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Physical Dependence vs Addiction

Discussion in 'Withdrawal Symptoms' started by romananthonysmama, Feb 8, 2015.

  1. romananthonysmama

    romananthonysmama Active Contributor

    I have always naively assumed that addiction and physical dependence were synonymous, however, I was very wrong. Addiction is categorized by someone using drugs compulsively despite the negative consequences. It is life interfering, and there is tolerance and withdrawal.

    Physical dependence, on the other hand, is the categorization of the nature in which the body becomes adapted to the drug, forms a dependence, and actually acquires a physical need for it.

    I had always assumed that being "addicted" and having a "physical dependence" were of the same token, but I guess there are different definitions. Were you aware of this? To be honest, I am not so sure I still see the difference!
  2. Stella

    Stella Member

    This is news to me! I think that physical dependence and addiction should go hand in hand. Technically, physical dependence is a form of an addiction. I'd refer to physical dependence as physical addiction, and then explain the other as mental addiction. They are both forms of addiction, and should be treated equally. The problem with them being categorised as two different things is that people forget that mental addiction IS a real part of the healing process and should be taken as seriously as physical addiction.
  3. Charli

    Charli Community Champion

    I'm not sure I see much of a difference too. I hope someone expounds on this more, as I personally think that physical dependence sounds like addiction still. Maybe just more of a physical compulsion rather than a mental one, but still addiction nonetheless. The most I can make of this would be a separation of mental and physical dependence.
  4. Danyell

    Danyell Community Champion

    I think the biggest difference would fit best with this example. So say someone had surgery and was prescribed pain killers for a month. After some time taking them as prescribed, they will withdrawl if they stop out of the blue but they do not mentally obsess over it. They can go on with life without them. Yes they will be in pain for a while, but there really isn't any mental dependence. i am a heroin addict, and even after being off of heroin for a month I still crave and mentally obsess over wanting to use again. I will try and get high to no avail. someone who is physically dependent can be tapered off whatever they might be taking and are back to everyday life.
  5. blur92

    blur92 Senior Contributor

    Well, if a person has a physical dependence to something and then tried to be without it, wouldn't they experience withdrawal symptoms which are negative consequences? Then, they may resort to going to detrimental lengths in order to combat those withdrawal symptoms? Either way there doesn't seem to be much of a distinct line between physical dependence and addiction.
  6. Danyell

    Danyell Community Champion

    Yea they will experience withdrawls, that is why if it is their prescription, the doctor with medically taper them off to where they will not be super sick. But when you were saying "then, they may resort to going to detrimental lengths in order to combat those withdrawal symptoms", that is when it crosses over to addiction. It is kind of like how a square is a rectangle, but a rectangle is not a square. You can be physically dependent without being mentally addicted.
  7. rightct

    rightct Community Champion

    In my perception, drug addiction might mean that your mind urgently requests it, and physical dependency might mean that your body and only it does... but I would also like some expert clarification since I'm not sure and if you thoroughly think about it, you can't surely know which one of these requests the drug...
  8. amethyst

    amethyst Community Champion

    I'd say it goes hand in glove. It all starts in the mind, and it all ends in the mind. If you want to overcome any kind of addiction, you have to be convinced that you can do it, no matter how strong your physical responses might be. Some might have very strong withdrawal symptoms accompanied by various health complications, while others recover faster and with less pain. It's up to the individual how long it will take to shake the bad habits and develop clarity and a new vision in life.
  9. LilAnn

    LilAnn Community Champion

    I think addiction can lead to a physical dependency. I knew a guy who was on more pain killers than anyone I have ever met or heard of. He a legitimate need, but only took them when the pain was unbearable. He never felt the need to take one for any other reason. But I can't tell you how many times he forgot to take his nightly pill and woke up vomiting. Whenever that happened he wouldn't be able to keep one down if he tried to take it. He had to go to the ER and get a few iv's to rehydrate, the pain meds to get it in his system, and some kind of phenegrin or something to stop the vomiting. He wasn't addicted. But he was very physically dependent.
  10. karmaskeeper

    karmaskeeper Community Champion

    I truly believe that it's a real dependency as well as a addiction. A very fine line between the two. I thought at times I would really die without a drink. It was that bad for me I do know it was all in my head. However it was very strong thank god I'm no longer that person.
  11. LilAnn

    LilAnn Community Champion

    it really is a fine line. I have noticed a lot of people, myself included, have trouble distinguishing between addiction, physical dependency, and habit. I have even looked up the technical difference and I still have an issue distinguishing.
  12. JohnBeaulieu

    JohnBeaulieu Community Champion

    Physical dependence is a component of clinical addiction. They go together really. I don't think there is a line between them. I think much of what people call addictions these days are not really addictions.
  13. LilAnn

    LilAnn Community Champion

    I have seen and heard a lot of bad habits called addictions over the last little while. But I can't explain the difference between the two, so how can I expect anyone else to know?
  14. JohnBeaulieu

    JohnBeaulieu Community Champion

    The difference is pretty clear to me. Both addictions and habits are learned behaviors that may or may not be acknowledged by the person exhibiting them.

    Addiction is a disease that has a biological basis, regardless of it being learned or self inflicted. Many diseases are caused by a persons own actions. If it is a substance addiction there will be other physical problems and responses in addition to brain chemistry changes. There are actual brain chemistry changes that make the addiction a need if indulged. The levels a person will go to when trying to fill this need will be much more drastic than that of a habbit. An addiction also interferes with essential life functions.

    Bad habits can be compulsive and destructive but don't have the same brain chemical changes or physical responses. Addiction is a disease, a bad habit is a bad habit.
    LilAnn likes this.
  15. LilAnn

    LilAnn Community Champion

  16. JohnBeaulieu

    JohnBeaulieu Community Champion

    @LilAnn That article illustrates the point fairly well. Thank you for the link. A true clinical addiction has verifiable changes in brain chemistry that may cause a physical dependency. A bad habit can seem like an addiction but it does not have this biological component. This is the basis for treating addiction as a disease. To further complicate matters other diseases like OCD can duplicate some of the symptoms of addiction. At any rate all of it it can be detrimental to a persons well being and people deserve support regardless of the technical distinctions.
    LilAnn likes this.
  17. LilAnn

    LilAnn Community Champion

    Absolutely! I believe that some people worry more than they should about someone they love, though. If biting my nails is a bad habit they may tell me I need to quit. But call it an addiction and their point of view completely changes. Suddenly, its hazardous to my health, it bothers other people, its a matter of life and death.
  18. xTinx

    xTinx Community Champion

    It's the same chicken and egg question. Sometimes you just have to stop asking which comes first because that's not actually important now, is it? More often than not, physical dependence is the consequence of addiction. Once you're extremely addicted, of course you can't help but physically rely on an addictive substance for comfort and salvation, right? Anyhow, what's important is that you actually feel the need to help out a person with addiction.
  19. kjonesm1

    kjonesm1 Community Champion

    I think physical dependance is a part of addiction. It is also an excuse. I have heard many addicts saythat they "can't" quit because they will get sick. It goes hand and hand and you can't overcome one without overcoming the other.
  20. LilAnn

    LilAnn Community Champion

    can you be physically dependent and not addicted?