Addiction vs Dependence: Signs and the Differences

When life seems hopeless, and our problems seem insurmountable, many try to escape these feelings through the use of drugs, alcohol, and other substances. Unfortunately, the use of these substances can quickly turn into an addiction or dependence. It is important to understand the signs and differences between the two in order to seek help if necessary.

In this article, we’ll take a look at addiction vs dependence, and take a look at some of the identifiers that can help determine which issue your loved ones may be dealing with.

Addiction Defined

According to the diagnostic and statistical manual, addiction is defined medically as a chronic, relapsing disorder characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use despite harmful consequences. It is a neurological condition that affects the reward, motivation, and memory centers of the brain. People with substance abuse disorders will usually seek out more drugs or alcohol in order to feel better, even if their behavior is causing negative outcomes for them and those around them.

Signs of drug addiction can include neglecting responsibilities, using despite negative consequences, lying or stealing in order to get more of the substance, and constantly feeling like they need the drug or alcohol.

Let’s take a look at an example.

Sarah, a college student, has been struggling with her classes lately. She has a mental health disorder, and it’s been affecting her studies. She begins to use alcohol more frequently in order to cope and relax. After a while, she notices that she needs to drink more and more in order to feel the same effects as before. As this progresses, Sarah finds herself lying to her friends and family about how much she’s drinking and begins to miss classes and assignments due to her hangovers. She has developed an addiction to alcohol.

How to Recover from Addiction

If someone is struggling with prolonged substance abuse, recovery should be the primary focus. In order for someone to recover from an addiction, several steps need to be taken.

First, it is important for them to recognize and admit that they have a problem and then seek professional help. Treatment can include detoxification, 12-step programs, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), support groups, sober living programs and/or medications.

It is also crucial for them to develop a strong social sober network that can provide emotional and practical support in overcoming substance use disorders. They should surround themselves with positive influences, family, friends, or other people in recovery who can help motivate them to stay sober.

Finally, it is important for someone recovering from a drug abuse addiction to develop healthy coping mechanisms that can be used in place of their substance or drug abuse. This could include exercise, meditation, art, music, or other activities.

Addiction Withdrawal Symptoms

When trying to quit an addiction, a person may experience withdrawal symptoms, which can range from mild to severe. These include insomnia and sleep disturbances, irritability, restlessness, intense cravings for the substance, and physical pain such as headaches and nausea.

It is important for someone suffering from addiction to seek professional help when attempting to recover, as withdrawal symptoms can be overwhelming and sometimes even dangerous. A professional can monitor the person’s progress and offer medical assistance if necessary. They can also diagnose if a mental disorder is the root cause behind the substance use disorder.

Dependence Defined

Dependence, on the other hand, is a form of substance or drug abuse that occurs when someone’s body needs a drug in order to function normally. This can happen after prolonged use of certain substances like opioids, benzodiazepines, alcohol or barbiturates, which all have physical withdrawal symptoms. Physical dependence is not the same as addiction in that a dependent person will not necessarily seek out more of the drug or experience compulsive use when they have it.

The signs of physical dependence can include developing tolerance, needing higher doses to get the same effect, experiencing withdrawal symptoms such as nausea and sweating if they don’t take the drug, and taking the drug even when it’s causing negative outcomes.

Let’s take a look at an example:

Tom has been prescribed opioids for chronic back pain after surgery. After several months he finds himself needing more medication to get relief from his pain. Not only this, but when he stops taking the medication he experiences a myriad of symptoms aside from the pain. His body is now dependent on the drug in order to feel normal. He continues to take the opioids despite warnings from his doctor. Tom is struggling with physical dependence to opioids.

How to Recover From Dependence

Recovering from drug dependence on certain substances is possible, but it often requires medical intervention. The goal of treatment is to reduce the dosage of the drug until the body no longer needs it and can function without it. Tapering off the drug slowly in this way is important, as stopping cold turkey can lead to severe withdrawal symptoms.

Other treatments include counseling and behavioral therapy, which can help to address any underlying psychological issues that may be fueling the dependence. Medication-assisted treatment, in which the patient is given other drugs to reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms, can also be used.

In order for recovery from physical dependence to be successful, it is important for the patient to have a strong support system, as well as access to the resources they need to stay on track. This may include counseling, group therapy, and medication management.

Dependence Withdrawal Symptoms

When someone stops taking a drug that they have become dependent on, it is not uncommon for them to experience withdrawal symptoms. These can include nausea, sweating, shaking, insomnia and fatigue. More severe symptoms, such as hallucinations and seizures, may also occur depending on the type of drug and the dosage taken. Symptoms of mental disorders may worsen during the time as well.

It’s important to remember that these symptoms are temporary and will subside once the body is able to adjust. Withdrawal from certain drugs can be dangerous and should always be done under medical supervision.

The Difference Between Addiction and Dependence

At first glance, addiction and physical dependence can appear quite similar; however, there are some important distinctions between them. While addiction is characterized by compulsive use of a substance, dependence simply means that the body needs the drug in order to function. Substance abuse as addiction is also rooted in psychological factors such as pleasure-seeking behavior, whereas dependence does not necessarily involve seeking out more of the drug for pleasure.

Moreover, addiction has far more serious consequences than dependence. Addicts are likely to experience more severe physical and psychological effects from their drug use, whereas dependent people may suffer more from physical withdrawal symptoms when they stop using the substance.

The takeaway here is that drug addiction and dependence should both be taken seriously; however, it is important to recognize the difference between them in order to ensure that treatment strategies are tailored appropriately.

The best way to determine if you or someone you know has a problem is to look for the signs we discussed above. If you or someone you know may be struggling with an addiction or dependence, don’t hesitate to reach out for help. There are many resources available that can provide support and assistance in finding treatment.

How New Life House Can Help

Addiction and dependence are serious conditions that can have profound consequences if left untreated. It is important to recognize the signs and reach out for help if necessary. Don’t hesitate to speak up and take control of your life.

The experts at New Life House are here to help you or your loved one with any kind of substance abuse issue. Our experienced staff and comfortable sober living homes in California will work with you to create a custom treatment plan that is tailored to your needs and goals. We offer both residential and outpatient addiction care, as well as holistic approaches such as meditation, yoga, and nutrition counseling. Not only this, but New Life provides a safe, structured environment. Our community stands 35 years strong, and continues to hold one another to a higher standard of living.

At New Life House, we believe that recovery is possible, and we are committed to providing compassionate, effective care. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you or your loved one take the first step toward a healthier life.

Last Updated on February 21, 2024


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