When considering the addiction vs dependence battle, understanding the key differences can be difficult for many to gauge. This lack of understanding is down to the blurred line, branding all individuals suffering with a substance use disorder as addicts.
The diagnosis of and word addiction are also commonly avoided, recognised as a negative representation. Yet, it’s important to differentiate both levels of drug and alcohol abuse and the impacts they can have.
Here are differing characteristics between an addiction and a dependence, along with individual treatment routes for each. If you’re struggling with either diagnosis, it’s important to understand that support is available, helping you overcome any strength of drug and alcohol use.
A physical dependence to drugs or alcohol
A dependence is usually categorised as a physical dependence an individual may have on the likes of drugs and alcohol. This is commonly based on the severity of withdrawal symptoms post consumption, usually avoiding any form of psychological impact.
When considering the addiction vs dependence battle, a dependence is usually diagnosed based off the limiting length of time an individual has abused drugs and alcohol for. A dependence can fuel the ongoing use of prescription drugs, illicit drugs and alcohol. This is commonly the first stage of consumption where little side effects have been experienced. Yet, it’s important to remember that damage may be occurring under the surface.
A physical dependence is usually the initial stage from consuming drugs and alcohol. Similar to abuse, being dependent on a drug will fuel the physical cravings, motivating ongoing use. Yet, although this may be the initial stage, avoiding any form of mental health impact, the development of an addiction is likely.
Without an element of control or intervention, here is where a dependence can lead to addiction to drugs and alcohol.
An addiction and it’s mental health connections
If drug and alcohol use hasn’t decreased, here is where a dependence can advance into an addiction. This is where both a physical and psychological connection to substances is experienced.
Once addictive substances have been consumed from some time, tolerances will build up. With this in mind, consumption and doses will usually increase to overcome side effects and unbearable withdrawal symptoms.
This behaviour will usually stem from the chemical impact on parts of the brain, influenced by the ongoing use of drugs and alcohol. Here an engrained connection will be embedded, fuelling consistent long-term use.
For individuals suffering with an addiction, this is exactly why reducing consumption is difficult. Once consistent use of drugs and alcohol is experienced, it becomes a habitual behaviour. Both the body and mind rely on those substances to function. It is more than likely that an addiction will take over someone’s life, impacting from every angle.
The biggest difference between an addiction and a dependence is the mental health issues individuals are likely to experience. Once harmful drugs have been used for some time, side effects such as depression, anxiety and paranoia are likely to develop. Without sourcing support for a dual diagnosis, ongoing mental health issues are likely. Yet, this again will make addiction difficult, causing a viscous circle of influence.
If you believe you’re suffering with an addiction to drugs and alcohol, sourcing addiction treatment sooner rather than later will be recommended. If you’re currently abusing drugs and alcohol, with little psychological impacts, understanding what is on the horizon is vital. Whichever situation may reflect your reality, treatment and support is available.
Addiction vs Dependence – why it’s important to understand the differences?
If you’re using drugs and alcohol to any extent, it’s important to understand the addiction vs dependence battle. Here at Action Rehab, we recommend this understanding as experiences and treatments will vary.
It is also important for those observing drug and alcohol use to appreciate the different stages individuals go through. Many misconceptions are made on addiction, categorising all individuals into a single addict box. When in fact, this judgment is incorrect.
A greater understanding of both a dependence and an addiction are needed to gauge the level of support individuals need. Although support should always be provided equally, those with an addiction will also suffer mentally. Please keep this in mind when approaching and supporting those through substance abuse.
Suitable support for an addiction vs dependence
For individuals suffering with a dependence, overcoming drug and alcohol use will be easier. This process can still be challenging if high doses have been consumed. However, with limiting psychological connections, singular medical treatment will be required.
The greatest treatment for those with a dependence will usually include a drug and alcohol detox. This will rebalance the body while reducing cravings. Although this can be a difficult treatment to complete, full recovery is likely.
For individuals suffering with an addiction, greater treatment will be required. With both a physical and psychological connection to drugs and alcohol, a mixture of addiction treatments will be required. Usually starting with a detox, the body will firstly be prepared for a future without substance abuse. Once this has been completed, therapy sessions and cognitive behavioural therapy will be recommended to work on the underlying trigger fuelling addiction.
Additionally, for individuals who are experiencing connected mental health issues, treatment for a dual diagnosis will be required. This route can take some time and can be difficult for some individuals to complete. Discussing triggers can influence old experiences. However, this is a vital stage to overcome the psychological fixation to drugs and alcohol.
Whether you’re living with a dependence or addiction, sourcing support is highly important. Without this, a small dependence can lead to an addiction, requiring great rehabilitation. Whichever of these situations currently reflect your reality, feel free to reach out to our team here at Action Rehab. We can recommend both outpatient and residential treatment through our partnering rehab facilities.
We can further provide details on the addiction vs dependence battle and how to overcome each. Start to rehabilitate from drug and alcohol abuse with our support.