Addiction vs. Dependence

Addiction Versus Dependence

Misusing drugs or alcohol frequently results in a person developing a dependence on or addiction to the substance. When providers discuss substance use, these are two commonly used terms. Yet very few people understand the difference between substance dependence and addiction. To further complicate this, people and institutions may use the terms interchangeably. That’s why learning the proper terminology is an important part of the recovery process. Understanding the difference between dependence and addiction empowers sufferers and loved ones alike by promoting clear communication and understanding of addiction recovery. 

What is Substance Dependence?

Someone who is dependent on alcohol or drugs has a significant physical response to substances. Those who have developed a dependence have a high tolerance for drugs or alcohol and often experience withdrawal symptoms if they abruptly stop using. 

Sometimes, people develop this through legal use of the drug. They could have been prescribed a medication for medical or mental health reasons. Over time, their body adjusts to the dosage, requiring more of the prescription to see its effects. As a result, their physician increases the dose, and the person relies more heavily on it. If this occurs, providers will taper a person off of the medication to prevent withdrawal symptoms. 

The Difference Between Addiction and Dependence

While dependence on a substance doesn’t necessarily mean someone has an addiction, there is an overlap between the two. What differentiates one from the other is how the substance impacts a person’s daily life and functioning. Here are some of the key differences between dependence and addiction:

  1. A person can be physically dependent on a substance but not addicted to it. Dependence on medication simply means that a person’s body requires it to function normally. This is strictly a physical need and usually does not affect someone psychologically.
  2. Addiction adds a psychological and behavioral component to substance use. When a person is addicted to something, there are both physical and psychological concerns. That’s why it’s important that treatment models are holistic and address all components of substance use disorders.

While dependence isn’t the same as an addiction, it’s often an indication that a person is more likely to develop a substance use disorder in the near future. 

Treatment for Addiction and Substance Dependence

Dependence alone doesn’t necessitate treatment, but it can be a warning sign of future substance use issues. Because of this, those who are reliant on a drug should be aware of this potential. Once someone reaches the point of addiction, treatment must encompass more than simply removing drugs or alcohol from a person’s system. Substance use disorders are a combination of emotional, physical, and social factors. As a result, those who are struggling require treatment that addresses all of these concerns. A combination of group and individual therapy helps people develop coping skills to combat their cravings while processing underlying issues that contribute to substance misuse. Through holistic treatment, those with a substance use disorder learn to better manage the physical and emotional effects of their disease.

Comprehensive Addiction Treatment at PACE

At PACE Recovery Center, we help young men manage symptoms of dependence while navigating the challenges of addiction. Our residential treatment program provides a space for residents to learn the life skills they need to combat their substance use disorder and live independently. We know that addiction often occurs alongside another mental health issue, so we offer comprehensive dual diagnosis treatment for young men who struggle with co-occurring disorders. If you or a young man you know are struggling with a substance use disorder, contact our California treatment center to learn more about our treatment options.