The words addiction and dependence are constantly intermingled, but do they mean the same thing? Not exactly. Someone might be dependent on a substance without being addicted to it, but someone who is addicted to a substance is also dependent on it. Dependence refers to a physical state in which removal of the substance will cause withdrawal symptoms as the body adjusts. So, for example, someone who takes antidepressants may develop dependence. That’s why going off of antidepressants requires medical guidance and a slow tapering, to help the body adapt more easily.
Addiction and Dependence Defined
The National Institute on Drug Abuse defines dependence as (1) a state in which an organism functions normally only in the presence of a drug (2) manifested as a physical disturbance when the drug is removed (withdrawal). Dependence occurs when the body will no longer function normally without the substance and suffer withdrawal symptoms if the substance is discontinued.
Addiction differs from dependence in that it is a powerful and harmful compulsion to regularly use some sort of substance. Addiction is a disease in which substance use becomes uncontrollable and affects the user’s relationships, health, and their ability to take care of themselves. People who are addicted to a substance are typically also physically dependent on it; it’s this dependence that makes it difficult to stop using because the body is wracked by intense withdrawal symptoms. While the substance use may begin as a search for gratification or escape, addiction can quickly take over and be extremely difficult to overcome. Addiction is not about lack of willpower: people who are addicted do not want to be addicted, but their physical and psychological dependence on the substance traps them in a vicious cycle.
Breaking Dependence and Addiction
Anyone who wishes to break a physical dependence on a substance, regardless of whether addiction is present, will benefit from medically monitored detox. In the case of antidepressants or other non-addictive prescription medication, a doctor can advise a schedule for tapering off the drug. For addictive substances, a treatment facility that includes medical detoxification and a residential or outpatient treatment program may be needed.
What Can I Do if My Loved One Needs Help?
It is always wise to do some research. Depending on the substance involved, different signs and symptoms may be present. Research the detox and rehab centers near you. Many of them will be more than happy to provide you with information to help you determine the next right step for you and your loved one.
Whether your loved one struggles with addiction or dependence on drugs, alcohol, or both – we can help. Please feel free to contact us anytime.