What’s the Difference Between Drug Dependence and Drug Addiction?

It can be difficult to understand some of the terms used by the mental health and recovery communities. Two terms that are often used interchangeably are dependence and addiction. Both these terms indicate that someone has developed a substance abuse disorder and they need to seek professional treatment. However, they aren’t quite the same thing.

If you are struggling with your drug usage, you should reach out to a recovery professional for an assessment. They will determine the nature of your disorder and recommend the appropriate treatment. In this post, our Asheville rehabilitation experts will look at some of the ways in which addiction and dependence differ.

Dependence vs. Addiction

It is always dangerous to abuse drugs so both dependence and addiction should be of great concern. However, dependence is used to describe a reliance on drugs. This means you have developed a tolerance to the drug, and you may need more and more of it to feel the effects you did the first time. In addition, it means you’ll experience withdrawal symptoms if you stop using it. It’s possible to be dependent on a drug without being addicted to it. However, for many people, dependence is the first stage of addiction.

Addiction tends to happen after prolonged misuse but some drugs can lead to addiction more quickly than others. When a person is addicted to a drug, they find it very difficult to function when it’s not in their system. They may act irrationally when they don’t have access to the drug and take risks in order to get it. As addiction progresses, individuals may forgo their usual activities because they’re using drugs, seeking drugs, or recovering from drug use. Even if their drug use is causing problems at home, school, or work, they won’t be able to stop.

Both dependence and addiction can prevent an individual from living a normal life. However, dependent people may not experience intense cravings like those who are addicted. Still, they will feel the need to use drugs to mask certain feelings or improve their mood.

Physical vs. Psychological Dependence

Not everyone experiences dependence in the same way. Some people become physically dependent while others become psychologically dependent. However, many drug users experience both types of dependence. Psychological dependence refers to when someone uses a drug in response to stressful events or other identified triggers. For example, they may feel the need to use after they go to see a particular individual or visit a specific location.

Physical dependence occurs after consistent use over a long period. Eventually, the body becomes reliant on the substance, and systems and cells start to function differently. When the person stops taking the drug and it leaves the body, the individual will experience uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. That’s because the body gets used to the presence of the substance. The uncomfortable and often painful withdrawal symptoms often drive addiction.

Treatment for Dependence and Addiction

It can be difficult to beat either dependence or addiction without professional help. Usually, individuals need several types of support including psychotherapy, lifestyle change, and in some cases, medication. It’s never a good idea to quit cold turkey or to try to taper off use without medical supervision. Quitting suddenly can be especially dangerous for people with long-term addictions.

Sometimes, withdrawal symptoms can be life-threatening, so you’ll need someone on hand to treat any complications. Undergoing medical detox also helps you to be better prepared for rehab and long-term treatment. It’s important to note that detox is only the start of the process and you’ll need to learn several new skills in order to maintain your sobriety. Relapse is a normal part of recovery so you shouldn’t give up if you find yourself using again after being clean for some time.

Let Asheville Recovery Center Help You

At Asheville Recovery Center, we offer many types of treatment for people who have successfully completed detox. Whether you’re addicted to heroin, prescription opioids, cocaine, or another drug, we can help you. Whether it’s your first time in recovery or you’ve relapsed before, our team of professionals will work with you to develop a treatment plan.
Call us today to schedule a consultation or to ask questions about what you can expect at our facility. We’re here to help you overcome your addiction and live a happier, healthier life.

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