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The Difference Between Dependence and Addiction

Addiction and dependence are medical terms referring to different conditions. While dependence can be a component of addiction, and something an Orange County drug and alcohol rehab center can address, there are key differences between the two and how they are treated.

What Is Dependence?

Dependence occurs when a drug has disrupted the balance of chemicals in the brain, which then alters chemical production to adapt. It often happens after being prescribed medications such as opioids or steroids. Individuals who take prescription medications over the long term may develop a chronic tolerance but, with certain drugs, short-term or acute tolerance may develop. Learned tolerance can occur with frequent exposure to alcohol or other drugs, in which they compensate for the substance’s effects.

Dependence can be broken down into two forms:

  • Mental dependence: A substance is used in response to a trigger, such as a specific feeling or event. Triggers can initiate chemical changes in the brain, setting off feelings of anxiety, nervousness, and stomach tightness or the desire to use drugs or alcohol.
  • Physical dependence: The sudden cessation of a drug causes physical symptoms such as headache, weakness, fatigue, pain, and other signs of withdrawal. A drug does not have to be addictive to trigger physical dependence.

What Is Addiction?

The difference between addiction and dependence is the presence of compulsive behaviors and a drive to continue using a drug despite knowing the harmful consequences. With addiction, a person is unable to control their cravings or the use of the substance. It directly involves the brain’s reward center, interfering with self-control and decision-making.

Physical dependence may trigger euphoria, but a person has full control over the use of the drug, yet someone with a substance abuse disorder (SUD) cannot prioritize their well-being over using the drug or determining whether their habit is a problem. The risk factors for developing addiction include a family history of substance use, a personal history of misusing other substances, and any problematic behaviors such as gambling.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse classifies addiction as a chronic disease with compulsive behavior and the tendency to relapse even after improvement. It can occur with prescription and illicit drugs. Addictive drugs stimulate pleasure and motivation centers more strongly than natural rewards such as eating or socializing.

Treating Drug Dependence and Addiction

When prescribing drugs that can trigger dependence, doctors often wean patients off the medication. This eliminates or reduces withdrawal symptoms or prevents a desire to continue using the substance.

Treating addiction is often a more complex long-term process that includes helping the patient recognize the problem, treating them at detox facilities, and providing behavioral counseling and long-term support. Recovery can be a life-long process, as the individual focuses their life on abstaining from drug or alcohol use and finding ways to manage cravings, stress, and social pressures.

Get Addiction Help at Adelante Recovery Center

Our center for alcohol and drug treatment is conveniently located in Corona Del Mar, California. We offer inpatient and residential treatment programs, safe and effective detox, and treatment for dual-diagnosis patients with co-occurring issues such as anxiety, depression, or PTSD. To learn more or receive a free evaluation with a counselor, call 949-427-9099.

Adelante Recovery is here for you 24/7.

Adelante Recovery Center is here to help those that are battling drug and alcohol addiction. We are located in beautiful southern California and welcome those from across the country.

Contact us today to learn more about our treatment programs and how we can help you today. We accept private insurance.

We want to help. Contact us today.

If you or a loved one are in need of help with addiction, contact us today. Our professional and friendly addiction specialists are able to answer your questions and get things moving in the right direction.