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Drug Addiction vs Dependence

There are a lot of terms people use when it comes to abusing drugs. People commonly wonder about the difference between drug addiction vs. dependence. Is one worse than the other and do they both need professional treatment? We explore the world of drug abuse and what each term means

What Is Drug Dependence?

People often use the terms “dependence” and “addiction” interchangeably. In recent times, the more common term that addresses both situations is substance use disorder. Substance use disorder include both drugs and alcohol dependence and addiction. However, there is a difference between drug addiction vs dependence. 

Dependence on a drug typically refers to developing a physical reliance on the substance. The main sign that someone has developed a dependence on a drug is that they develop withdrawal symptoms when not using it. Their body has become dependent on the drug and feels distressed when they do not consume the drug.

Some people may have a physical dependence on a drug and not technically meet the definition of an addiction. Having said that, for a majority of them, drug addiction will develop. This can happen quite quickly and complicate the person’s ability to understand they need help and reach out for it. 

What Is Drug Addiction?

The key difference between drug addiction vs dependence involves going beyond just physical reliance. Addiction carries with it an additional psychological dependence. The person’s brain becomes duped into believing it needs the drug in order to function. This influences the person to make getting and consuming the drug their main priority. They often feel triggered to use the drug, as well as unable to function in many circumstances without using it. When under the influence, they often do not perform at an optimal level. 

Drug Addiction vs. Dependence: Exploring the Differences

Definitions and usage of the terms drug addiction vs dependence have changed over time. The most current version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) includes this. Before the newest addition of the DSM, drug abuse was considered a mild form of addiction, while it classified dependence as a moderate or severe kind of addiction. Now both drug addiction and dependence fall into the classification of a substance use disorder. 

A clinician diagnosing someone who abuses drugs or alcohol will perform an assessment to understand the nature of the substance use disorder. They assess which symptoms are present and then pinpoint the person’s substance use disorder diagnosis as one of the following types

Mild: Includes two or three symptoms

Moderate: Includes four or five symptoms

Severe: Includes six or more symptoms

While dependence on a drug does focus mainly on physical dependence, it often signals that the person is on their way to developing an addiction. The most noticeable difference when a drug addiction occurs has to do with behavioral signs that result because of a psychological addiction that has taken hold. Behaviors can include having difficulty meeting obligations related to the person’s personal life or job. They may perform poorly at work or in school due to their consumption of drugs. As well, they may not do well because they do not have access to the drug and feel incapable of functioning without it. 

In addition, a person with a drug addiction may experience financial difficulties. This includes spending large amounts of money obtaining the drug, including using credit cards, borrowing money, and even stealing in order to support their addiction. The addiction often negatively impacts relationships with family members and friends, but the person feels powerless to change their behaviors.

How Is Drug Addiction vs. Dependence Treated?

Substance use disorders include both drug addiction and dependence. For this reason, most professional treatment programs offer treatment for both situations. Whether a person has drug addiction vs. dependence, the type of drug rehab needed remains pretty much the same. A detox program provides the initial first step needed to become sober. This process takes five to ten days on average and allows the body to rid itself of the toxins built up during drug abuse. 

Withdrawal symptoms usually occur during the initial detox phase. Both medical and psychological symptoms can be treated during this time. Any symptoms that continue after detox can also be treated during the next phase of substance use disorder treatment. For some, residential programs work best to help continue the work started during detox. They receive care for their addiction or dependence while living in a facility that provides care around the clock. 

For others, outpatient care offers the best option. Transitioning into outpatient care allows the person to stay in their home or a sober living home while receiving treatment during the day. Outpatient care can offer a variety of types of therapy proven helpful when it comes to overcoming drug abuse. Types of therapy provided at many outpatient facilities can include:

Get Treatment For Drug Addiction and Dependence Today

Whether a person struggles with drug addiction vs. dependence, they need to get professional help. Buckhead Behavioral Health understands how difficult it can be for someone to reach out. That’s why we make it easy to ask for help. We provide several outpatient programs that allow you to take control of your life. Our experienced staff of addiction experts works with you to help you learn to embrace the sober life.

If you are ready to get help for your addiction, visit our admissions page now. We can help you take that important first step to become healthy again.

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