The Differences Between Drug Addiction and Drug Dependence

By | July 27, 2017

When many people hear the terms drug addiction and drug dependence, they automatically assume the meaning is the same. The American Society of Addiction Medicine confirms that these two terms are not the same. In fact, in a clinical environment, not understanding the differences in these two terms can be detrimental to effectively treating substance abuse.

Drug addiction is characterized by a behavior disorder where a person’s primary motivation is using their drug of choice. All the addict thinks about is getting his hands on and taking the drug. Drug addiction also involves biological changes that directly affect the brain. Drug addiction can have devastating consequences in a person’s life. The obsession for drugs can lead to loss of a job, relationships, and legal troubles. Common signs of addiction may include:

* Drug seeking (trying to get the drug through illegal means like going to multiple pharmacies.
* Craving
* Obsession with getting the drug
* Non-conventional usage (using the drug for pleasure or to become intoxicated)
* Problems functioning with a normal routine (becoming less productive, missing appointments)
* Legal problems
* Relationship problems

Detoxification can help put an end to the physical need, but the psychological hold of a drug is one reason an addict is never actually “cured.” Maintaining sobriety is a challenging, ongoing process.

Drug dependence refers to a situation where a person becomes physiologically dependent on a drug and must take it in order to function normally. If they are unable to take the drug for a period of time, the person goes through what is commonly known as withdrawal symptoms signaling dependence. They include:

* Sweating
* Chills
* Aches
* Vomiting
* Diarrhea

Drug dependence can also become the cause of certain psychological problems. Anxiety, trouble concentrating, depression can also be symptoms of drug dependence.
It is possible for a drug to produce symptoms of drug dependence without addiction. Examples of this include steroids, medications for depression, blood pressure medication and antihistamines. You may experience withdrawal reactions when you stop taking them, but you won’t have an overpowering need to continue taking the drug. Likewise some individuals are more likely to become addicted to drugs than others based on biological and psychological factors as well as social influences.

Different drugs produce different physical effects, but the symptoms of addiction are the same. Drug addiction is a complex problem that requires proper treatment, support and the right tools to help you regain control and enjoy a happier, sober life.