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Addiction Vs. Dependence

April 5, 2023

Addiction and dependence are two distinct terms that most people tend to use interchangeably. So, what is the difference between addiction and dependence? Let’s find out!

What is Addiction?

Addiction is a chronic mental illness that causes an individual to compulsively seek and use alcohol and drugs despite the harmful consequences. It is a complex condition that involves changes in the brain’s structure and function, leading to intense, insatiable cravings and an inability to control substance use.

People with addiction often prioritize drug use over other important activities, such as work, school, or relationships. They may also continue to use drugs despite experiencing negative consequences, such as financial problems, health problems, or relationship issues.

In recent years, the scientific community has adopted substance use disorder (SUD) as a more appropriate term for addiction, encompassing both physiological and psychological aspects of the disease.

What is Dependence?

Dependence, on the other hand, refers to the physical adaptations that occur in the body as a result of repeated drug use. Dependence occurs after using alcohol or drugs for a prolonged period of time and is characterized by withdrawal symptoms that occur when drug use is stopped or reduced.

Withdrawal symptoms can vary depending on the substance and the severity of dependence, but common symptoms include anxiety, insomnia, sweating, nausea, and tremors. 

Dependence is a normal physiological response to chronic drug use and does not necessarily indicate addiction. However, there is a very thin line between the two; for most people with alcohol or substance dependence, addiction is almost always around the corner.

Understanding the Key Differences


Addiction is caused by a combination of genetic, environmental, and psychological factors. A person may be more susceptible to addiction if they have a family history of substance abuse or have experienced trauma, stress, or other adverse events. Dependence, on the other hand, is purely a physical adaptation to a substance that occurs with repeated use.


Addiction is characterized by a range of behavioral and psychological symptoms, such as compulsive drug seeking, inability to control use, continued use despite harm, and decreased involvement in other activities. Dependence, however, is primarily characterized by physical symptoms, such as withdrawal symptoms, when a person stops using the substance abruptly.


Treatment for addiction and dependence may overlap, but the intensity of treatment may vary. Addiction is a chronic brain disease that requires comprehensive and intensive treatment, which may encompass behavioral therapy, medication, and inpatient rehabilitation care. The main focus of addiction treatment is to help the person achieve abstinence and address the underlying causes of substance use.

Treatment for dependence focuses on managing withdrawal symptoms and helping the person stop using the substance safely. This typically involves tapering off drug use gradually over time, with medications to manage withdrawal symptoms or reduce cravings. In some cases, psychological therapy may also be necessary to prevent dependence from evolving into addiction.

The Bottom Line

Looking for a great ketamine clinic oakland ca? In conclusion, addiction and dependence are two closely related terms that refer to different implications of substance use. But since no level of substance abuse is too small to ignore, it’s advisable to seek professional treatment right away if you suspect you may have an addiction or dependence problem. Remember, early intervention can help you or a loved one avoid the long-term consequences of substance use disorder.

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