When people talk about struggles with drugs and alcohol, the terms dependence and addiction are often used interchangeably. Although the concepts are similar, and it is difficult to separate one from the other, there are subtle yet critical differences between dependence and addiction. However, both can and often do lead to physical, emotional, and behavioral challenges directly linked to chronic abuse of drugs or alcohol. Also, dependency and addiction are disease processes that, if left untreated, will worsen with time.
What Does a Dependence on Drugs Mean?
Drug dependence is the term used to describe the point at which your brain and body have become accustomed to a certain level of drugs in your system. When you are dependent on drugs and try to stop or reduce the amount you use, you will experience side effects or “withdrawal symptoms.”
Withdrawal symptoms are the signals from your brain to other body areas that tell you that you need to use again soon to return your system to the “normal” you are accustomed to. Dependency is the need to use at higher and more frequent levels to satisfy cravings for the high you once achieved when you first used drugs.
What is the Difference Between Dependence and Addiction?
Understanding the difference between addiction and dependence can be a valuable tool throughout the treatment and recovery process. It is also vital to ensure you or a loved one receive early and comprehensive treatment to help overcome addiction. Drug dependence can (and frequently does) lead to addiction. However, it is possible to be dependent on drugs yet not addicted.
Because the symptoms for both conditions overlap considerably and there is a significant gray area associated with pinpointing whether a condition is a dependence or addiction, in today’s mental health and addiction treatment communities, addiction and dependency are typically referred to as substance use disorders.
Perhaps the best way to separate the terms is to think of addiction as the combination of both physical and psychological dependence on drugs. When you are addicted, you struggle with an ongoing psychological need for a specific substance, along with experiencing the physical effects of dependence on that substance.
What are the Signs of Drug Dependence?
Drug dependence can be physical or psychological. It can be challenging to determine if a symptom of dependency is purely psychological or entirely physical because there is often a significant overlap. Also, dependence on some substances produces more physical symptoms, whereas others may produce more psychological symptoms.
The symptoms of physical symptoms arise from how your body reacts to a specific substance. Physical symptoms occur when you are actively using or trying to reduce or stop using. When you are dependent, you crave these substances, and your vital body systems cannot function in the way they have been without the drug’s presence. When you are physically dependent and stop using, it often results in painful withdrawal symptoms such as body aches, nausea, flu-like symptoms, gastric disturbances, hallucinations, heart and breathing difficulties, or seizures.
Psychological dependence refers to the series of addictive behaviors associated with using. Psychological dependence is generally meant to describe the emotional and mental processes related to developing and recovering from a substance use disorder or addiction. This does not imply that “psychological dependence” is not as severe as physical dependence; however, it helps distinguish the emotions behind addiction from the actions involved in using or sustaining addiction.
Psychological dependence, like physical dependence, also has common and noticeable symptoms. An individual struggling with psychological dependence will often experience symptoms related to using and attempting to get sober such as depression, anxiety, isolation, and aggression. Other signs of psychological dependence may include problems with concentration, memory, and judgment or decision-making skills, especially about obtaining or using drugs.
How to Find Treatment for Drug Dependence in Malibu
Whether physical or psychological, overcoming drug dependence requires a comprehensive, thorough treatment program designed around your unique treatment needs. It is crucial to understand how all aspects of drug dependence combine and contribute to addiction. If you or a loved one struggles with drug dependence, our Southern California treatment professionals at Rise in Malibu are here to help you begin your recovery journey today. To learn more about treatment for drug dependence in Malibu, contact our admissions team today.