Addiction vs Dependence

Since he can’t stop even though he wants to, his dependence has turned into an addiction. This conflation of addiction with dependence, which stigmatizes effective medication treatment for opioid use disorder, is even enshrined in law. This can lead to traumatic family surveillance and even separation, not surprisingly disproportionately impacting Black, Latinx, and Native American families because of racist implementation in Bored, Bored, Bored, and Overeating these reporting practices. Preventing substance use disorders in these cases begins with screening the patient for prior or current substance use problems and assessing their family history of substance misuse or addiction before prescribing a psychoactive medication. It also includes closely monitoring patients who are prescribed such drugs. Not all physical dependency should be treated as something to be fixed, though.

People who are addicted to a drug may continue to use it even when it causes problems in their personal or professional lives, and they may feel a strong craving or urge to use the drug. Generally, those who are physically dependent on a drug will benefit from detoxification. This is a supervised clinical environment where one can safely work through the withdrawal period that accompanies a SUD, to rid their body of the toxins from drugs and alcohol. Withdrawal symptoms from certain drugs can be fatal, so it is important that detox is done professionally, in a safe and controlled medical facility. Effective programs usually include many components, designed to help the individual stop using drugs, maintain a drug-free lifestyle, and fulfill their obligations to their family and in the workplace. Most patients require long-term treatment, which can include medications, therapy, and residential programs.


It is in this so-called differential tolerance where the users usually overdose. You can help prevent problematic substance use by following your healthcare provider’s instructions and attending regular follow-ups or check-ins with the same prescribing provider. Since there are many substances on which one can develop a physiological dependency, each substance in question requires an individualized approach. Get professional help from an online addiction and mental health counselor from BetterHelp. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) is the leading source for diagnosing and understanding addiction.

addiction vs dependence

The key here is the loss of control and the behavioral aspects that come into play. People with an addiction often prioritize acquiring and using the substance over other important life activities and responsibilities. And it’s not just about “willpower” — addiction alters the brain’s reward and pleasure centers, making it a complex issue that transcends mere choice.

Substance use, abuse, and addiction

For example, if a person is arrested for using drugs and leaves jail to pick up more, they’ve likely developed an addiction. Addiction causes individuals to act erratic or irrational when they cannot get more of their drug of choice. Medical and substance abuse communities have found that there are neurochemical differences between a normal brain and an addict’s brain. There are even perceived differences between addiction versus the abuse of a substance. A person who is chemically dependent on a drug might show different physiological changes around chronic usage, tolerance levels, and even withdrawal symptoms. In medical practice, to get a diagnosis of a substance use disorder, there first needs to be a careful diagnostic interview conducted by a mental health professional.

When symptoms of both physical and mental dependence are obvious, it usually indicates that addiction is present. However, the primary characteristic that determines it’s an addiction and not dependence is the combination of both physical and mental dependence. It causes uncontrollable behavior when it comes to getting and using the drug of choice. Addiction is defined as the behavior of someone who keeps abusing substances, despite negative consequences. The person’s behavior surrounding the substance progressively becomes more destructive.

What is dependence?

If you are concerned that you may be experiencing a substance use disorder of any kind, talk to your healthcare provider. It can help to lean on a supportive community of loved ones as you go through the recovery process. A person being treated for physical dependency in the absence of any substance use disorder will be closely monitored by the prescribing healthcare provider as they taper or decrease the dosage slowly over time rather than all at once.

  • Addiction is defined as the behavior of someone who keeps abusing substances, despite negative consequences.
  • In this, the definitions of “substance abuse” (which referenced a mild form of addiction) and “substance dependence” (which represented more severe cases) were both replaced.
  • As long as the medications keep me stable, I’ll continue to take them.
  • In this edition, the definitions revolving around addiction were changed once again.
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