Drug and alcohol addiction and dependence are serious disorders that affect tens of millions of people worldwide. More than 20 million people suffer from substance use disorders every year in the United States alone.

Within the medical and mental health communities, which encompass substance use disorders, the terms “dependence” and “addiction” have often been used interchangeably, which has only added to the professional and public confusion over what these terms actually mean. While understanding the difference between dependence and addiction can be difficult, this knowledge is important, especially when you are seeking treatment for a substance use disorder.

At Spokane Falls Recovery Center, we understand that you may have questions about whether you or a loved one suffers from substance dependence or addiction. Our highly-trained clinical staff is available to help you understand the differences.

The Differences Between Dependence and Addiction

An individual may be physically or psychologically dependent upon a substance. In fact, it is often the case that a person presents with both types of dependence.

What Is Physical Dependence?

Physical dependence occurs when someone uses drugs or alcohol regularly over a long period of time. The prolonged use disrupts the brain’s natural chemical balance, forcing the brain to adapt to the substance’s presence. Through this adaption, the brain builds a tolerance to the substance and eventually relies on the presence of the substance to function normally. When the substance is removed – as can happen when a person tries to stop drinking alcohol, for example – the chemical balance is upset, and the individual will experience symptoms of withdrawal.
Withdrawal symptoms for an individual who is physically dependent upon a substance can range from mild to severe. Mild symptoms can start within several hours of not consuming the substance and include a broad range of physical, mental, and emotional effects that include:

  • Shaky hands
  • Headache
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Sweating
  • Anxiety

Severe withdrawal symptoms usually start within 12 to 24 hours from the last consumption and can last for up to 2 days. These are entirely dependent upon the substance but can include symptoms as severe as hallucination and delusion, heart attacks, and stroke. These are only a few of the many reasons it is always better to seek professional help from a substance abuse treatment center when attempting to break a physical addiction to a substance.

What Is Psychological Dependence?

Psychological dependence occurs when substance use is tied to a particular feeling or event, referred to as a “trigger.” Triggers are directly tied to each person’s history and vary widely. The common factor is that triggers set off a chemical reaction in the brain that influences a person’s substance dependence and may require Dual Diagnosis Treatment Spokane WA

While someone can be dependent upon a substance and not be addicted, it can be thought of as a warning sign for addiction. If you or someone you know is suffering from dependence, use the online form or call 844.962.2772 to speak to a Spokane Falls Recovery Center clinician today.

What Is Addiction?

The term “addiction” is defined as using a substance consistently and in excess despite its negative consequences. While just about everyone exposed to prolonged substance use will develop a dependence, not everyone will become addicted.

Addiction is similar to dependence in that it physically changes the brain. A key difference is in how addiction affects a person’s behaviors. An addicted individual will act irrationally and compulsively seek out their desired substance, regardless of the potential harm to self or others. Another important distinction is that addictions can be to non-substances, as with gambling or sex addiction.

Addiction is a chronic medical disease that can be successfully treated. In seeking addiction treatment, it is important to remember that Washington drug addiction treatment is not one-size-fits-all.

Learn More at Spokane Falls Recovery Center

Whether you or a loved one is suffering from substance dependence or addiction, professional treatment is essential. Health professionals commonly recommend a combination of addiction treatment therapies for a successful recovery.

At Spokane Falls Recovery Center in Spokane, Washington, we utilize a combination of evidence-based and holistic approaches in our Spokane WA Rehab. Our clinicians work in partnership with each patient to design an individualized plan of recovery.
To learn more about how you or a loved one may benefit from addiction treatment, reach out to us using our online form or call 844.962.2772 today.