26 Apr 2024

The difference between addiction and physical dependence is that addiction is to do with how the brain is wired and physical dependence is how the body reacts to taking/withdrawing from a drug.

This article sheds light on the disparities between addiction and physical dependence, offering insights into their definitions, signs, and treatment options. Understanding these nuances is crucial for individuals seeking assistance in overcoming substance-related challenges. Below, we delve into the variances between addiction and physical dependence, providing guidance on recognising signs and exploring treatment avenues.

Medical Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is for educational purposes only and should not replace professional medical advice. Please consult with a healthcare provider for personalised guidance tailored to your specific needs and circumstances such as our Treatment specialists at Rehabs UK. Please contact us today for any questions or queries and a free assessment if necessary.

What is the definition of addiction?

Addiction is characterised by the compulsive use of substances despite adverse consequences. According a study, "Addiction involves a complex interplay of genetic, environmental, and psychological factors, leading to a loss of control over substance use."

For instance, an individual addicted to opioids may continue to use them despite experiencing severe health issues, family disfunction or legal repercussions. For example, someone may be addicted to taking heroin and they might also have a life threatening disease which could potentially be cured if the person stops taking the heroin but they are so addicted they will just continue to use despite this negative effect.

Signs of addiction:

  • Cravings and preoccupation with obtaining substances
  • Neglecting responsibilities and relationships due to substance use
  • Developing tolerance and needing higher doses for the same effect
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when attempting to stop using

What is the definition of physical dependence?

Physical dependence refers to the body's adaptation to a substance, leading to withdrawal symptoms upon cessation of use. Lester Morse, an expert in addiction says "Physical dependence is a physiological phenomenon that can occur with prolonged substance use, even in the absence of addiction."

For example, individuals prescribed certain medications may develop physical dependence but do not exhibit addictive behaviours. For example, someone could get prescribed diazepam for anxiety and have no addictive qualities but over time the body is going to depend on that drug if the person suddenly stops taking it their body will possibly experience withdrawal symptoms such as sweats, insomnia or even seizure.

Signs of physical dependence:

  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when substance use is reduced or stopped
  • Needing to increase the dosage of a substance to achieve the same effect
  • Developing tolerance over time
  • Using the substance to relieve withdrawal symptoms rather than for pleasure

Addiction vs Dependence comparison

How do you treat addiction?

Treatment for addiction encompasses various modalities, including therapy, medication-assisted treatment, and support groups. Rehabs UK offers comprehensive addiction treatment programmes tailored to individuals' needs, addressing both physical and psychological aspects of addiction.

How do you treat physical dependency?

Physical dependence can be managed through gradual tapering of the substance under medical supervision, substitution with a less potent medication, or supportive care to alleviate withdrawal symptoms. Rehabs UK, again can provide specialised programmes and detox’s whether that is inpatient or a home detox which are designed to address physical dependency and facilitate long-term recovery.

Get support for addiction and physical dependence from Rehabs UK

Recognising the distinctions between addiction and physical dependence is crucial for effective intervention and treatment. When you're ready to seek help, consulting medical professionals or specialists like Rehabs UK can be the first step toward recovery. Fill out the form or call to connect with our team and begin your journey toward a healthier, substance-free life.

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