Does addiction mean the same thing as dependence? Could someone who is dependent on alcohol or drugs be diagnosed as having an addiction? The terms “addiction” and “dependence” are often used interchangeably, but there are differences between the two.

Addiction indicates more of a substance use disorder, while dependence is the physical body’s buildup of tolerance to a drug. Someone who’s dependent on a substance may or may not be addicted to it, but someone who’s addicted to a drug has always become dependent on it.

Let’s look at some research about addiction vs dependence.

What Is Addiction?

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. Users can become addicted to more than one substance, and they can also develop addictions to sex, gambling, food, porn, love, and technology.

Someone struggling with addiction may start mentally or physically declining over time. The characteristics of addiction include:

  •     Constantly thinking about the drug
  •     An increase in tolerance
  •     Using the drug despite negative consequences
  •     Undergoing withdrawal symptoms
  •     Not being able to stop using, despite numerous attempts
  •     Isolating
  •     Hiding drug use
  •     Blacking out

The Difference between Dependence and Addiction

Dependence is defined as a psychological and physical reliance on a substance and losing control of substance abuse. The biggest difference between addiction and dependence is functionality. While a person who is dependent on a drug needs it to feel normal, it’s not creating a lot of chaos in their lives. But an addicted individual will start experiencing problems due to their drug abuse.addiction versus dependence

For example, a man named Mark drinks six beers per night. He looks forward to his nightly drinking. He says it relaxes him, and he enjoys the way it makes him feel. Mark eventually develops a physical dependence on alcohol, as it’s an addictive substance. He decides to cut out this bad habit, but he soon starts drinking again. Now he drinks ten or fifteen beers every night, and he sometimes blacks out. Since he can’t stop even though he wants to, his dependence has turned into an addiction.

Substance Abuse Disorder

Dependence on a drug can certainly lead to a substance abuse disorder (SUD). According to the latest Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), there’s not really a distinction between dependence and abuse anymore. Rather, the manual defines substance abuse disorders as mild, moderate, or severe.

For a person to be diagnosed with a substance abuse disorder, they must be consistently using alcohol or drugs. As a result, their usage must be causing them psychological or physical impairment. Individuals with SUD often experience health issues, legal problems, and job loss due to their substance abuse.

The Signs of Substance Abuse

Recognizing the warning signs can prevent future problems. The following warning signs show that an individual has SUD:

  •     Increased cravings
  •     Using drugs before work
  •     Not being able to stop, even after repeated attempts
  •     Obsessing about the drug
  •     Doing extreme things to get the drug
  •     Having relationship issues
  •     Having increased tolerance
  •     Experiencing legal problems
  •     Using the drug to avoid withdrawal symptoms
  •     Reckless behavior
  •     Changes in appearance
  •     Isolation

Reach Out for Help

Is your loved one struggling with substance abuse or addiction? Are you? If so, it’s important for you to treat it with the seriousness it requires and get help before it’s too late.

For a free and confidential consultation with a specialist at California Highlands, call 855-935-0303 or contact us online now. These professionals are available around the clock to help you navigate your treatment options, verify your insurance, and answer any questions you might have.

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