Substance Dependency Vs. Addiction: What's the Difference? | Harbor Village - Harbor Village

Substance Dependency Vs. Addiction: What’s the Difference?

By now in the “What’s the Difference?” series, we’ve learned quite a bit about substance abuse; you can catch up on those topics in our What’s the Difference? blog category.

Today we’re going to take a step back and delve further into what substance abuse really is- specifically the difference between addiction and substance dependency.

Most people use the terms substance abuse, addiction and dependence interchangeably, but they are in fact different. Understanding those differences will help to bridge the gaps in society which foster stigmas, misunderstandings, and suffering.


What is Substance Dependency?

Dependency refers to the physical need for use of a particular substance. Physical dependence can occur without addiction, however addiction nearly always comes with some form of physical dependence. (It’s like that whole squares and rectangles thing, you know?)

How does one form substance dependency? Typically substance dependency happens when the body has built such a tolerance for alcohol or drugs that said substance is required for normal bodily function. This is the reason behind withdrawal symptoms; the body is purging itself of toxins and attempting to restore balance.

Substance dependency isn’t limited to illicit substances- in fact, sometimes it’s a medical necessity. People with chronic disease such as diabetes can require dependency on medications- in this case, insulin. When medication is used properly to correct a medical condition, substance dependency is not necessarily a bad thing. However, when physical and mental dependence meet, addiction forms.


Addiction and Substance Dependency: What’s the Difference?

Addiction differs from substance dependency because of the mental effects associated with the disorder. Some of those traits include:

  • Anxiety caused by lack of addictive substance
  • Paranoia
  • Changes in personality
  • Sudden mood swings
  • Secretiveness

Physical substance dependency can only serve to reinforce thoughts negative thoughts such as the inability to function or survive without drugs or alcohol. However, these convictions are only lies perpetuated by the disorder; recovery is always possible.

Do you think medications with a risk of addiction or substance dependency should be allowed on the market? Let us know what you think!

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