Addiction vs Dependence: Differences In Drug Abuse Terms

The World Health Organization also believed it should be replaced with dependence in 1964, which is likely where the confusion stems. If you or someone close to you is struggling with substance misuse or abuse, talk to your doctor. Regardless of what term you use to describe a substance misuse issue, Mr. Kump emphasizes that the key is to understand that treatment is available. He also sees people who have taken heroin without developing an addiction, yet they can’t seem to stop smoking and give up nicotine. Alcohol, on the other hand, often follows a slower, more insidious path of abuse before the body becomes dependent on it.

addiction vs dependence

Someone who is physically dependent on a drug or other substance may have begun using that drug for legitimate medical use, and that drug may have been prescribed to him or her. As a result, some people who are drug dependent are in denial of it because they do truly need to use the prescribed drug as a medicine. Alternatively, someone can become dependent on a drug apart from medical advice, either through regular use of an illegally obtained drug or simply through the frequent and consistent consumption of alcohol. Dependence is typically a physical reliance on a drug, also characterized by symptoms of tolerance and withdrawal. An individual who is dependent on a drug may have a high tolerance, and needs to ingest higher dosages to feel the drug’s effects.

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You are dependent if you stop taking the drug and experience withdrawal symptoms. While dependence and addiction are often used interchangeably, they are different. Because of this confusion, some organizations prefer substance use disorder (SUD). People who are addicted to a substance use it even if it has no medical benefit. They use the substance no matter what and despite the consequences. Addictions are more likely to result in serious harm, including suicide, unlike tolerance and physical dependence.

addiction vs dependence

ICD codes have not been updated to reflect current understanding of addiction, unlike those in the DSM-5. However, these symptoms are not always the case either – it varies and certainly depends on the medication that is prescribed. Some people are dependent on drugs for heart conditions, seizures, asthma, and a wide variety of other ailments.

Addiction vs. Dependence: What is the Difference in Drug Abuse?

If you are simply not fully in control of how much you drink, for how long you drink and how often you drink, you need help. A simple analysis of your behaviour will reveal if your drug use has crossed the threshold from dependence to addiction. If drug use is causing problems at school or work, hurting your relationships or getting you in trouble with the authorities, addiction may well have set in. However, if you are simply feeling cravings and experiencing withdrawal without any of the previously mentioned behavioural changes, then you’re likely only dependent. If you or a loved one are struggling with mental health or substance abuse, we can help.

Substance abuse isn’t something that should be continued until it reaches the point of addiction or dependence. Please remember — you must never stop taking a prescribed medication without speaking to your healthcare professional. If you feel your medication brings more harm than good, talk with your healthcare team. BetterHelp can connect you to an addiction and mental health counselor. When someone is dependent, their body adapts to a drug and requires more of it to achieve the same effect.

Substance use disorder

For example, if you take a sedative to sleep, it may work very well at the first dose. When you first start drinking alcohol, it may have taken only a few drinks for you to feel drunk. But over time, you may need more drinks, more often, for the same effect.

  • Previously, abuse was a mild form of addiction, and dependence was a moderate or severe form of addiction.
  • A growing tolerance to medications or to recreational drugs can be seen as dependence and may indicate a developing addiction.
  • For some, depending on the addictive substance of choice and the route of administration, the results may be life-threatening.
  • Addiction treatment is the best way to get help and overcome dependency or addiction.
  • How severe these will be is often dependent on what substance you were abusing and the duration of dependence.

Dependence and abuse are defined in a way that measures the time and severity of substance use. As it worsens and becomes more frequent, the odds of developing a substance use disorder increase dramatically. Hailey Shafir is a Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor, Licensed Clinical Addiction Specialist, and Certified Clinical Supervisor with extensive experience in counseling people with mental health and addictive disorders. The medical community has typically thought of addiction as abuse of a substance that continues even when there are detrimental consequences, such as losing a job or developing physical issues like kidney damage or ulcers.

Treatment Process

Or they can come on quickly, like what is now happening in the opioid crisis. The opioid crisis is so bad that the U.S. government declared a public health emergency. Speak with your doctor if you have become physically dependent on a medication or other substance. If you develop a tolerance to a substance, it becomes less effective for you.