man stands on top of a building watching the sunset and wondering the differences between dependence vs addiction

The Difference Between Dependence vs. Addiction

Although you may have heard of dependence and addiction, you may not know what sets the two apart. Dependence is sometimes considered a predecessor to addiction, so it is important to be able to differentiate between the signs of dependence vs. addiction. This allows you to know when it is time to take action to change potentially harmful habits or behaviors before they can manifest into a powerful addiction.

If you are concerned about your relationship with drugs or alcohol, My 5 Palms is here to answer your questions. Call us at 1.844.675.1022 or fill out our online form to discuss your situation with one of our friendly team members. Whether you are dealing with dependence or addiction, we have the tools and resources needed to get you back on track. Reach out today to learn more about our range of addiction treatment programs.

What Is Drug or Alcohol Dependence?

Drug or alcohol dependence is a condition in which a person’s body adapts to the chronic presence of certain drugs or alcohol in their system.

Signs of dependence:

  • Building a tolerance and requiring larger amounts of a substance to achieve the same effect as before
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms like nausea, vomiting, sweating, trembling, headaches, and anxiety when not using the substance

Once someone is dependent on a substance, it can become more difficult to quit or reduce use without experiencing withdrawal symptoms.

What Is Addiction?

Addiction is a complex chronic condition characterized by compulsive substance misuse despite negative consequences.

Signs of addiction:

  • Preoccupation with substance use
  • Changes in behavior, such as becoming secretive, defensive, or irritable
  • Loss of interest in hobbies or activities once enjoyed
  • Engaging in risky behaviors like driving under the influence or stealing drugs or alcohol
  • Experiencing physical changes such as rapid weight loss or gain or inability to sleep
  • Problems at work or home related to substance use

There are many types of addiction, including drug, alcohol, screen, shopping, and gambling addictions. However, when referring to drug or alcohol addiction, a person would be diagnosed with a substance use disorder or SUD.

Dependence vs. Addiction

Although they may sometimes be mistakenly used interchangeably, dependence and addiction are actually two distinct conditions. A few notable differences between dependence vs. addiction:

  • Dependence involves a biological response to chronic substance use, while addiction is a chronic disease affecting a person’s physical, mental, and emotional well-being.
  • A person can be dependent on drugs or alcohol without being addicted to them. On that note, a person can be addicted to drugs or alcohol without having a physical dependence on them.
  • A person with drug or alcohol dependence may not feel a psychological need for the substance but continue using the substance in response to uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms.
  • Someone with an addiction may experience powerful cravings for drugs or alcohol and possibly engage in risky behaviors to continue using the substance.
  • Although a person dependent on substances may not be addicted, dependence can make them more susceptible to addiction.

While dependence and addiction can both exist independently and have some similar characteristics, addiction is generally more severe and more likely to require professional treatment. 

Call My 5 Palms Today and Get Help for Substance Use Disorder

It is okay if you are still a bit uncertain about the differences between dependence and addiction and whether you or a loved one may be dealing with one or the other. Give My 5 Palms a call at 1.844.675.1022 or contact us online with questions about substance use disorders and how treatment works.

Our friendly team will set you up with an intake assessment to evaluate your condition and determine the appropriate course of treatment. With a full range of residential and outpatient treatment options, we have the comprehensive care you need to overcome dependence or addiction on a schedule that works for you.

Scroll to Top