La Maderada

Is Being Dependent on a Drug the same as being Addicted?

Addiction manifests as a combination of physical, mental, and behavioral symptoms. However, a person who is dependent on a drug may not addicted to it. Keep in mind, a physical dependence is usually a precursor to addiction, so it is important to recognize the signs of both. Amidst the worsening polysubstance overdose crisis driven by illicitly-manufactured fentanyl, accurately identifying opioid use disorder is crucial to target effective treatment and harm reduction efforts.

addiction vs dependence

These are known as “triggers.” Something as simple as the act of driving can trigger a desire to use. These triggers set off biochemical changes in a person’s brain that strongly influence addictive behavior. Addiction is marked by a change in behavior caused by the biochemical changes in the brain after continued substance abuse. Substance use becomes the main priority of the addict, regardless of the harm they may cause to themselves or others. An addiction causes people to act irrationally when they don’t have the substance they are addicted to in their system.

Phone, Video, or Live-Chat Support

Sarah Wakeman revised the manuscript for intellectual content and approved the final published version. If you are experiencing a medical emergency and need immediate care, call 911. While much of the confusion about this topic can be traced to DSM committees, I would caution against an oversimplified blame game. The topic itself is inherently complicated and confusing, and it’s situated in the context of an evolving medical and cultural milieu.

Medications may be needed to reduce the impact of any withdrawal symptoms. At its core, addiction is about the psychological need for a substance. Despite negative consequences, it’s characterized by a compulsive desire to use drugs or alcohol. The key here is the loss of control and the behavioral aspects that come into play. People with an addiction often prioritize acquiring and using the substance over other important life activities and responsibilities. And it’s not just about “willpower” — addiction alters the brain’s reward and pleasure centers, making it a complex issue that transcends mere choice.

Substance use, abuse, and addiction

In fact, the American Psychiatric Association (APA), who are the developers of the DSM, nonchalantly utilize the terms «substance use disorder» and «addiction» interchangeably on their website. My first thought is that I’m really mad and frustrated to be on opiods, still to this day, especially because I’m the don’t drink, don’t smoke, don’t do drugs person. Antidepressants – I know how deeply depressed I was before I started taking them, and I really don’t want to go back there, so I think that what I take is a maintenance level. As long as the medications keep me stable, I’ll continue to take them. I don’t see it as an addiction at all, rather a need in my body to regulate my brain chemistry. «Physical dependence on a substance (drug or alcohol) may be a component of addiction, but it does not itself equal addiction.

But addictions can happen anywhere, from college campuses to rural and suburban towns. And anyone can become addicted, from people experiencing homelessness to business executives. Addictions can start slowly as people experiment with different types of drugs. Or they can come on quickly, like what is now happening in the opioid crisis. The opioid crisis is so bad that the U.S. government declared a public health emergency.


Success is most likely when a person has access to long-term treatment and ongoing support. Although someone with a drug addiction can end their physical dependence on the drug through detox, the mental component of the addiction addiction vs dependence remains, and maintaining sobriety can be an ongoing struggle. Chemical dependence certainly occurs with higher tolerance levels. Dependence situations demand the need for skilled therapists, counselors, and medical practitioners.

  • However, a person who is dependent on a drug may not addicted to it.
  • Substance use disorder and physical dependency are related, but not the same.
  • If it is not a prescription medication, your doctor may be able to help you reduce your use of the substance with the least side effects.
  • The proposed label in DSM-V is now called ‘substance use disorder’, with severity rated according to the number of symptoms.
  • Physical dependence on a substance (drug or alcohol) may be a component of addiction, but it does not itself equal addiction.

Physical and psychological dependence on a drug is different, although many with addictions to drugs or alcohol have both. Being physically dependent on a substance means a person’s brain and body have come to rely on the drug, and that a person will experience physical withdrawals when cutting back or stopping. Certain drugs are known to be more physically addictive than others, making it more likely that a person will develop a physical dependence (i.e. heroin, cocaine, or meth vs marijuana or alcohol). Enormous difficulties were encountered in trying to apply these definitions of addiction and habituation because of the wide variations in the pattern of use. Drug dependence is defined as a state arising from the repeated administration of a drug on a periodic or continual basis. Its characteristics will vary with the agent involved, and this must be made clear by designating drug dependence as being of a particular type—that is, drug dependence of morphine type, of cannabis type, of barbiturate type, and so forth.