Understanding Drug Misuse & Addiction

While any misuse of drugs or alcohol can be dangerous, drug misuse does not necessarily mean someone is addicted. This page will discuss the difference between drug & alcohol misuse and addiction, signs to look for in yourself or someone you love, and the different levels of treatment for substance use disorders (addiction) offered at Sunrise House in New Jersey.
Substance Misuse vs. Addiction

What’s the Difference Between Substance Abuse and Addiction?

Substance misuse can refer to any use of illegal drugs OR the use of legal drugs in an excessive amount or for a purpose other than how they are intended to be used.3 For example:3

  • Drinking to excess.
  • Using someone else’s prescription medication.
  • Using more of your own prescription than directed or using a prescription for a purpose other than intended (such as to get high) or in a manner other than intended (such as snorting or injecting).

Substance misuse can be very dangerous, but it is not necessarily the same thing as a substance use disorder (SUD). More technically, substance use disorder is a professional diagnosis given to people struggling with addiction—a chronic, but treatable medical condition characterized by compulsive or uncontrollable substance misuse despite harmful consequences.4

Signs of Misuse

Signs of Substance Misuse

There can be several red flags that a person is misusing drugs or alcohol. When a substance is being misused, it can have physical, psychological, and emotional effects that may be noticeable to others. Depending on the substance(s) used, they may include:5

  • Decreased attendance at work/school.
  • Changes in sleep patterns.
  • Unexplained personality changes.
  • Sudden mood swings.
  • Acting secretive or suspicious.
  • Seeming overly fearful or paranoid for no apparent reason.
  • Bloodshot eyes.
  • Unusually small or large pupil size.
  • Changes in appetite.
  • Sudden changes in weight (loss/gain).
  • Disheveled appearance.
  • Slurred speech.
  • Poor coordination.

Someone who is misusing substances may also begin hanging out with a different group of friends and having legal troubles related to their misuse.5

Signs of Addiction

Signs of Drug or Alcohol Addiction

Addiction involves more than just occasional heavy drinking or drug use. Often, when addiction or substance use disorders develop, a cluster of characteristic physiological, cognitive, and behavioral changes arises as a result of the continued, compulsive drug use behavior associated with the condition.6 These changes comprise a set of criteria outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). SUD diagnostic criteria include the following:6

  • Drugs/alcohol are taken in larger amounts than planned or over a longer period than initially intended.
  • There has been a persistent desire to control substance use or unsuccessful efforts to stop using.
  • A great deal of time is spent obtaining and using the substance or recovering from its effects.
  • Substance use persists despite continued psychological or physical issues that are either caused or worsened by the substance use.
  • Important recreational, social, or occupational activities are given up in favor of continued use of substances.
  • The individual experiences strong urges to use the substance (cravings).
  • Substance use continues despite it causing or worsening social or interpersonal problems.
  • Failure to fulfill major obligations at school, home or work due to recurrent use of the substance.
  • Using the substance in situations which are physically hazardous (e.g., operating machinery or driving).
  • Larger amounts of the substance are needed to achieve the desired effects (tolerance).
  • Withdrawal symptoms when substance use is stopped or reduced.

These criteria are used by treatment professionals to determine if an individual has a substance use disorder. Depending on how many criteria the individual meets within a 12-month period, the substance use disorder can be categorized as:6

  • Mild: 2-3 criteria are met.
  • Moderate: 4-5 criteria are met.
  • Severe: 6 or more criteria are met.
Treatment for Addiction

Start Addiction Recovery at Sunrise House

When a person has found they can no longer control their use of drugs or alcohol on their own, treatment may be necessary. Each patient who enters a program at Sunrise House in Lafayette, New Jersey is assessed by a professional for a substance use disorder and any other co-occurring mental disorders, such as anxiety, depression or PTSD. From there, a personalized treatment plan is created.

Sunrise House offers multiple levels of care to treat addiction including inpatient/residential treatment programs as well as outpatient treatment programs.

Lengths of stay in a Sunrise House program also vary depending on individual patient goals/needs and include:

Our admissions navigators are available 24/7 and can help get the process started for you or your loved one by answering questions about the admissions process and paying for treatment. Many health insurance plans cover at least a portion of addiction treatment. You can check your insurance coverage by filling out our

For immediate help or for questions about our programs at Sunrise House, call .