The Sober Living AZ Blog

Understanding Addiction and Dependence

Posted on 05/31/19: Addiction Recovery \ Addiction Treatment

When someone or a loved one is suffering from an addiction, the terms “addiction” and “dependence” may begin to be used interchangeably. However, there are clear differences between the two. It can be difficult to understand the differences. Understanding how addiction differs from dependence is very important because addiction is often a misunderstood disease.

What is Addiction?

According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, addiction is categorized by biological, social, and psychological changes. These changes are caused by disruption to the parts of the brain that control reward pathways, motivation, and memory. When someone is suffering from an addiction, their reward pathways and neurotransmitters are not functioning correctly.

The brain experiences a surge of dopamine when someone uses a drug. This high, or euphoric feeling, is more powerful than anything experienced before because the brain is overstimulated. This causes your brain to continuously seek out this similar feeling, although it is actually causing you harm. Someone suffering from addiction may struggle to keep a job, have strained relationships, and engage in dangerous activities.

These brain changes can make recognizing and seeking help extremely challenging and a potentially long process. However, it is not impossible and there is always hope for recovery.

Characteristics of addiction include:

  • An inability to control impulses
  • Drug cravings
  • Unrecognition of damage being caused
  • Behavioral changes or mental illness
  • Mood swings or inappropriate emotional responses

Those suffering from addiction will go through many behavioral changes that can affect all facets of their lives. These can include cognitive and emotional changes, which can make functioning very difficult. A person experiencing addiction may notice that their brain is preoccupied with the drug and they may even experience a loss of time while using the drug. It can also cause someone to have altered perceptions of how the drug can make them feel and the effect it has on their lives.

They will often initially feel very positive about the drug before using, which can be described as a sense of euphoria. Addiction can also give a loved one feelings of anxiety, overall panic, and even depression. An addiction can cause life events to appear worse or stressful than they actually are, causing the loved one to act accordingly although not appropriately. It is important to understand that while these symptoms of the disease may occur, there are treatment options specifically designed to help.

Do Genetics Play a Role?

Vulnerability can be very difficult to determine. However, inherited traits and a person’s environment can affect their likelihood of developing an addiction. Addiction can actually run in someone’s family. By comparing family trees and genetic makeup of those you are suffering from an addiction and those who are not, researchers can study sequences of DNA that are apparent in those with addiction. These genetic sequences are estimated to account for around fifty-percent of a person’s addiction vulnerability. While genetic factors play a role, so does a person’s environment and various other factors.

What is Dependence?

Physical dependence is not the same as addiction, although the two often are misunderstood. Dependence is used to describe the loss of control, both physical and psychological, due to abusing a substance and increased tolerance. Tolerance happens when more and more of a certain drug is needed in order to achieve the same effects. This can be seen in prescription medications often.

This dependence alone is not enough for a medical professional to conclude an addiction. However, someone with an addiction often shows signs of dependency as well. Symptoms will be very uncomfortable when a person who is dependent on a drug ceases use. Experiencing dependency means that your mind and body rely on the drug in order to function.

Characteristics of dependence include:

  • Experiencing withdrawal
  • Negative physical symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, and chills
  • Mental symptoms, such as dizziness, anxiety, and depression

Physical dependence can happen with many different drugs. Caffeine, sugar, and antidepressants can cause physical dependence. This can even happen with prescription drugs, even if they are taken as directed.

What is the Difference?

Physical dependence often referred to as just dependence, is often easier to manage than addiction. It is usually more predictable and normally just requires a slow tapering off of the drug, while monitoring symptoms. Addiction is considered to be abnormal and is classified as a disease. Addiction creates a host of other issues, stemming back to changes that are occurring in the brain. Addiction will not be diagnosed unless the person suffering is experiencing cravings, which are a direct result of these brain changes. A person suffering from addiction will need to seek a treatment center that can better assess and treat their disease.

Treatment for Addiction & Dependence

While treatment for dependence is not as in-depth as that for addiction, consultation with a medical professional is still needed. Withdrawal symptoms as a result of dependence can be dangerous or even life-threatening, so it is important to seek help to modify your medication or get a suggestion for a healthcare professional. Addiction is very complex. However, it is treatable no matter how long someone has been suffering from addiction. There are several different treatment options someone can choose from to help them on the road to recovery.

These include counseling and medication, including inpatient treatment. Medications, sometimes in the form of detoxification, may be used in order to help treat withdrawal symptoms, while counseling will help to assist lifestyle and behavioral changes. Treatment plans should be catered to the individual. The most successful treatment plans not only help treat drug abuse but also assist them with all facets of their life.

An expertly tailored professional treatment program is important for success. Sober Living Of Arizona realizes that no single plan is right for everyone. That is why they provide effective treatment options that address all of a patient’s needs. Treatment plans are continuously overseen and potentially modified to fit the individual. If you or someone you know is suffering from drug or alcohol addiction or physical dependence, seek help today. Get on the road to recovery and experience a healthier life.

Content for Sober Living AZ created by Cohn Media, LLC. Passionate and creative writing and broadcasting, covering the following industries: addiction rehab, health care, entertainment, technology and the food/restaurant industry. Advocate of clear communication, positivity and humanity at its best. www.cohn.media

Content for Sober Living AZ and Arizona Addiction Recovery Centers created by Cohn Media, LLC. Passionate and creative writing and broadcasting, covering the following industries: addiction rehab, health care, entertainment, technology and advocate of clear communication, positivity and humanity at its best. www.cohn.media

Talk to Someone Who’s Been There. Talk to Someone Who Can Help. Sober Living AZ holds the highest accreditation (Joint Commission) and is Arizona’s premier rehab facility since 2007. Call 602.737.2458


If you or someone you know needs help with addiction, contact Sober Living of AZ now to get the help you need. Sober Living offers an acclaimed recovery environment that merges upscale and luxury accommodations with affordability, clinical expertise and an unwavering commitment to patient care and aftercare. Call us now at 602-737-2458.

Recent Posts

Call Now Button