When it comes to addiction, there are many variables that make it complicated to understand. Many often wonder if their drug or alcohol use is “bad enough” to constitute an addiction and, therefore, a need for help. While early intervention is always best, knowing the difference between addiction and dependence can help you answer this question and get the proper treatment for you.

What Is Addiction?

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, addiction is “compulsive drug use despite harmful consequences.” Individuals struggling with addiction continue using drugs and alcohol even if they wish to stop, despite problems within familial and social relationships, problems with work, legal trouble, or financial problems. Dependence is a crucial component of addiction, but having dependence on drugs or alcohol does not necessarily mean you are addicted. Instead, addiction is a change in behavior caused by changes in the brain due to prolonged substance abuse. Individuals act irrationally and often cannot stop using the substances even if they want to.

What Is Dependence?

Dependence is not the same as addiction, but it can point to someone steadily approaching addiction later on. It is characterized by needing certain substances to function normally, influencing the number of chemicals in the brain. There are multiple severities of dependency that depend on how long a person has been using an addictive substance. A person is dependent if withdrawal symptoms are experienced once they stop using the substance, but it is their behavior that sets them apart from addiction.

What’s the Difference?

Telling the difference between addiction and dependence requires a look at the person’s behaviors. If a person stops using a substance and experiences withdrawal, then they may be dependent or addicted. However, addiction is more likely if a person is compulsively seeking out the substance despite negative consequences. To tell the difference for yourself, it is best to contact an addiction specialist so you can get the right treatment for your recovery needs.

 The world of addiction treatment can be confusing with the different vocabulary being used. However, taking the time to learn the differences can help those struggling get the help they need. The difference between addiction and dependence is significant because it allows professionals and patients to figure out where the person needs to be in treatment. We specialize in this at Alta Loma Transformational Services as we help men recover from mental health and substance use disorders. Start your healing journey today by calling our facility at (866) 457-3843.