If a person is compulsively seeking and using a drug(s) despite negative consequences, such as loss of job, debt, family problems, or physical problems brought on by drug abuse, then he or she probably is addicted. And while people who are addicted may believe they can stop any time, most often they cannot, and will need professional help—first to determine if they in fact are addicted, and then to obtain drug abuse treatment.
A person may be using a drug recreationally or as prescribed. This is not considered dangerous or an imbalance. If the use of the substance becomes maladaptive (meaning it is hurting the person’s ability to evolve and adapt to life’s changes), then the using has moved into a dangerous territory of substance abuse. If the abuse progresses in a way that the person becomes dependent on the substance to function or feel “normal”, then the person is suffering from substance dependency. For example, a person that is initially using a pain-killer to help with pain after a surgery is using a drug. Once the pain is gone and the person still takes the medication, the person is abusing. When the person cannot go through the day without the medication, the person has become dependent. Substance abuse and substance dependency both require professional treatment in order to help the person create balance in their life.