What is the Difference Between Dependence and Addiction?

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If you or someone close to you is struggling with prescription drugs, alcohol, or illegal drugs, you might wonder about the connection between dependence and drug addiction. If a loved one has become dependent on a substance, does that mean they are addicted to it? Is there any distinction between addiction and dependence?

What is Drug Dependence?

Drug dependence is when you have reached a point in your drug use that you can’t stop using. You are very likely aware of the problems it’s causing not just for yourself but for members of your family or your close friends, but the substance you have used has likely caused changes to your brain and body function. Your body has become used to functioning under the influence of drugs or alcohol, that now any attempt to stop will cause severe physical withdrawal symptoms, as the body is forced to adjust back to working without the drugs in the system.

What is the Difference Between Dependence and Addiction?

The biggest difference between dependence and addiction is the way it impacts you. If you use a prescription drug for two weeks after surgery and find that it doesn’t have the same impact as the first time, that’s medically considered a tolerance. 

  1. Tolerance just means that you need a higher dose to achieve the same effect. You become dependent when your body goes through withdrawal symptoms as soon as you stop using. 
  2. So, if you were to stop that same prescription drug after surgery and experience withdrawal symptoms, that would be indicative of dependence.
  3. Addiction is categorized as a disease that results from tolerance and dependence. Once you regularly consume drugs or alcohol, it is medically categorized as a disorder despite the negative consequences.

Addiction is characterized as a medical brain disorder that happens when you abuse substances like alcohol, prescription drugs, or illegal drugs. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, addiction can happen when you demonstrate a pattern of drug abuse or alcohol abuse. That pattern might cause you problems or distress like finding yourself driving under the influence, missing school or work because you were high, or having problems with the law.

In simple terms, addiction is the way your brain craves drugs, affecting your behavior and decision-making. On the other hand, dependence is how your physical body becomes reliant on certain subtances to function after continued use.

Dependence and drug addiction might look very similar, in that almost everyone suffering from an addiction issue is likely to be dependent on those drugs as well. 

With drug addiction, most of your time gets spent getting the substances to which you are addicted, using them, and recovering from their side effects. You might be fully aware of the social problems, family problems, and physical or psychological problems your ongoing drug use is causing, but you continue use. Drug dependence does not affect your behavior, but is the cause of any physical withdrawal symptoms, which is a large reason many struggle with stopping drug use, even if they want to. 

What are the Signs of Drug Dependence?

The signs of drug dependence are many. You might:

  • Use or consume larger amounts of drugs or alcohol, or use or consume over long periods than you intended
  • Continually try to stop or control your addiction without success
  • Spend most of your time getting drugs or drinking, using, or recovering from the side effects
  • Deal with strong cravings that become the most important thing in your life, particularly with severe withdrawal symptoms
  • Continue to use drugs or alcohol, knowing that your dependence is interfering with your personal or professional responsibilities or causing problems with your relationships
  • Take regular risks like driving under the influence, having unprotected sex, or breaking the law 

How to Find Drug Addiction Treatment

Knowing the difference between dependence and addiction is only part of the process. If you struggle with addiction and dependence, you need to know where to turn for help. At Ocean Coast, we offer personalized help for dependence and drug addiction. A variety of Southern California addiction treatment programs can help you in your recovery. The specific treatment you got for your dependence and addiction is determined based on your age, health, mental health, the extent of your dependence and withdrawal symptoms, your current tolerance, personal preferences, and what substances you abused.

Our facility offers detoxification, inpatient residential care, and long-term aftercare in Los Angeles. When you come to Ocean Coast, our team will meet with you to go over your situation to verify your signs of drug dependence or addiction. We work with you to develop a personalized therapy plan that includes evidence-based practice and holistic treatment designed specifically to help you target any underlying factors contributing to your dependence or addiction and give you the lifestyle skills and social skills you need to prevent addiction moving forward.

Contact us today and let Ocean Coast help you with your addiction treatment today.

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