Difference Between Addiction and Dependence

Even though people tend to use the terms, addiction and dependence, interchangeably there exists a difference between addiction and dependence. Addiction is the result of a condition where substance use of an individual becomes disruptive to his daily life. The nature of the disruption can be varied. It can affect the relationships in life, work and responsibilities that a person has in life. This is both psychological as well as biological. However, dependence is a bit different to addiction. It is when a person needs a certain dose of the substance for physical well-being. Without it, the body has a negative reaction. This article attempts to provide a basic understanding of the two terms and emphasize the difference between addiction and dependence.

What does Addiction mean?

Addiction, as mentioned above, is both a biological as well as a psychological condition which results in a very powerful urge on the part of the individual that cannot be resisted. Even though people tend to criticize addicted people as being weak in character due to their inability to control their urges, sometimes this is not the case. It can be a chronic, neurobiological disease which makes the person engage in various socially non-accepted forms of behaviour such as stealing just for the sake of satisfying his urge. This does not mean that a person reaches a state of unconsciousness, rather his urge is too powerful that other moral obligations become secondary. Addiction does not have an age limit though it usually starts at a younger age and continues thereafter.

A person who is addicted displays compulsive behaviour of wanting more and more. This insatiable desire only grows where the person becomes numb to the negative consequences of addiction, to himself and others. This is not to say that the person is unaware of the damage that it causes, however he/she does not have the power to control it. This emergence and manifestation of the habit that turns into an addiction could be due to environmental, genetic and psycho-social factors.

What does Dependence mean?

Unlike addiction, which stresses the interplay of both biological and psychological influences for its development, dependence only refers to the physical state associated. It is a condition where drugs have to be taken for the physical well-being. Without the necessary dose, the individual might have a physical reaction which is negative. The reason for this is that since the body has become accustomed to the drug, the removal creates a peculiar state in the body that comes out as a negative reaction. Some such reactions are nausea, sweating, racing heart, diarrhea, etc. However, these reactions are not psychological. When a drug has been used for a longer period, the body begins to grow a tolerance towards the drug making it necessary to consume a higher dose for the reaction that was initially experienced. Withdrawal from drugs can also be a rather painful experience especially at the initial phase since there is a physical yearning for drugs.

What is the difference between Addiction and Dependence?

• Addiction refers to a condition where an individual cannot resist the powerful urge to consume the substance. This can be both biological as well as psychological.

• However, dependence is the need for drugs for physical well-being.

• In this sense, while addiction can also be psychological, dependence is merely physical.

• The main difference is that while dependence has the intention of improving the condition of the individual, in addiction it is the contrary where the individual only reaches a higher level of self-harm.