The Difference Between Dependence and Addiction

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Terminology in the addiction community may sound like a new language to someone first introduced to the vocabulary unique to recovery. Two words often confused and misused are dependence and addiction. These are two fundamental terms in the addiction world, as they differentiate between someone having a physical dependence on a substance or a full-blown, life-impinging addiction. 

What’s the Difference?

Physical dependence means that your body has adapted to a drug and requires more of it to achieve the same effects. If a person with a physical dependence suddenly stops using a specific drug, then they will also show mental and physical effects as a result of not having the drug in their body’s system anymore.

An addiction occurs when a person cannot quit using a drug regardless of the negative consequences, like an inability to meet work, family, or social obligations, and experiencing tolerance or withdrawal resulting from its continuous use. Addiction is a type of disease of the brain, with other mental disorders often co-occurring. Dependence doesn’t necessarily have to occur to have an addiction, but it usually does appear depending on the type of drug used.

Where It Gets Blurry 

When prescription drugs are taken even as directed, they can create tolerance and dependence when used chronically. With the misuse of prescription drugs widely prevalent, distinguishing if an addiction is present can be especially difficult with the use of prescription pain medications. When someone requires increasing doses of pain medications, determining if it is due to tolerance or a worsening underlying physical cause versus a budding addiction proves challenging. To avoid developing an addiction to prescription pain medication and other narcotics, only take the drug as directed by your doctor, as addiction only happens in a small percentage of people when taken as directed. 

Dependence and addiction are not the same. A person can be dependent on a drug without being addicted to it and can be addicted to a drug without having a dependence on the substance. If you or a loved one are struggling to get or remain sober, call Avalon Malibu. Avalon Malibu is a California state-licensed mental health and substance abuse treatment center that can help you in your addiction recovery and mental health struggles. With our help, you can overcome the challenges facing you and can be on the road to feeling a strong sense of well-being and connection once again. Call us today at (844) 857-5992.

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