones.  

Side Effects and Health Consequences of SUD

Substance use disorder can result in a range of side effects that differ depending on the drug involved.  However, some common symptoms are felt, regardless of the substance.  They can include mild to moderate symptoms such as:

  • Stomach distress
  • Headache
  • Insomnia
  • Hot and cold flashes
  • Anxiety, nervousness
  • Flu-like symptoms

Severe symptoms can appear after prolonged SUD:

  • Heart or lung disease
  • Cancer
  • Respiratory issues
  • Kidney or liver damage
  • Mental health problems
  • Seizures
  • Stroke

SUD can also result in a fatal overdose.  In fact, the CDC reports more than 93,000 fatal overdoses occurred in 2020.  A large number of the deaths were attributed to prescription drugs and illicit substances such as fentanyl and other synthetic opioids.

Overcome Substance Use Disorder at Cycles of Change Recovery

Have you started to worry about your substance use behavior?  If so, it’s time to seek treatment. You should start now before the consequences begin to affect all areas of your life.  Contact us today at Cycles of Change Recovery.  We’re here to help you overcome substance use disorder and take back control of your life.  In our Palmdale, CA facility, you’ll enjoy a comforting environment where you can escape negative influences and focus on healing.  

We offer a unique, customized approach to treatment that adapts to your needs and preferences.  If you are ready to get back on track with your life, contact us today.  It’s never too soon to begin.


Recognizing Drug & Alcohol Abuse in the Workplace

Recognizing Drug & Alcohol Abuse in the Workplace

Drug and alcohol abuse in the workplace has steadily increased since the beginning of the virus pandemic in 2020.  Since then, the number of workers who miss work or perform poorly on the job has nearly doubled.  According to the 2020 Behavioral Health Impact Update, substance use now affects 49% of American workers.  

As a result of employee substance use at home or in the workplace, companies suffer expensive consequences.  The losses reach $100 billion a year, according to the National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information (NCADI).   

How Employee Substance Abuse Affects the Workplace 

Substance abuse by employees can cause a variety of problems.  These problems can include costly medical, social, and performance issues. Furthermore, they can affect both the employer and other employees who are trying to do a good job.  So, if a person comes to work hungover, or uses substances while at work, the entire workplace suffers.

Substance abuse by workers can lead to the following issues:

  • Repeated tardiness.
  • Hungover, sleeping on the job.
  • Poor decision-making. 
  • Inability to focus on tasks.
  • Reduced efficiency.
  • Trouble getting along with co-workers.
  • Stealing from the employer or co-workers.
  • Selling drugs while at work.
  • Using drugs or alcohol while on the job.
  • More likely to injure themselves or others.

Studies show that nearly 6% of heavy drinkers showed up at work high or drunk in the past year.  With that in mind, could you recognize if a co-worker is using drugs or alcohol on the job?

Spotting a Co-Worker’s Substance Use on the Job

Surprisingly, substance use in the workplace is not as isolated as we might think.  In fact, studies show that 10 to 20 percent of workers who died at work tested positive for drugs, alcohol, or both.  

Here are some ways to detect drug and alcohol abuse in your workplace:

  • Unexplained absenteeism.  If someone is missing from their desk or worksite without an excuse or reason, it could be a sign they are using drugs or alcohol.
  • Chronically late.  If a coworker is always late on Mondays, it could be due to heavy partying over the weekend.
  • Unexplained accidents.  Someone who frequently gets odd injuries while at work may be high.
  • Over-reacting to incidents.  If a coworker goes into fits of rage over small things that happen during the workday, it may be a sign of substance use.

Of course, these suggestions are not meant to make you feel that you must spy on your coworkers.  Also, there could be other explanations for their behavior.   But, if you do notice these signs, how should you react?  

How to Handle Suspected Workplace Substance Use

If you suspect a coworker of substance use during work time, it puts you in a tricky position.  Do you say something, and risk the repercussions if you’re wrong?  Or, if you don’t say anything, could someone get hurt and you’d feel responsible?  It’s a difficult position to be in, but there are some subtle ways to handle the situation.

  1. Document any evidence you think will support your suspicions. This should only include workplace behaviors.  
  2. Ask for a private meeting with your manager or human resources supervisor.
  3. Don’t confront the coworker yourself.
  4. Share your concerns with the manager and show them the evidence you documented.
  5. Let the manager or supervisor handle the situation from there.  

Most companies today have specific guidelines to follow in these instances.  In most cases, they will do what they can to help the person get treatment.  Being caught or accused of substance use in the workplace doesn’t mean the person automatically loses their job.  Many companies allow a person to return to work after completing a rehab program.

What Steps are Necessary to Create a Drug-Free Workplace?

When it comes to creating a culture that emphasizes a drug-free environment, business owners and managers have a big responsibility.  But, they can reach out to state and federal resources for assistance.

Here are some things managers, supervisors, CEO’s, and other business professionals can do to prevent employee drug use at work:

  • Establish a clear policy about workplace substance use.
  • Include pre-employment drug testing and random drug testing.
  • Make sure employees are informed about the consequences of failing a drug test.
  • Allow time off for people in treatment or recovery from substance use according to the ADA guidelines.
  • Provide health insurance for employees that includes coverage for substance abuse treatment.
  • Ensure that the company drug policies are in compliance with federal or state laws.

Small businesses owners also struggle with drug and alcohol use in the workplace.  Also, they are less likely to have programs in place to address the issue.  For that reason, the US Department of Labor offers a workplace kit to help small business owners create and maintain a drug-free environment.  

Drug and Alcohol Addiction Treatment at Cycles of Change Recovery

Recognizing drug and alcohol abuse in the workplace is a great start in reducing additions.  But, making sure a person gets effective treatment is the ultimate goal.  Choosing the right program is another way to ensure that a person overcomes an addiction.

At Cycles of Change Recovery, we offer a unique, individualized approach to treatment.  We want our patients to get the perfect level of care for their specific needs.  Also, our team of skilled professionals is dedicated to ensuring the comfort and safety of our patients as they progress through the program.  We strive to help a person realize their true potential and provide the counseling and guidance they need to reach their goal of substance-free living.  

Contact us today at our Palmdale, California facility to learn more about our programs.  After you take this first step, we’ll be there to guide you through the rest.   


  1. businesswire.com/ – 49% of US Workers are Struggling with Alcohol and Substance Abuse
  2. standard.com/ – Behavioral Health in the Workplace
  3. workplace-dynamics.com/ – Building Blocks for a Drug-Free Workplace
How Long Will I Be in Recovery?

How Long Will I Be in Recovery?

The terms recovery and treatment are often used interchangeably.  Although they are related concepts, they are not the same thing.  If you’re wondering how long you’ll be in recovery, you must first understand what recovery encompasses.  

Treatment is a part of recovery.  But, recovery involves more than spending time in a rehab facility.  If you’re struggling with substance abuse or addiction, it’s important to have realistic expectations about quitting.  So, let’s explore the key differences between treatment and recovery processes.

Treatment is the first stage of recovery.

Addiction treatment programs often include detox, counseling, therapy, and aftercare.  Depending on the person’s circumstances, treatment providers can offer inpatient or outpatient programs.  The first step is detoxification.  Many facilities offer onsite detox programs which are more convenient.  

Contrary to what many people think, detox is not a cure for addiction.  This process only addresses the physical aspect of addiction.  The next step in treatment is to participate in a rehabilitation program that focuses on the emotional and mental aspects of the addiction.  Why is this important?  Because there are often underlying reasons why a person engages in substance abuse.  The reasons can include elements such as environment, family history of drug use, physical or mental abuse, emotional issues, mental health problems, and more.

According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM), addiction is:

“… a treatable, chronic medical disease involving complex interactions among brain circuits, genetics, the environment, and an individual’s life experiences. People with addiction use substances or engage in behaviors that become compulsive and often continue despite harmful consequences.”

Treatment programs must have a flexible, comprehensive curriculum that can adapt to each person’s unique situation to ensure long-term recovery.  Depending on the substance involved and the duration of the addiction, treatment programs can last 30, 60, 90 days, or longer if needed.  Most people need at least three months in treatment followed by an aftercare program for continued support and guidance.

Recovery Is an ongoing process of staying sober.

When people refer to themselves as “recovered’ they should instead refer to themselves as “in recovery.”  The distinction is vital to the individual’s understanding of the process.  Recovery cannot be determined by a specific length of time.  It is an ongoing process that the individual must work at for a lifetime.  Also, the experience is different for each person.  So, recovery cannot be given specific parameters.  

Being in recovery means applying the concepts and skills learned while in a treatment program.  The classes, activities, and counseling help clients regain self-esteem, build confidence, and develop effective coping techniques.  They learn to recognize and manage triggers that could lead to relapse. The goal is to help a person manage daily tasks or stress without the need for addictive substances.  In other words, treatment provides a firm foundation for building a sober life.

So, how long will you be in recovery?  The best way to look at it is that each day brings challenges and temptations.  How you respond to those factors will determine whether you continue in recovery or suffer a relapse.  But, never forget you are not alone in the experience.  Millions of people are active in recovery today and enjoying the benefits of healthier, sober living.  

What if I relapse while in recovery?

Relapse is not uncommon during recovery. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), 50 to 90 percent of recovering alcoholics relapse within the first four years after rehab.  For recovering drug abusers, the relapse rates are approximately 40 to 60 percent.  But, the way the person responds to relapse is the crucial factor.  In most cases, a person who has a “slip” can get back on track by attending a self-help meeting.  With a full relapse, additional time in rehab may be needed.

The differences between a “slip” and a full relapse are:

  • A slip is a short-lived occurrence.  The person may use the substance for a day and realize the risk they’ve taken.  They then take steps to stop using before addiction takes hold again.
  • A full relapse happens when the person returns to a pattern of substance use over a long period of weeks or months.  They may isolate themselves and skip meetings due to shame or guilt about the relapse.   

Relapse can be dangerous if the person uses the same amount of the substance they used before treatment.  This happens because the body no longer has a tolerance for the substance.  Fatal overdoses are a concern for people who relapse after treatment.  

Treatment and Recovery at Cycles of Change Recovery

Remaining in recovery is a continuing process of trying different methods to cope with daily stressors.  At Cycles of Change Recovery, we understand the challenges faced by our clients when they step back out into the world as sober individuals.  Therefore, we provide a comprehensive treatment program customized for each client’s specific needs.  

With the right combination of education, support, and compassion, we give our client’s the best chance for moving forward toward a purposeful, healthier lifestyle.  If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, please contact our Palmdale, California facility today.  We will be happy to discuss our treatment options and get you started on the next cycle of change in your life.


  • asam.org – Definition of Addiction
  • ncbi.nlm.nih.gov – A Comparative Study of Factors Associated with Relapse in Alcohol Dependence and Opioid Dependence
How Does Heroin Abuse Affect Your Mental Health?

How Does Heroin Abuse Affect Your Mental Health?

The prevalence of heroin abuse and addiction today has reached shocking proportions.  It caused more than 14,019 fatal overdoses in 2019, and the numbers are rising.   Yet, the impact of heroin abuse isn’t restricted to fatal overdoses. Heroin users struggle with the negative effects of the drug in many other ways. 

Heroin is one of the leading causes of the opioid epidemic America faces today.  It is an opioid that is 50 times stronger than morphine.  The euphoric effects it produces are almost immediate.  Also, heroin addiction can occur with only a few doses.  Soon, the person needs more and more of the drug to get the desired effects.  Over time, the endless cycle of getting high, coming down, and seeking more of the drug becomes their primary focus in life.  Continued heroin use will lead to serious physical and mental problems.

How Does Heroin Abuse Cause Mental Health Problems

To better understand how this substance can cause so much suffering and damage, we need to know how heroin works in the body.  What happens when heroin enters the brain to cause mental health problems that ruin a person’s life?

  1. Heroin acts on the brain’s natural opioid receptors.  These receptors regulate how a person perceives pain.  They also control how an individual responds to the sensation of reward.
  2. The chemical make-up of heroin causes it to work faster than other opioids.  If a person injects heroin, it enters the bloodstream and reaches the brain in 10 seconds.
  3. Heroin then activates and overstimulates the brain’s opioid receptors.  This effect gives the user a sense of contentment and bliss that other drugs can’t produce.
  4. When heroin use continues for long periods, the structure of the brain changes.  These changes are irreversible in some cases.  The changes also erode a person’s ability to control behavior, make decisions, and respond to stimuli.
  5. The brain produces extra opiate receptors to compensate for the continued presence of the drug. Dopamine, which controls how a person responds to pleasure, is also affected by heroin.  The brain’s ability to produce dopamine slows or stops.  This effect leaves a person unable to experience pleasure without the drug in their system.

As a result of heroin’s power, a user experiences various mental health problems that can completely alter the course of their life.

Mental Health Disorders Caused by Heroin Abuse

Heroin abuse can lead to short-term and long-term physical and mental health issues.  For this discussion, we will focus on the mental health problems experienced by heroin abusers.

Changes in a person’s brain caused by repeated heroin use can lead to the following psychological problems:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Aggression
  • Paranoia
  • Hallucinations
  • Suicidal ideations

Heroin abuse can also cause disruptions in brain functions that control the following:

  • Thinking
  • Learning
  • Decision-making
  • Ability to focus
  • Memory 
  • Processing information

The consequences of heroin abuse can also affect the person’s family, friends, and communities.  Many relationships are broken due to a person’s drug use behaviors. Also, heroin-related crime destroys many neighborhoods, especially in inner-city areas.  Furthermore, the financial burden on our government for law enforcement, incarcerations, health care, hospitalizations, and treatment programs is staggering.  

For these reasons and more, helping individuals get treatment for heroin abuse before more damage occurs is vital.

Heroin Abuse and Co-Occurring Mental Health Issues 

Some heroin users have preexisting mental health problems that contributed to their heroin abuse.  Things such as depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem can lead a person to experiment with drugs as a coping mechanism.  But, as they continue using heroin, other mental health problems can arise, making it more difficult to quit using the drug.  

When heroin abuse and mental health problems are present at the same time, simultaneous treatment of both issues is the best option.  Why?  Because addiction is a complex disorder that involves physical, emotional, and social aspects. Effective treatment must target each of those factors to ensure lasting recovery.  Without the skills and knowledge to manage their emotions, a person is more likely to continue using heroin as an escape tool.

Mental health problems may be the cause or effect of heroin use.  Regardless, the outcome is the same no matter how it began.  The person’s life and health suffer adverse consequences either way.  

Seeing Beyond the Stigma Surrounding Heroin Use

We must change the stigma surrounding heroin and help people get the treatment they need.  It’s unfortunate that many people still think of heroin users as weak-willed individuals who could quit the drug if they wanted to badly enough.  The truth is, few people can quit heroin on their own.  When the potent addictive qualities of the drug take hold, the person is powerless to resist the cravings for more of the drug.  

Think of the overdose statistics as individuals, not just numbers. Heroin stole their chance to reach their full potential in life.  Each number represents a life ruined or lost due to heroin abuse.  These individuals did not make a conscious choice to become addicted to heroin.  Yet, they continue to suffer the consequences.

Get Specialized, Accredited Treatment for Heroin Abuse Today

Heroin addictions are on the rise and becoming more deadly.  For instance, many street dealers lace heroin with other dangerous chemicals such as fentanyl to increase profits and make the drug more potent.  Unsuspecting buyers have no idea what is in the drug they purchase.  

Of course, effective treatment is the best solution for heroin addiction.  At Cycles of Change Recovery, we want to be part of that solution.  Our accredited, comprehensive treatment program gives clients an individualized approach that addresses their specific needs.  We focus on helping a person heal physical damages and emotional trauma caused by heroin abuse.  . Our goal is for clients to complete our program with the confidence, motivation, and skills to rebuild their lives.

If you’re struggling with heroin abuse, the best time to make a change is today.  Take the first step toward addiction recovery.  Call us now.  Our caring, skilled professionals will help you overcome addiction so you may enjoy the healthy, productive life you deserve.  


drugabuse.gov/ – Overdose Death Rates

Ending the Endless Cycle of Addiction

Ending the Endless Cycle of Addiction

Substance abuse or addiction can seem like an endless cycle.  It’s a process with no clear beginning or end.  Even if the individual wants to stop their drug use, they don’t know where to begin, so the cycle continues.  In far too many cases, overdose or death occurs before the person gets a chance to make a change.  So, what happens during the endless cycle of addiction that makes it hard to break?

Understanding the Stages Involved in the Cycle of Addiction

The stigma surrounding addiction suggests that substance users lack willpower.  In truth, willpower is only a fraction of the complex process that leads to substance abuse.  

The definition of addiction, according to the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM):

“Addiction is a treatable, chronic medical disease involving complex interactions among brain circuits, genetics, the environment, and an individual’s life experiences. People with addiction use substances or engage in behaviors that become  compulsive and often continue despite harmful consequences.”

Addiction can occur quickly, depending on the substance involved.  Or, it can take months or years to develop.  But, the process involves a series of stages that make the cycle of addiction so difficult to break.  For instance, some of the stages may occur together.

To better understand the cycle of addiction, familiarize yourself with the following stages: 

Stage #1:  Initial use of an addictive substance.

Each person has their own reasons for experimenting with drugs or alcohol.  Whether the first-time use leads to addiction depends on several risk factors such as:

  • Neglect or physical/emotional abuse.
  • Dysfunctional living environment.
  • Loneliness, depression, or other mental or emotional issues.
  • History of substance abuse among family members.
  • Peer pressure, social issues, low self-esteem.

Of course, these risk factors don’t always lead to substance abuse.  But, when influenced by the other stages of addiction, the possibility increases.  

Stage #2:  Substance abuse.

In this stage, the individual begins repeated substance abuse despite adverse consequences.  For example, someone who uses prescription painkillers will increase the dosage or frequency of use.  An increased dosage can cause:

  • drowsiness, sedation
  • confusion
  • shallow breathing
  • nausea, vomiting
  • anxiety, irritability
  • muscle pain
  • addiction

Substance abuse is the point where a person’s drug use is specifically for euphoric reasons.  

Stage #3:  Tolerance increases.

Repeated drug abuse causes changes in the brain that result in increased tolerance.  What this means is that it takes more of the substance to produce the desired effects.  The person using the drug will increase the dosage or frequency of use to experience the euphoria they seek.

As a person increases the amount ingested, they start on a path to the next stage of addiction.

Stage #4:  Dependence.

In this stage of addiction, the brain can no longer function the way it should.  The person no longer feels pleasure without the substance in their system (anhedonia).  At this point, the individual needs more of the substance to feel “normal.”  However, it’s important to note that dependence does not always signify addiction.  

Stage #5:  Addiction becomes obvious.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) states that addiction is comprised of specific symptoms and behaviors.  The 11 signs and symptoms include:

  1. Using more of the substance than intended.
  2. Inability to stop using the substance.
  3. Relationship issues due to SUD.
  4. Seeking and using the substance is a person’s primary focus.
  5. Lack of interest in hobbies or activities that were once enjoyable.
  6. Unable to perform daily responsibilities.
  7. Intense cravings for the substance.
  8. Continued use despite negative health problems or other consequences.
  9. Engaging in dangerous situations or behaviors while using the substance.
  10. Increased tolerance for the substance.
  11. Withdrawal symptoms occur when the substance is withheld.

Generally, experiencing two or three of the above signifies mild substance use disorder (SUD).  Four of five indicates moderate SUD.  Someone experiencing six or more of the above has severe SUD or addiction.

Stage #6:  Relapses are part of the endless cycle of addiction.

According to NIDA, about 40 to 60 percent of people in recovery from addiction will relapse.  Relapse happens for many reasons depending on the individual and their unique situation.  However, relapse is not a sign that the treatment failed.  Furthermore, relapse doesn’t mean the individual has failed at recovery.  

If relapse occurs, the best option is to seek further treatment or try another program.  Sometimes, a person can benefit from a different approach or additional time in a secure, nurturing environment.  

We Can Help You Overcome the Endless Cycle of Addiction 

Each person experiences different responses to treatment.  So, the programs should be flexible enough to adapt to their individual needs.  At Cycles of Change Recovery, we offer a unique and proven approach to treatment. We can help you achieve the substance-free lifestyle you want and deserve.  Our treatment options focus on establishing a solid foundation for you to build on as you progress through recovery.  

Contact us today to learn more about our programs.  You’ll discover that the endless cycle of addiction does have a finish line.  You just need guidance in the right direction to find it.  


  • asam.org – Definition of Addiction
  • drugabuse.gov – Drugs, Brains, and Behavior: The Science of Addiction: Treatment and Recovery

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