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Addiction Vs Dependence: Whats The Difference?

May 06, 2024

Is it addiction or dependence? You could see these words used synonymously, but they are quite different when you're referring to substance use. If you find yourself or a loved one struggling to give up drugs or alcohol, it can be beneficial to understand the differentiation between dependence vs addiction. This information can help you find the right treatment when you’re prepared to seek help.

What Is Substance Dependence?

Substance dependence refers to the physical symptoms you endure when your body grows accustomed to a mind-altering substance. Alcohol and drugs have strong chemicals in them. When you take them regularly, your body grows acclimated to these chemicals and changes its chemistry as a result. It will eventually count on that substance to perform as normal.

Whenever you have a dependence, you might build a tolerance, which means you need increased doses of a substance to realize its effects. You’ll also note negative effects when you no longer use a substance you’ve become dependent on. Your system reacts to the lack of those chemicals, and you are faced with physical discomfort. These symptoms are referred to as withdrawal and could include:

  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Headaches
  • Aches and pains
  • Sweating
  • Shaking
  • Dilated pupils
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Fever
  • Cravings
  • Irritability
  • Mood shifts
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures

The severity of withdrawal is contingent on the substance you are dependent on, how much you were using it, and for how long you’ve been dependent. To illustrate, forgoing your daily coffee may produce an irritating headache if you are dependent on caffeine. Conversely, being dependent on narcotics may lead to more debilitating withdrawal symptoms like fever and vomiting.

What Is An Addiction?

Addiction often looks very similar to dependence; however, addiction is psychological dependency rather than physical. When you experience an addiction, you feel forcefully compelled to take a substance. Addictive drugs and alcohol may change the reward circuits in your brain, so you only feel good when you those substances are in your system. Your brain craves those chemicals. This creates compulsive substance use. You aren’t able to focus on anything unless you’ve obtained your “score.” You can’t restrain the urge to ingest whatever you’ve become addicted to.

The biggest difference between dependence vs addiction is that when there’s a dependency, you might not have the desire to take a substance, but you get sick whenever you don’t. With addiction, your mind lets you know that you need to take the substance even though you don’t feel physically sick when abstaining from it. Dependence may lead to addiction, so it’s possible to have both the physical and mental need for drugs or alcohol.

How Is Treatment Different For Addiction Vs Dependence?

It’s critical to know that both dependence and addiction could destroy your life. Both can lead to life-changing medical issues and dangerous behaviors. And both dependence and addiction must be treated to prevail over substance use.

If you discover that your mind or body won’t allow you to quit using either alcohol or drugs, you need professional help to detox and maintain sobriety. But, not every detox center treats both addiction and dependence. Many will treat the physical symptoms of dependence and withdrawal without managing the psychological urges of addiction.

If you need addiction care, search for a treatment center like Sunrise Detox Duluth that supplies both medical and psychological treatment. Our licensed practitioners and staff will help you feel safe and comfortable while your body rids itself of alcohol or drugs. With the symptoms of either addiction or dependence managed, it’s easier to prevent relapse and continue staying sober for the ensuing recovery steps.

Get Treatment For Addiction And Dependence At Sunrise Detox Duluth

Whether you have an addiction, dependence, or both, Sunrise Detox Duluth can help. Call us at 470-327-8336 or send in the form on this page, and we will reply right away. We’ll set up a confidential consultation about the type of substance use care you need and our intake procedure. Contact us at any hour, and we’ll respond, no matter what. We’re ready to advise you now.