What Is the Difference Between Substance Abuse and Substance Dependence?

Recognizing the differences between dependence and addiction is crucial for tailoring effective treatment and recovery strategies. It occurs when a person has difficulty stopping substance use or engaging in a behavior that provides some type of benefit. According to a 2021 research article, healthcare professionals often misunderstand them, which can lead to misdiagnosis. In this article, we look at the differences between addiction and dependence and explore definitions, examples, and differences in treatment. Our team can help you determine if your addiction treatment at Evoke Wellness could be at little to no-cost to you. Complete the form below and we will complete your insurance verification and get back with you shortly.

abuse vs dependence vs addiction

Tolerance and withdrawal symptoms are not counted towards the diagnosis when the patient is involved in an appropriate medical treatment program for a problem such as pain, depression or anxiety. Patients enrolled in such programs can qualify for a substance use disorder only if they have other symptoms of aberrant behavior demonstrating compulsive drug-seeking. The erroneous implication is that ‘dependence’ in the DSM was not physical or physiological. Most importantly, the major reason given for the under-treatment of pain with opioids has been the fear that the physician will create an addiction when, in reality, addiction in the course of pain treatment is relatively uncommon.

Addiction Is a Disease; Tolerance and Dependence Aren’t

You need to know whether treatment with this medication should continue or needs to be modified. If the treatment is about to end, then it’s time to discuss the next steps, including the best way to come off the medication. This doesn’t necessarily mean you or your loved one is addicted to something or has developed an addiction. It’s possible to develop a physical dependence on a prescription drug you have been taking for a long period of time and following the doctor’s instructions exactly.

abuse vs dependence vs addiction

Recovered is not a medical, healthcare or therapeutic services provider and no medical, psychiatric, psychological or physical treatment or advice is being provided by Recovered. If you are facing a medical emergency or considering suicide or self harm, please call 911 immediately. The people closest to you, like your friends and family, will likely be the first ones to recognize these symptoms and ask you if you have a substance addiction. They may notice that your behavior has changed or that you’re acting differently, especially if you’re becoming more anxious or hostile. Some people do well at home with regular doctor visits and support groups. And sometimes it takes more than one type of treatment to be successful.

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These receptors and systems in the brain are responsible for feelings of euphoria and reward. When the number of receptors is increased due to frequent abuse, the person is eventually unable to produce enough dopamine and endorphins to utilize the system naturally. As a result, the person feels that without more opioid abuse, there is no way for them to feel normal. This is what dependence looks like; a state where the new balance created from substance abuse requires continuous abuse to maintain. People who are addicted to a substance use it even if it has no medical benefit.

Because military members often suffer from PTSD, we are able to create tailored plans that utilizes trauma-informed care and other evidence-based treatments to get to the root causes of their addiction or alcoholism. Substance abuse refers to a pattern of behavior where a person uses mind-altering substances in amounts or in ways that are harmful to themselves or other people. The mind-altering substances can be drugs — both prescription and illicit — alcohol https://ecosoberhouse.com/ or chemicals. As the medical and scientific discussion on these terms has progressed in recent years, both are now considered as part of a larger grouping; that of substance use disorder. Addiction and dependence are words both used to describe an unhealthy and problematic pattern of drug or alcohol use. In the past, drug or alcohol dependence was diagnosed as the most severe form of addiction, but this classification was done away with in 2013.

Addiction vs. Dependence

Group therapy sessions allow clients to share their experiences with and offer support to each other as they learn to live a life that is free from chemicals. An event like this can be a wake-up call to someone who has developed a substance abuse problem and be the incentive they need to get help. Their lawyer may even recommend they go to a treatment facility to show the court they are serious about changing their life and not repeating their actions.

  • The pleasurable feelings that come from smoking, drinking, and taking drugs can reinforce the desire for those substances.
  • Doctors may also prescribe certain medications to manage dependence and addiction.
  • The remission category can also be used for patients receiving agonist therapy (e.g., methadone maintenance) or for those living in a controlled drug-free environment.
  • At lower risk were teens whose parents had not used marijuana and teens whose parents had not revealed their use of the drug.

Addiction is a state of psychological or physical dependence (or both) on the use of alcohol or other drugs. The term is often used as an equivalent term for substance dependence and sometimes applied to behavioral disorders, such as sexual, internet, and gambling addictions. While addiction and dependence may seem like two separate conditions, they are closely intertwined.

Similarly, pain patients in need of opioid medications may forgo proper treatment because of the fear of dependence, which is self-limiting by equating it with addiction (764–765) [6]. In medical practice, to get a diagnosis of a substance use disorder, there first needs to be a careful diagnostic interview conducted by a mental health professional. The interviewer assesses whether there addiction vs dependence is a problematic pattern of substance use or behaviors that are causing a person distress and impairment in their functioning to the point that it’s considered clinically significant. A dependence on a drug, including alcohol, occurs after exposure to it over time. The body adapts to its presence and needs more in order to achieve the same effects experienced when the drug was first used.

‘Dependence’ is a term used to describe a person’s physical and psychological loss of control due to substance abuse. If a person uses many drugs and develops a physical dependence on these drugs, that person is usually described as dependent. Addictive disorders are highly treatable, and treatment at an inpatient or outpatient rehab can greatly increase the likelihood of long-term sobriety.

People tend to use the words “addiction” and “dependent” interchangeably to describe a person’s behavior when engaged in a certain activity, as well as the results of the behavior when it leads to a physical illness. However, there are clear differences between the two terms, several of which deal with the chemical effects that happen to addicted persons. Clinicians, however, pointed out that the word ‘dependence’ was already in use to mean something completely different and normal. After much discussion and debate, the word ‘dependence’ was chosen by the margin of a single vote. Additional training in assessment and diagnosis for physician trainees at the medical school level is also needed.


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