Substance Abuse vs Addiction vs Dependence What’s The Difference

People who frequently use drugs are at significant risk of developing addiction to them. Some working-group members voted in favor of a return to the use of the word ‘addiction’ because the word has become so commonplace in recent years and does not seem pejorative to them. The media has stories about ‘addiction to oil’ and women wear tee-shirts emblazoned with ‘addiction to pink’ or to shopping, etc. Of course, connotations of words change with time and culture; we acknowledge that there are no current studies that can be cited on whether the choice of labels might be pejorative. Because some scientists remain opposed to the use of the word ‘addiction’, we proposed a compromise. The proposed label in DSM-V is now called ‘substance use disorder’, with severity rated according to the number of symptoms.

  • There is a very fine line between substance abuse and dependence.
  • The opioid crisis is so bad that the U.S. government declared a public health emergency.
  • Hosted by therapist Amy Morin, LCSW, this episode of The Verywell Mind Podcast shares strategies for coping with alcohol cravings and other addictions, featuring addiction specialist John Umhau, MD.
  • Dependence on a drug can certainly lead to a substance abuse disorder (SUD).

In recent years, related medical terminology has been changed and clarified. Once a person reaches the level of physical or mental dependence, addiction is typically in play as well. The distinguishing factor between addiction and dependence is the uncontrollable urge to get and use drugs. Drug Addiction, or substance use disorder has three classifications; mild, moderate, and severe. While not everyone who uses drugs will become addicted to them, there are known risk factors for addiction. Genetics and the environment you grew up in play a huge role in determining if you will become addicted.

West Virginia has the nation’s worst drug problem, but much less homelessness than L.A.

Did you know that substance abuse can lead to other health issues such as addiction and dependence, which are both considered diseases? The use of drugs affect the brain’s response and reaction, and scientific research by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) shows that drug addiction and dependence are diseases that affects both brain and behavior. Let’s look at the nature and progression of substance use that leads to abuse, dependence and addiction. Untreated substance use disorders – whether they are mild or severe – can be detrimental to a person’s mental, physical, emotional, social, and even financial health. That is why professional treatment is always recommended, no matter whether a person is dependent on a drug or has a full-blown addiction to it. Enormous difficulties were encountered in trying to apply these definitions of addiction and habituation because of the wide variations in the pattern of use.

Let’s examine how the world views addiction versus dependence in relation to substance abuse disorders. You are dependent if you stop taking the drug and experience withdrawal symptoms. The only area where a person can be considered to just use a substance is when a doctor has prescribed a medication and the prescription is followed exactly. However, dependence on drugs can form even from proper use of prescription drugs in some cases.

Substance Abuse Defined

If you or a loved one are struggling with mental health or substance abuse, we can help. If a person is exhibiting two or more of the above symptoms, professional substance use treatment is recommended. This indicates the presence of at least a mild substance use disorder. Additional training in assessment and diagnosis for physician trainees at the medical school level is also needed.

This type of psychodynamic explanation assumes that the individual is predisposed to this type of psychological adjustment prior to any actual experience with drugs. It has also been suggested that the type of drug used will be strongly influenced by the individual’s characteristic way of relating to the world. The detached type of person might be expected to choose the “hard” narcotics to facilitate indifference and withdrawal from the world.

Start the road to recovery

If that history lesson sounded confusing, that’s because it is, and there’s no way to simplify what happened. But the biggest source of confusion concerns the word «dependence.» Prior to the DSM-III, the term «dependence» simply meant physiological dependence, as indicated by tolerance and addiction vs dependence withdrawal symptoms. In addition, symptoms must not meet the criteria for substance dependence for the class of substance. A diagnosis of substance dependence supersedes that of substance abuse. Physical dependency on a drug can manifest as tolerance to the substance or as withdrawal.

Not all physical dependency should be treated as something to be fixed, though. Bear in mind a person can be dependent on certain medications for chronic conditions that will be required for the rest of their life. For example, a person with type 1 diabetes (sometimes called insulin-dependent diabetes) will not be treated for this dependency as it is necessary to their survival.

Diagnosing SUD vs. Dependency

At the same time, the distinction between addiction and dependence is not trivial. Medical professionals are ethically required to get the diagnosis right so that they can get the treatment right. Depending upon whether the patient exhibits physiological symptoms (withdrawal or tolerance), the diagnosis for substance dependence is specified as either with or without physiologic dependence. When the symptoms of mental and physical dependence are apparent, an addiction is usually present. However, the main characteristic that distinguishes addiction from dependence is the combination of mental and physical dependence with uncontrollable behavior in obtaining and using a substance. Addiction is marked by a change in behavior caused by the biochemical changes in the brain after continued substance abuse.