What Is The Difference Between Substance Misuse vs. Abuse?

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Intention and motivation are key factors that help to determine the difference between substance misuse vs. abuse. The rising percentages of emergency room visits from drug misuse and abuse have people wondering what the differences are. There is a distinct difference between abuse and misuse which can be easily understood. Both misuse and abuse are dangerous situations that could cause life-threatening possibilities. Making a clear distinction is important in determining treatment for either. 

What Is Substance Misuse?

Determining the difference between substance misuse vs. abuse begins with the motivation to misuse an already prescribed medication by overuse. Some people believe that they can control their own dosage of medication. In some cases, the body builds up a tolerance to medications, and the thought process is that taking more than the prescribed dosage will not hurt. This is simply not true and a false belief. Taking more medication than the prescribed dosage can lead to physical illness, a pathway to addiction, or even overdose. While the motivation to decrease pain by taking a higher dosage of medication is the intention, the misuse is still not healthy or wise. 

What Is Substance Abuse?

Substance abuse relies on a completely different motivation based on the intention of experiencing a “high” or inflicting self-harm. Abusing substances is an addictive substance disorder and can cause physical and mental harm, disrupt lifestyles, ruin relationships, and l.ead to death. Abusing a substance with either of these intentions can be the difference between substance misuse vs. abuse and needs to be addressed. Substance abuse falls under the heading of a dangerous disorder maintained with a negative or unhealthy line of thinking. 

How to Distinguish Between Substance Misuse vs. Abuse

Making a determination as to whether you or a loved one deals with drug abuse or drug misuse can be done by evaluating important factors. Professionals use proven methods of finding the difference between substance misuse and abuse when evaluating a person. This evaluation can determine the extent of the drug problem you or a loved one is facing. Physicians and mental health professionals receive training in assessing and diagnosing drug abuse and misuse. 

What can begin as a lapse in judgment can become a serious misstep and lead to addiction. Before addiction occurs, it is important to determine the difference between substance misuse and abuse. Be honest with yourself or your loved one when reviewing these issues. Factors that can determine substance misuse are:

  • Not following directions relating to prescription drugs, including dosage amounts and times.
  • Making changes of a person’s own determination with the dosage of medication
  • Taking medications not prescribed to the person
  • Using prescribed medications for other reasons than what it was prescribed for i.e., headaches or muscle strains

Those who are abusing a substance or medication can have distorted beliefs, thought patterns, and behaviors. The difference between substance misuse and abuse can be as simple as the likelihood of overdose. The most important factor is time – take quick action to treat an addiction. These factors indicate a pattern proven to be indicative of substance use disorder:

  • Lack of control in usage of the substance
  • A build-up of tolerance for the drug
  • The substance is of the highest priority in the user’s life
  • Ignoring harmful symptoms experienced from drug abuse

Dangers of Substance Abuse

Substance abuse is not only dangerous, it is a bomb waiting to explode. Addiction can negatively affect one’s occupation, relationships, and physical and mental well-being. The difference between substance misuse and abuse can be the threat of overdose and the negative possibilities are endless. What could have begun as misuse becomes an overwhelming and uncontrollable need for the drug. 

Substance abuse can wreak havoc on the body and mind. It also can disrupt eating and sleeping habits. In turn, this causes weakness and physical debilitation. The difference between substance misuse and abuse indicates that drug addiction can cause brain damage. Drug addiction leads to illness and injuries, some serious. Another important detriment of drug addiction involves the effect the addiction has on the loved ones, family, and friends of the addict. 

Find Treatment for Substance Abuse

Mental health professionals and physicians will determine the difference between substance misuse and abuse through their assessments and evaluations. Once a person makes the decision to enter treatment, designing the right plan for them begins. Substance abuse treatment often involves detoxification first. The body has become dependent on the drug and withdrawal can be dangerous for the mind and body. Medical professionals and experienced drug rehab professionals direct the detox process.  

A combination of therapies works together to treat substance abuse. Clinicians determine which programs to use. For example, some people need inpatient, while others benefit from outpatient programs. The difference between misuse and abuse is stated in the form of treatment involved because addiction is much more intense to treat. Medical management could be part of the treatment process to alleviate painful or intense symptoms. While in treatment the addict will learn how to live life as a sober person. As a result, they will begin making healthy and positive decisions. Additionally, using healthy coping mechanisms will replace urges to use substances.

Finding the Difference between Substance Misuse vs. Abuse in Los Angeles

If you or a loved one are trying to determine the difference between substance misuse vs. abuse, we can help you. Launch Centers in Los Angeles employs experienced and caring mental health professionals backed by supportive rehab specialists. Additionally, we can answer your questions and help you take that first step to sobriety. Those involved with misuse are also welcome to contact us to aid in stopping the misuse and learning healthy and positive coping mechanisms. Reach out here for us to help you make the first step to change your life. 

About Our Founder

Jose Hernandez, for over a decade, has been involved in alcohol and addiction recovery helping people succeed in overcoming substance abuse and regaining control of their lives. He has experience in all aspects of the recovery world, from facilitating entry into treatment as an intervention specialist to counseling and case management at rehabilitation facilities. Jose has worked one-on-one with individuals as a sober companion and with groups as a resident counselor at addiction treatment centers and is certified by the California Association of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors (CAADAC) to practice as a substance abuse counselor.

Through his professional experiences in crisis intervention, drug and alcohol detoxification, substance abuse counseling, and relapse prevention, Jose has developed a unique plan for case management that bridges the gap between a person’s painful past of substance abuse and a future of sobriety.

At Riviera Recovery, a sober living facility with multiple locations, clients continue their transition from the supportive environment of a treatment center to living well and happily in the “real” world. The program he designed at Riviera Recovery personalizes treatment plans that enable clients, including those with a single or dual-diagnosed mental health disorder, to embrace a satisfying life.

His greatest endeavor has been establishing LAUNCH, a Los Angeles-based life skills intensive outpatient program for young adults. LAUNCH works with recovering men and women to establish personal vocational and educational goals and develop the tools to successfully meet them. His mission is to ensure that no one stands alone in his or her recovery.

Meet Our Clinical Team

staff member drug alcohol treatment los angeles

Jess Beck, LCSW

Clinical Director

treatment team los angeles ca

Eric Chaghouri, MD


chloe kruskol los angeles rehab team

Chloe Kruskol, LCSW

Family Program Manager

Our Testimonials

Clients and Professionals Share Their Experience

  • HO

    Launch provided care on multiple levels. The highly skilled therapist coupled with the focus on purpose and long-term goals refocused my recovery from what previous treatment centers pushed onto me. I went from believing that I needed years of treatment to believing I needed years happiness and success. I began to focus on what I wanted to accomplish with my life. I came to realize all the things my addiction and mental illness had taken from me, and I used my future goals as a reason to never pick up again. Due to the passion that Launch instilled in me, I have pursued my future with excitement and dedication.

  • Nicole

    This place changed my life! I’ve had good laughs, good cries, shared a lot of heart to heart moments and grew a loving bond with everyone at Launch Centers. I will always be grateful!!! I really do miss it time to time. I highly recommend Launch Centers!

  • Joey

    The staff and clinicians are amazing and make you feel right at home from the second you walk in the door. I would absolutely recommend this place for a family member or close friend.

  • Ben

    This treatment facility has changed my life. I have always struggled with my mental health and this young adult program provided me with the necessary skills to launch to adulthood. I commend anyone who struggles with mental health or substance use (which was not me) to try this program out. It will change your life.

  • Conner

    Launch Centers Treatment was a major help to me. The therapists and staff genuinely cared about me and truly helped me to make a plan for my future. My personal therapists helped me to discover where some of my deeper issues came from. All of the staff worked tirelessly with me to talk through my issues, or just about life, and offered realistic solutions to my current problems and situation. All of the staff went above and beyond and advocated relentlessly for me. I am very grateful that I was able to have such a wonderful experience with Launch.

  • Adam

    In no uncertain terms Launch Centers changed my life. The staff at Launch are professional, knowledgable and relatable. They keep the format diverse and interesting which kept me engaged in the process. The greatest thing we can do in life is seek to improve ourselves. Launch gave me a skill set I consider to be invaluable in the journey of becoming the best version of myself. I would implore anybody considering Launch to step outside their comfort zone and go, you will not regret it.


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