While substance abuse differs from substance dependence, the difference might be a matter of degree. People who abuse substances and those who are substance dependent can experience many of the same problems.
The DSM-IV defines substance abuse as use that produces one or more of the following situations within a year:
- repeatedly failing to fulfill major work, school, or home responsibilities (for example, regularly missing school or performing poorly at work because of substance use)
- using the substance in situations where it's physically dangerous to do so, such as while driving a car, boating, or operating machinery
- recurring substance-related legal problems, such as arrests for driving while intoxicated, disorderly conduct, or damaging property while intoxicated
- continued substance use despite ongoing relationship problems either caused worsened by substance use (for example, arguing with a spouse about the effects of substance use).