Dependence Vs Addiction: Whats The Difference
Drug and alcohol abuse is always harmful, regardless of the label attached to it. But addiction and dependence are two very different distinctions, so what exactly is the difference?
People who are dependent on drugs or alcohol are dealing with a physical dependence on the substance. That means the person has built up a tolerance to the substance and would experience withdrawal symptoms if they stopped drinking or using drugs. Because of that, its possible for a person to be dependent on a substance, without necessarily being addicted to it. You can think of dependence as the first stage in addiction.
On the other hand, a person becomes addicted to a substance after their habits create changes in the brain which affect their behavior. Addiction usually happens after prolonged substance misuse. People who are addicted to drugs and alcohol have trouble functioning without substances and act irrationally when they dont have access to their drug of choice.
Both dependence and addiction can severely affect a persons ability to live a normal life. Addicts spend most of their time thinking about or using drugs, even if it causes harm to themselves or the people around them. People who are dependent on a substance may not have the same intense cravings, but they still feel like they need drugs or alcohol to feel their best or numb certain emotions.
Signs Of Drug Dependence Vs Addiction
In the beginning, it may be easy to miss the signs of drug dependency. However, as time progresses, people will feel discomfort from drug withdrawals if they go too long without the substance they are dependent on. These signs of physical dependency may include:
On the other hand, signs of psychological addiction center more around continuing drug use despite the negative impact on a persons life. For example, continuing use despite declining health or job performance may indicate a mental addiction. Setting limits for use and surpassing them could be another sign of developing addiction.
Unfortunately, this state of being is becoming too common in post-pandemic Florida. If you or someone you know has struggled with dependency or addiction, rest assured that addiction treatment can help.
Physical Dependence On Drugs And Alcohol
Physical dependence, or simply dependence, is what happens when your body becomes reliant on a drug in order to function. In other words, when you become dependent on a drug, you experience adverse, physical symptoms when not taking it. These symptoms are known as withdrawal.
As the NIDA explains, physical dependence can happen with the chronic use of many drugsincluding many prescription drugs, even if taken as instructed. Because dependence is predictable and highly treatable it doesnt always go hand in hand with addiction, but often does.
When the body becomes dependent on a substance, it relies on a steady flow of that substance in order to maintain regular functioning and to avoid withdrawal. With some drugs, withdrawal can occur as early as a few hours after the last use.
Its important to recognize that dependence can happen with many substances, not just illicit drugs. To name a few, the NAABT cites sugar, caffeine, nicotine, antidepressants, and prescription opioids. Dependence works by changing your body due to repeated and constant use of the substance.
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Reasons Why Alcoholics Drink
Alcoholics always have a reason to drink. They often joke that they can start drinking at 10 AM because its 5 oclock somewhere.
There are other reasons that may be a bit more serious, including:
- To medicate trauma from childhood
- The idea that alcohol will ease depression
- To medicate or even enhance bipolar disorder
- Loss of a loved one
- Genetic predisposition
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Drug Abuse Vs Drug Addiction
As with the terms addiction and dependence, drug abuse is different from addiction. Drug abuse is the act of using an illicit drug, or misusing a prescription drug. Misuse can include taking the drug a different way than prescribed, changing dosage, taking it more often than prescribed, or taking a prescription that doesnt belong to you.
Drug abuse is often what leads to addiction. People may believe they are in control of their drug use, and can stop whenever they want, but abuse becomes a habit which can lead to addiction, or dependence with certain drugs.
So, do you need help for drug abuse, or only for drug addiction? Drug abuse is where drug addiction starts. Catching it as early as possible can help you target the problem and find treatment for it before experiencing the vast health problems and life changes that can come with addiction.
Questions About Treatment?
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How Can You Tell If You Have An Addiction
Everyones experience with substance use is different. However, there are ways to tell if addiction is the challenge one is facing. Among them are:
- Intense cravings for addictive substances
- Persistent thoughts about using drugs or alcohol throughout the day
- Feeling out of control and unable to stop using drugs or alcohol after multiple attempts
- Engaging in drug or alcohol use more than once intended
- Feeling like life is not manageable without using addictive substances
- Strained relationships with loved ones
- Increased isolation to hide substance use from others
- Taking addictive substances to avoid withdrawal symptoms after chronic use
All of these are signs that one is struggling with substance misuse issues. If you find that you cannot control your substance use, you may be putting yourself and your loved ones at risk. It is time to consider getting help.
A mental health professional can confirm if problematic substance use has crossed the line into something more serious that requires medical treatment. Before determining a persons condition, they will first consult with the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition to compare ones symptoms to those listed in the manual.
The DSM 5 allows clinicians to specify how severe or how much of a problem the substance use disorder is, depending on how many symptoms are identified, Verywell Mind writes.
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Yes. Addictionor compulsive drug use despite harmful consequencesis characterized by an inability to stop using a drug failure to meet work, social, or family obligations and, sometimes , tolerance and withdrawal. The latter reflect physical dependence in which the body adapts to the drug, requiring more of it to achieve a certain effect and eliciting drug-specific physical or mental symptoms if drug use is abruptly ceased . Physical dependence can happen with the chronic use of many drugsincluding many prescription drugs, even if taken as instructed. Thus, physical dependence in and of itself does not constitute addiction, but it often accompanies addiction. This distinction can be difficult to discern, particularly with prescribed pain medications, for which the need for increasing dosages can represent tolerance or a worsening underlying problem, as opposed to the beginning of substance use or addiction.
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Physical Dependence On A Drug
This doesnt necessarily mean you or your loved one is addicted to something or has developed an addiction. Its possible to develop a physical dependence on a prescription drug you have been taking for a long period of time and following the doctors instructions exactly.
Some medications cannot be stopped all at once. Instead, people need to be weaned off them by lowering their dosage over a period of time in order to avoid withdrawal symptoms. For example, antidepressants should not be stopped all at once. Discontinuation symptoms, as the withdrawal symptoms from antidepressant medication are called, can be uncomfortable. If someone stops taking the medication abruptly, they could feel anxious or even depressed. Some people complain of flu-like symptoms or dizziness in the days and weeks after stopping their medication.
Prescription pain medications are another type of drug that should not be stopped all at once but instead should be weaned off slowly in order to avoid withdrawal symptoms. Opioid painkillers, such as OxyContin, Oxycodone, Vicodin, and Dilaudid, can create a dependence in people who use them for some time, even if they are following their doctors orders as directed.
What Is Drug Dependency
Drug dependence refers to a persons physical reliance on a substance to function. In other words, the body has grown dependent on the chemical substance and needs it to operate normally. This is a product of chronic drug use, whether from a prescription for a medical condition or due to recreational use. Consequentially, when a chemical substance is continually used, the body adjusts to its presence by altering its chemistry. When the drug is suddenly stopped, the body must again readjust. Both illegal drugs and prescription medications can result in drug dependence, and it is possible to be dependent on more than one drug at a time.
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What Is Tolerance And How Does It Affect Dependence
Tolerance may develop in people whove been abusing a substance or substances for a prolonged period of time. The NIDA reports that tolerance occurs when, it takes a higher dose of the drug to achieve the the same level of response achieved initially.
If you develop tolerance, it doesnt mean that youre addicted but tolerance often precedes addiction. It works like this: you abuse a drug, which triggers a certain, chemical response in your brain. The next time you take that same drug, the same response occurs, but often on a lesser scale. While you may be taking the same amount of the drug, your brain no longer responds in the same way and you require more of the drug to achieve the same response.
Tolerance may affect dependence in keeping a person going back to substance abuse again and again. What starts out as recreational substance abuse can build to a habit, which can lead to dependence and later addiction.
The danger of tolerance is that it doesnt allow you to feel the amount of drugs in your system. If you take more in an attempt to feel the same high, you increase your risk of overdose as well as your risk of developing dependence or addiction.
What Is An Alcohol Use Disorder
An alcohol use disorder is the official diagnosis for someone that struggles with alcohol-related problems like misuse, dependence, and addiction. An alcohol use disorder is a diagnosis in the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders . Its diagnosed at three levels: mild, moderate, and severe. The DSM-5 lists 11 criteria that are used to identify a substance use disorder. The severity of an alcohol use disorder depends on the number of criteria that apply to you.
Alcohol use disorders often involve both addiction and dependence. If an AUD is ignored, it can be progressive, taking over multiple areas of your life. However, though alcoholism is a chronic disease, it can be effectively treated.
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How Is Drug Abuse Or Dependence Diagnosed
A family doctor, psychiatrist, or qualified mental health professional usually diagnoses substance abuse. Clinical findings often depend on the substance abused, the frequency of use, and the length of time since last used, and may include:
Your tolerance for specific medicines, procedures, or therapies
Expectations for the course of the condition
Your opinion or preference
A variety of treatment programs for substance abuse are available on an inpatient or outpatient basis. Programs considered are usually based on the type of substance abused. Detoxification and long-term follow-up management or recovery-oriented systems of care are important features of successful treatment. Long-term follow-up management usually includes formalized group meetings and psychosocial support systems, as well as continued medical supervision. Individual and family psychotherapy are often recommended to address the issues that may have contributed to and resulted from the development of a substance abuse disorder.
How Are Addiction And Dependence Treated
Addiction and dependence must both be treated in order for the individual to begin their life of recovery. However, treatment for dependence and addiction are not identical.
The treatment for dependence is typically detox. The detox process allows the individual to detox from the substance so that their body does not have a dependence on the substance anymore. Medical detoxes are the safest because they are performed under the close supervision of a medical team.
The treatment for addiction is much more nuanced and unique to the individual. Addiction treatment typically includes group therapy, individual therapy, and sometimes prescription medication. The goal of addiction treatment is to teach new coping skills and to unlearn past behaviors so the compulsive substance abuse does not come back.
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How To Know If I Am Dependent On A Drug
To truly know if you are dependent requires abstaining from the substance of choice. The timeline of withdrawal will depend on the substance but in most cases, the psychological withdrawal will appear within the first 24 hours.
If you are physically dependent on the drug, you may experience physical withdrawals within the first day or two.
Physical Dependence Vs Psychological Dependence
Physical dependence is often unavoidable. When a person uses a substance every day or nearly every dayeven with a legally prescribed drug by a doctortheir body naturally adapts to the exposure of the drug the person repeatedly gives it. At some point, a tolerance to the substances may develop, meaning they must consume more regularly and with higher amounts. If they stop drinking or using the drug, they may experience withdrawal symptoms. For many people, those symptoms are unbearable, and the only way to have relief is to satisfy the cravings by getting more drugs.
Psychological dependence can be a part of physical dependence, but it is a phenomenon with a unique expression. The dependence here is when a persons drug use is a conditioned response to a perceived trigger. It could be something external, like a location or object, or it could be an activity like driving. Whatever its nature, when the brain receives the cue from the trigger, a biochemical reaction within the brain influences the persons thoughts and actions.
Until recently, many providers considered dependence and addiction as being synonymous. But despite similarities in symptoms, a person with a dependency on drugs or alcohol doesnt always mean they are or will become addicted to their use of them.
Adolescents and pills
What Is Substance Misuse
When a person misuses drugs or alcohol, they typically consume the substances in an unhealthy or improper way. The misuse of alcohol or drugs occurs when a person uses them outside the realm of their intended use. The opposite of substance misuse is taking medication as written by a doctor or drinking in moderation.
Other examples include when a person continuously uses a substance with the sole intent of invoking euphoric feelings of being high. A person could also misuse drugs repeatedly to evade or alter their perception of reality, or they may consume substances as a maladaptive means to manage their stress. Usually, misuse is too far from addiction to connect the two, but sometimes misuse can devolve and become an addiction concern.
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Addiction May Not Just Refer To Drugs Or Alcohol
Addictive behavior may not always be due to chemical substances. An individual may become addicted to anything gambling, sex, social media which may disrupt their life. Treatment for addiction includes not just the detox process, but also identifying toxic thought patterns, making healthy lifestyle changes, and developing effective coping mechanisms.
Despite similar end results, they may have different causes. Those struggling with addiction might have deep-seated mental health issues, past trauma, or a history of substance use among their family and friends.
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Dependence And Addiction Are Treated Differently
Dependence may be treated with medication, readjusting dosages until the body can function normally without the drug. But addiction treatment requires not only addressing the physical signs of dependence, but also the co-occurring mental disorders as well. In addition to medication, it is mandatory for those struggling with addiction to attend therapy sessions, support group meetings, family counseling, and partake in holistic activities to treat any underlying issues.
In certain cases, chemical dependence may not require any treatment. People with certain health issues or heart ailments may be on medication for the rest of their lives, and their bodies may not be able to regulate or function without those chemicals. But dependence as a result of a short-term medication or recreational consumption of substances requires treatment.
Such forms of chemical dependence may also lead to addiction, which is more debilitating. Those who are struggling with drug addiction may engage in self-destructive actions, be more prone to accidents and/or criminal behavior, and require immediate crisis intervention and medical help.
Does Dependence Turn Into Addiction
Even when a person addicted to drugs and alcohol finally becomes sober and no longer has any substances in their system, the cravings and desire can become too strong. Sometimes they are not able to resist the urge and end up back where they started.
The longer drug and alcohol dependence goes on, the more likely it that the dependence will turn into an addiction. This pattern of use will turn into a psychological problem rather than just a physical one. Understanding the difference between drug dependence and addiction can help you, or someone you love gets the correct treatment for the condition.
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Signs Of Prescription Painkiller Dependency
As you are treated for post-surgical pain, back pain, pain from an injury, migraine pain, or chronic pain, be aware of the following signs you or someone you care for may have developed a dependency on prescription pain relievers:
- Increased Dosage. Higher levels of the medication are needed to provide pain relief because tolerance has built up over time.
- Continued Use. Continuing to use the medication after the condition for which it was originally prescribed has resolved is a sign of dependence on the drug. Some people may ask to take the painkillers just a little longer when a non-narcotic pain reliever may be indicated.
- Changes in Mood and/or Energy. Behavioral changes may indicate a sign of dependency on prescription-strength painkillers. Lower energy levels and difficulty concentrating can indicate a persons main focus is on obtaining and using the prescription drugs.
- Social Withdrawal: A sudden lack of interest in spending time with family and friends may indicate an issue with prescription painkiller dependency.