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Addiction Vs Dependence: Whats The Difference?

May 06, 2024

Addiction or dependence? You might see these words used synonymously, but they have different meanings when you're referencing substance use. If you find yourself or a loved one in a struggle to quit drugs or alcohol, it can be valuable to understand the differentiation between dependence vs addiction. This information can aid you in finding the most suitable treatment when you’re prepared to seek help.

What Is A Substance Dependence?

Substance dependence refers to the physiological symptoms you endure when your system gets accustomed to a mind-altering substance. Alcohol and drugs include strong chemicals. When using them regularly, your body’s system becomes accustomed to the chemicals and changes its chemistry in return. It comes to depend on that substance to operate as normal.

When you have a dependence, you could develop a tolerance, which means you need larger amounts of a substance to realize its effects. You’ll also notice detrimental effects when you quit using a substance you’ve become dependent upon. Your system has a response to the deficiency of the chemicals, and you experience physical unease. These symptoms are referred to as withdrawal and might 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 intensity of withdrawal is contingent on the substance you are dependent on, how much you were using it, and the length of time you’ve had a dependence. For instance, forgoing your daily coffee might lead to an irritating headache if you have a caffeine dependency. However, a narcotics dependency might cause more troubling withdrawal symptoms like fever and diarrhea.

What Is An Addiction?

Addiction often looks very similar to dependence; although, addiction is psychological dependence and not physiological. Whenever you experience addiction, you feel strongly compelled to use a substance. Addiction-causing drugs and alcohol may change your brain’s neural circuits, so you only feel enjoyment when you those substances are in your system. Your brain wants those chemicals. This creates compulsive substance use. You can’t concentrate on anything until you’ve gotten the substance. You can’t restrain the urge to use whatever you’re addicted to.

The chief difference between dependence vs addiction is that when there’s a dependency, you might not experience the urge to consume a substance, but you get sick if you don’t. With addiction, your head tells you that you need to have the substance even when you don’t become physically sick when abstaining from it. Dependence can bring on addiction, so it’s not unusual to have both the psychological and physical need for drugs or alcohol.

How Will Treatment Differ For Addiction Vs Dependence?

It’s critical to know that both addiction and dependence can devestate your life. Both may result in life-threatening medical problems and hazardous behaviors. And both dependence and addiction must be treated to overcome substance use.

If you discover that your mind or body won’t let you halt the use of either drugs or alcohol, you need professional assistance to detox and maintain sobriety. But, not every detox center treats both addiction and dependence. Many will attend to the physiological symptoms of dependency and withdrawal without looking at the mental elements of addiction.

If you need addiction services, try to find a treatment center like Sunrise Detox Center that offers both physical and psychological treatment. Our clinicians and staff will help you feel safe and comfortable while your body flushes out drugs or alcohol. With the symptoms of either addiction or dependence managed, it’s easier to stave off relapse and maintain sobriety for the next steps in recovery.

Start Treatment For Addiction And Dependence At Sunrise Detox Center

No matter if you have a dependency, addiction, or both, Sunrise Detox Center can help. Place a call to 888-443-3869 or send in the form on this page, and we will reply at once. We’ll arrange a confidential conversation about the kind of substance use support you need and our intake process. Make the call anytime, and we’ll respond, without exception. We’re standing by to advise you right now.