There’s a lot of confusion surrounding the terms “addiction” and “dependence.” What’s the difference between them? Do they mean the same thing?
This blog post will clear up any confusion and discuss what addiction is, what dependence is, and the differences between the two.
What Is Addiction?
The American Psychologist Association defines addiction as a “chronic disorder with biological, psychological, social, and environmental factors influencing its development and maintenance.”
In other words, addiction is a brain disorder that causes someone to compulsively seek out substances or activities despite the harmful consequences that can affect all aspects of their life, both internally and externally.
Addiction is a huge problem for all walks of life. Almost 21 million Americans have at least one addiction. While many people associate addiction with drugs and alcohol, addiction can also manifest itself in other ways, such as gambling, sex, and even things like shopping and video games.
Addiction is considered a disease because it changes brain functions and affects a person’s behavior. Many of these brain changes include alterations to:
The Prefrontal Cortex
This part of the brain is responsible for planning, decision-making, and self-control. Alterations to this brain area can lead to impulsive and risky behaviors.
The Limbic System
This area of the brain is responsible for our emotions and motivation. When the limbic system is changed, it leads to overall larger emotional responses in our basic human behaviors.
These changes leave those suffering from addiction unable to control their behaviors and compulsions, even when they are fully aware of the harmful consequences that can result. They can also become emotionally and physically dependent on the substances or activities they are addicted to as their brain chemistry changes.
What Are the Symptoms of Addiction?
The symptoms of addiction can vary depending on the person and what they are addicted to. However, some general symptoms are common among those suffering from addiction, which include:
- Continuing to use a substance or participate in an activity despite negative consequences
- Neglecting important responsibilities, including work, school, or home life
- Experiencing relationship problems
- Financial difficulties
- Health problems
- Withdrawal symptoms when not using the substance or participating in the activity, such as feeling irritable, anxious, or depressed
Mental vs. Physical Addiction
It’s important to note that addiction can be both mental and physical. With a physical addiction, the person’s body physically depends on the substance they are addicted to.
If they try to quit, they will experience withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal symptoms can be different for everyone and range from mild to severe. Some common withdrawal symptoms include:
With a mental addiction, the person is not physically dependent on the substance or activity but psychologically addicted. This means they have a strong urge or craving to do the thing they are addicted to.
Mental addiction can be just as hard, if not harder, to overcome as a physical addiction.
What Is Dependence?
Dependence is when someone’s body physically adapts to a substance or activity and becomes tolerant of its effects. This means that the person will need to use or do more to get the same effect they did when they first started using it
As dependence develops, just like addiction, the person will experience withdrawal symptoms if they try to quit. It is possible to be dependent on a substance or activity without being addicted to it.
Many people want to quit drugs or alcohol because they know it is ruining their lives but cannot because if they don’t use it, they experience withdrawal symptoms, and their body starts to shut down.
Withdrawal symptoms can be so severe that it prevents people from quitting. These symptoms can also be different for everyone and range from mild to severe.
For example, having a coffee every day but suddenly stopping can result in withdrawal symptoms like headaches, tiredness, and irritability. This is classified as a mild withdrawal.
On the other side of the spectrum, alcohol and opioid withdrawal can be life-threatening.
Withdrawal symptoms of these substances can include seizures, hallucinations, and delirium tremens (DTs).
DTs is a condition characterized by overall confusion, nightmares, and auditory and tactile hallucinations that can occur when someone suddenly stops drinking alcohol after years of drinking heavily.
Differences Between Addiction and Dependence
Now that we’ve looked at addiction and dependence separately, let’s compare the two.
Addiction is characterized by compulsive behaviors despite negative consequences, while dependence is characterized by physical changes in the body that result in tolerance and withdrawal symptoms.
However, it’s important to note that these two disorders often go hand-in-hand. Many people who are addicted to substances are also physically dependent on them.
While addiction and dependence can be difficult to overcome, addiction is often considered more severe because it includes compulsive behaviors. Compulsive behaviors are much harder to control than physical changes in the body since they are being driven by the changes made to the brain by the addiction.
Greater Wellness Clinic Can Help Those Suffering From Addiction
If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, the team at Greater Wellness Clinic can help. We offer various services, including:
- Sleep Hygiene
- Detox Safe Spaces
- Rehabilitation Centers
- Ketamine Infusion Treatments
Our state-of-the-art ketamine programs have a high success rate in helping those suffering from addiction. Unlike regular addiction treatments that can take weeks or months, ketamine begins working almost immediately.
Ketamine helps to rewire the brain and ease withdrawal symptoms, making it easier for people to quit substances and stay sober. If you’d like to learn more about our services or have additional questions, we offer all of our clients a free consultation to get all the information you need to make the best decision for your health.
Don’t suffer from addiction alone — Greater Wellness Clinic can help.