Addiction vs. Dependence: What’s the Difference?

The difference between addiction and physical dependence is that addiction is a complex disease that generally implies a physical dependence on drugs. It’s easy to get these two terms mixed up. But when it comes to the “addiction vs. dependence” debate, it’s important to know the difference.

Fortunately, we’re here to help you understand how addiction and dependence differ. The more you educate yourself on the topic, the better prepared you’ll be to help yourself or someone you love. Keep reading to learn more about the characteristics of addiction and physical dependence.

What is Physical Dependence?

Physical dependence means that an individual can’t function regularly without the use of a substance. This dependency on a drug interferes with their ability to fulfill the responsibilities of their daily lives. Drugs alter the chemical makeup of your brain. Over time, these chemical changes lead to tolerance. 

Tolerance occurs when you need more of a particular substance to achieve the same high initially felt at a lower dose. This occurs as a result of your body becoming used to the substance. 

When an individual who depends on drugs tries to stop using them, they start developing withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms are your body’s response to learning how to function without the drug. Withdrawal symptoms range in severity but are usually pretty discomforting.

These symptoms can include nausea, headaches, depression, anxiety, insomnia, and many others. Dependence can also be a tell-tale sign that addiction is about to or already taking place. 

What is Addiction?

Addiction occurs when an individual continues to partake in substance abuse despite negative consequences. They may want to stop, but feel like they lost control and can’t. Similarly to dependence, addiction is a result of chemicals changing in the brain.

As these changes take place, the brain’s reward and motivation system become affected. These effects have serious negative consequences. Addiction takes a toll on individual physical, mental, and emotional health. All areas of their life can become severely affected by the disease.

What is the Difference Between Physical Dependence and Addiction?

Physical dependence is generally what causes tolerance and withdrawal (physical effects), while addiction has a more significant mental component. It’s possible to be dependent on a drug without necessarily having an addiction. For example, many individuals may have caffeine withdrawals without being addicted to coffee. 

In other words, getting a headache after skipping your morning coffee doesn’t mean you have a caffeine addiction. On the other hand, you can also be addicted to a drug without having a physical dependency on it. 

Cocaine addiction generally causes no major withdrawal symptoms, but still prompts compulsive behaviors and neurological changes. This is also similar to something like a gambling addiction. 

With addiction, there are changes taking place in the reward system of your brain that causes compulsive drug-seeking behavior. These changes are different from those that cause tolerance or withdrawal.

What are the Signs of a Physical Dependence on Drugs or Alcohol?

The signs of physical dependence vary depending on the drug, length of use, as well as dosage. Physical dependence often shows itself in withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms are how your body adapts to functioning without the substance. 

Some physical symptoms that are generally experienced during withdrawal include:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Muscle weakness
  • Nightmares
  • Body aches
  • Sweating
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

In certain cases, the more difficult stage of drug withdrawal is the second, post-acute phase. This phase doesn’t occur with every individual. 

However, there are many cases in which a severe dependence on drugs leads to acute withdrawal symptoms. Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS) must be treated in a medically-accredited treatment center.

Our trained staff of professionals will help you to alleviate these symptoms and keep you safe. The symptoms of PAWS include:

  • Insomnia
  • Memory problems
  • Issues coping with stress
  • Lack of physical coordination
  • Inability to process and organize thoughts
  • Emotional instability or inability to feel emotions

How Do I Know If I Have an Addiction?

Recognizing the signs of drug or alcohol addiction as early on as possible is key. Addiction is a severe disease that affects the person from the inside out. 

Issues with relationships, your job or school, and legal complications stemming from substance use can be a major warning sign. Addiction tends to take over an individual’s life making them feel like they have no control. Their addiction runs their daily life.

When assessing yourself or a loved one for addiction, it’s crucial, to be honest, and self-aware. Sometimes we lie to ourselves as a form of protection. 

But the truth will be the only thing that sets you free. Once you’re honest about where you or a loved one is, you can seek help and support.

Questions that are helpful to ask include:

  • Do you think about drugs or alcohol often?
  • Have you ever lied to a doctor to attain prescription drugs?
  • Has addiction negatively affected the relationships in your life?
  • Do you continue to use drugs or alcohol despite negative consequences?
  • Have you ever attempted to stop or reduce your substance use but weren’t able to?

The Statistics of Drug and Alcohol Addiction/Dependence

Although physical dependence and addiction have different definitions, they often intertwine. In many cases, an individual with addiction is also dealing with a physical dependence on the drug. 

As we navigate physical dependence vs. addiction, it’s helpful to be aware of how our nation is impacted. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) states that 19.7 million American adults (aged 12 and older) battled a substance use disorder in 2017.

Nearly 74% of adults struggled with an alcohol use disorder in 2017 as well. Furthermore, 8.5 million American adults suffered from both a mental health disorder and a substance use disorder, also known as co-occurring disorders, in 2017. These statistics are a wake-up call. We must help our loved ones and communities overcome the shackles of addiction. 

How Can I Get Help for Drug Addiction or Physical Dependence?

Fortunately, there are many treatment options available for drug addiction and physical dependence. We’ll customize a treatment plan specifically tailored to your needs. 

With the right resources and support, you can overcome addiction. Keep reading to get a better understanding of treatment services that our recovery center offers. 

Detoxification 

The first step of treatment is generally the detox process. This is when your body rids itself of harmful chemicals accumulated as a result of addiction. 

In many instances, medical intervention is a part of detoxification. Because the body becomes dependent, withdrawal symptoms occur as a result. Medication can help alleviate a lot of the discomfort felt during the detox process. 

Attempting a program without first going through detox will only mean distraction and less effective treatment. You will also leave yourself open to a higher chance of relapse in the future. A drug detox center allows your body to rebalance itself and will enable you to begin learning how to manage your cravings.  

Residential Treatment

Residential treatment, also known as inpatient rehabilitation, is the most intensive level of care. Inpatient treatment provides around-the-clock medical care and support. 

These treatment programs usually last between 28 to 90 days. The recovering individual will also live at our center as they undergo addiction treatment.

Residential treatment includes services such as:

  • Group therapy
  • Individual therapy
  • Family therapy
  • Psychotherapy 
  • Medical appointments
  • Wellness and fitness activities
  • Family program participation
  • Nutritional assessment
  • Spiritual care
  • Educational and experiential workshops
  • Continuing care planning

Partial Hospitalization Programs

Partial hospitalization is a step down from residential treatment, but more intensive than outpatient rehabilitation. Patients typically take part in PHPs when they experience severe symptoms, but not severe enough for 24/7 supervision.

Members of a PHP will travel to our recovery center three to five days a week for several hours each day. Treatment will incorporate many of the same treatment services in residential treatment. PHPs are especially beneficial for those with responsibilities outside of treatment such as taking care of a child or attending school. 

Outpatient Treatment

An outpatient treatment program is the most flexible treatment option for those seeking addiction recovery. Individuals will travel to our recovery center with the ability to return home after. Scheduled sessions that take place at various agreed-upon times each week. This is ideal for patients who have a stable at-home environment or need an aftercare option.

Intensive Outpatient Treatment

An IOP is also referred to as an intensive outpatient program. An intensive outpatient program is made up of regularly scheduled sessions for addiction and co-occurring disorders treatment. 

IOPs offer flexibility while still making time for rigorous treatment. The American Society of Addiction Medicine Levels of care guidelines states that intensive outpatient programs must last between nine and 20 hours per week. Services offered in an intensive outpatient program include evidence-based therapies, support groups, and access to certain amenities. 

Addiction vs. Dependence, You Can Begin the Road to Recovery Today!

At Coastal Detox, our goal is to pave the path for long-term sobriety and a life of newfound fulfillment. We believe that every individual holds enormous potential. With the right tools, you can uncover your potential and rediscover the joys of life.

If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to give us a call. You can contact us here to begin your recovery journey today.

Real Client Testimonials

  • Coastal Detox is an amazing facility. Caring and professional staff available 24/7. I was dreading going. Now I only wish I had not waited so long. Top shelf facility and I highly recommend it to anyone seeking freedom from any form of addiction.

    Lindsey H. Avatar
    Lindsey H.
    1/26/2019
  • Coastal detox has an amazing staff, they are caring, devoted and caring for their clients. I cannot say enough about there level of care and response to their clients. I highly recommend them to those who need help.

    Donna M. Avatar
    Donna M.
    4/10/2019
  • The place is super nice with absolutely amazing food. Like 5 star restaurant quality food. The staff and therapist definitely care about every client and want what’s best for them. This isn’t one of the sketchy places in Florida that just has a nice website. It really is a great place.

    nickbruck101 Avatar
    nickbruck101
    2/14/2020
  • Thank you Costal Detox, 9 months sober now and loving every bit of it! I hate how mean I was while detoxing but then again it’s all part of the process. The staff were so caring and kind - helpful in so many ways! The environment was so comfortable and pleasing to be in!

    Addison R. Avatar
    Addison R.
    6/08/2019
  • My experience at Coastal Detox was great. Very grateful that I had the option to stay here for treatment. Great food and truly caring staff. Definitely recommend Coastal if you are in need of detox or wish to be in a residential level of care.

    Gabriella S. Avatar
    Gabriella S.
    1/22/2020

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