The terms “dependence” and “addiction” have become so confused that some professional organizations have ceased using the term altogether. The American Psychiatric Association (APA), for example, now uses the phrase “substance use disorder” to describe what would commonly be thought of as a substance addiction.
At the other end of the spectrum, some professional organizations continue to use both terms interchangeably. The fact that both addiction and dependence contain overlapping elements adds to the confusion surrounding those terms. Nevertheless, while the difference between dependence and addiction may be difficult to comprehend, the distinction is a meaningful one.
Dependence primarily refers to the physical need for or reliance on a substance; the main symptoms characterizing dependence are tolerance and withdrawal. It is possible to have a substance dependence without an addiction, but because of their closely related nature, someone with a substance dependence has a very high risk of developing an addiction.
Addiction, on the other hand, is diagnosed and defined based on the changes in the brain that have been brought about by the sustained and compulsive use of the substance. While physical dependence is present in substance addiction, it is not the primary element.
It is important to seek professional treatment even if you do not believe your dependence has blossomed into a full-blown substance addiction. The progressive nature of this disease makes it preferable to get treatment at the earliest possible stage.
The Asana Recovery Center offers a residential treatment program in a supportive, relaxing, and inspiring environment. Call us today at (949) 438-4504 to find out whether our drug and alcohol addiction treatment program may be the right fit for you.