Is Dependence the Same as Addiction?

Drug and alcohol addiction have long-since been major health-related concerns throughout the country, affecting millions of Americans every year and claiming thousands of innocent lives on an annual basis. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 19.7 million American adults suffered at the hands of an addictive disorder in 2017. 74 percent of these adults suffered at the hands of an alcohol abuse disorder, and 38 percent of adults suffered from a drug abuse disorder. The word “addiction” is generally used to describe a substance abuse disorder of any severity – and the words “addiction” and “dependence” and frequently used interchangeably. But is there a difference between the two terms, and if so, what is it?

Is Dependence the Same as Addiction?

What is Addiction?

Addiction is described by The National Institute on Drug Abuse as “compulsive drug use despite harmful consequences.” Drug addiction is characterized by a clear inability to stop using the chemical substance – or to cut back on use for any length of time. Addiction is also characterized by a lack of motivation, a failure to meet personal obligations (work, family, and social obligations, for example), and the building of a tolerance coupled with withdrawal symptoms upon ceased use.

Over time, the body will adapt to the presence of a chemical substance, and when the substance is removed the body will not be able to function properly. It is very common for the term addiction and the term dependence to be used interchangeably, but the definitions of the two words do differ slightly. Addiction refers to the host of symptoms associated with substance abuse and dependence. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition, lists criteria that must be met for an addiction to be properly diagnosed. Some of the most important criteria include:

  • Continuing to use the chemical substance despite the accumulation of personal consequences
  • Trying to cut back or quit but being unable to do so for any significant length of time
  • Experiencing intense psychological cravings for the chemical substance
  • Taking the substance for longer than intended or in greater amounts than originally intended
  • Neglecting activities that were previously enjoyed, and neglecting other parts of life instead of substance use
  • Engaging in risk-taking behaviors to obtain the substance and when intoxicated

While addiction and dependence are very similar, there is a slight distinction.

What is Dependence?

When the body adapts to having the chemical substance present at all times, dependence begins to occur. When dependence occurs the body will require more of the substance as tolerance develops, and will undergo mild, moderate, or severe withdrawal symptoms upon abruptly ceased use. Physical and psychological dependence occurs with chronic and habitual drug or alcohol use. Here is the main distinction – dependence can occur even when a drug is taken as prescribed. Some potent prescription medications, like opioid narcotics, can lead to dependence even when the symptoms of addiction are not present. Therefore, the two terms are not mutually exclusive.

Difference Between Dependence and Addiction 

At Allure Detox, we treat every client individually, tackling the symptoms of withdrawal as well as the addiction itself and all of the underlying factors that initially contributed to the development of substance dependency. We believe that medically monitored detox should be about much more than stabilizing the client and providing him or her with a safe and pain-free withdrawal process; we believe in beginning the comprehensive healing process early on by treating mental and emotional health as well. If you or someone you love has been suffering at the hands of an addictive disorder or substance abuse or dependence disorder, Allure Detox is available to help.

Simply give us a call today and our compassionate admissions counselors will do everything they can to get you started on the lifelong recovery process as quickly as possible.