Addiction vs. Dependence: What’s The Difference?

Most people use the words addiction and dependence interchangeably to describe someone’s struggle with substance abuse. While it is essential to understand that addiction and dependence describe distinct conditions, confusion is common among patients, caregivers, and even some mental health professionals.

Keep reading to learn more about the differences between addiction and dependence and contact Myrtle Beach Recovery if you or a loved one need a safe space to recover from addiction.

What Is Addiction?

A person with an addiction uses a drug or alcohol regularly to excess even though this behavior is personally detrimental. Addiction typically results in problems, such as:

  • Work obligations
  • Social interactions
  • Family relationships
  • School assignments

The repeated exposure to the abused substance causes physical changes in the brain, leading to intense cravings for more of the drug or alcohol. The resulting uncontrolled substance use can devastate a person’s health, finances, career, and relationships. In addition, many individuals with an addiction act irrationally when they cannot satisfy their strong craving.

What Is Psychological Dependence?

One of the myths of recovery is that psychological dependence is less severe than physical dependence. These two rarely exist as separate conditions but instead, occur together. The psychological component of dependence represents the emotional and mental processes associated with reliance on drugs and alcohol. Psychological dependence causes many symptoms, including:

  • Intense cravings
  • Obsessively occupied with acquiring the drug
  • Anxiety over attempts to stop their addictive behavior
  • Mood swings during sober times
  • Problems sleeping
  • Denial of their dependence

What Is Physical Dependence?

Physical dependence is usually thought of in terms of drug tolerance and withdrawal symptoms when substance use stops. Physical dependence can develop with the long-term use of prescription medications, especially those prescribed for pain relief. The dependency can occur even when taking the drugs as prescribed. The body requires more of the addictive substance to maintain the status quo. When the drug is not increased or removed completely, the physically dependent person experiences withdrawal symptoms, such as:

  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Nausea
  • Body chills and shakes
  • Diarrhea
  • Sweating
  • Body aches

Most withdrawal symptoms don’t pose a life-threatening situation but make recovery more challenging due to the physical and emotional stress. Therefore, managing withdrawal is critical during recovery to prevent relapse.

What’s The Difference Between Dependence and Addiction?

You can experience addiction and dependence concurrently, or you may have one without the other. Several factors can play a role in determining whether a person becomes dependent or addicted to a drug. These factors include:

  • How long you used the drug.
  • How many unsuccessful attempts you’ve made to stop drug use.
  • The method of using the drug.
  • The various causes leading to the addiction.
  • Any other drugs taken along with the abused substance.

When Is Treatment Needed?

Addiction and dependence require professional treatment for a full recovery. Both conditions are complex but treatable with professional help based on these principles:

  • Treatment is individualized, and no single one is right for everyone.
  • Individuals need easy and immediate access to treatment.
  • Treatment encompasses all the person’s needs and not just the substance abuse.
  • Successful treatment requires completion of the treatment program.
  • Treatment usually involves a combination of treatments such as medications and behavioral therapy.
  • Treatment modifications can take place during the program.

Consider Myrtle Beach Recovery

We hope you were able to learn more about the difference between addiction vs dependence. Consider reaching out to Myrtle Beach Recovery to help you with both dependence and addiction aspects of substance abuse. We offer short-term and long-term recovery programs, providing a safe place to work through the 12 Steps.

Don’t let addiction win another day. Call Myrtle Beach Recovery for more information.