Chances are you have heard the terms “addiction” and “dependence” used interchangeably, and have come to believe they are the same thing. In reality, someone can experience substance dependence without being addicted to it. Conversely, someone who is addicted to a substance may also be physically dependent.
Continue reading to learn more about these important terms related to substance use disorder.
What is addiction?
Substance addiction is both a behavioral disorder and a brain disease. When someone is dealing with substance addiction, they experience a loss of control and are unable to discontinue substance use on their own. In essence, the neurobiological effects caused by the substance control the brain’s reward system, making it incredibly difficult for the individual to break the cycle of addiction.
This loss of control is the main difference between addiction and dependence. Regardless of the negative consequences that an individual’s experiences, someone addicted to a substance continues to consume the substance anyway. This also explains the relapsing nature of substance addiction.
What is dependence?
Chronic substance use, such as long-term use of an opioid for pain management, may result in the person becoming physically dependent on the substance. This is a result of the individual developing increased tolerance to the substance as the body grows accustomed to it. Eventually, the individual must increase the dosage to feel the substance’s effect.
Over time, the body and brain become reliant on the substance, no matter if it is a prescribed medication or otherwise. Physical dependence becomes apparent when the individual starts to experience withdrawal symptoms whenever they haven’t consumed the substance for an unspecified period of time.
Can dependence and addiction both be present?
Some people who are physically dependent on a substance will go on to develop an addiction, while others will not. An individual who is merely dependent on a substance is unlikely to experience the loss of control, intense cravings or compulsive substance use of someone that’s dealing with addiction. However, the prolonged physical dependence may result in addiction.
What therapies are most effective for treating substance use disorder?
Someone who struggles with dependence, addiction or both could benefit from participating in a comprehensive rehabilitation program. After safely completing withdrawal from the substance, the individual will engage in a number of evidence-based therapies that focus on changing unhealthy behavior patterns. These can include:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy: CBT is a highly effective form of therapy that assists individuals in changing negative thought and behavior patterns towards more healthy and constructive ones.
- Dialectical behavior therapy: DBT focuses on helping the individual in recovery to better deal with their emotions, practice self-acceptance, interpersonal effectiveness, and stress management.
- Process group therapy: Process group sessions are small gatherings of peers in recovery who discuss various topics under the guidance of a licensed counselor.
- Family therapy: Family-focused group therapy helps family members rebuild their relationship with their loved one in recovery as well as providing support.
- Holistic therapy. Holistic activities, such as yoga, acupuncture, Tai Chi or mindfulness, both complement and enhance the clinical therapies. Holistic treatments promote relaxation, help reduce stress and increase self-awareness.
Substance use disorders are highly treatable using a combination of effective therapies, social support, and medication. If you or a loved one is struggling with dependence or addiction, reach out for help today.
Ashley Addiction Treatment, formerly Father Martin’s Ashley, is a nationally recognized nonprofit leader in integrated, evidence-based treatment for substance use disorders. Our programs are accredited by The Joint Commission, and result in frequent publications of ongoing research into effective treatment methodologies. We offer holistic care that encompasses the mind, body and spirit through inpatient and outpatient treatment, provide drug detox, relapse prevention plans, family wellness programs and a variety of other services tailored to each patient’s unique needs. Our driving principle — “everything for recovery” — reinforces our mission to transform and save lives through the science of medicine, the art of therapy and the compassion of spirituality, and is complemented by our philosophy of healing with respect and dignity. For information about our comprehensive programs, please call (866) 313-6307.