Home > Recognising Addiction > Am I Dependent or Have I Got an Addiction?

Am I Dependent or Have I Got an Addiction?

By: Jo Johnson - Updated: 4 Mar 2013 | comments*Discuss
Am I Dependent Or Have I Got An Addiction?

Am I Dependent Or Have I Got An Addiction.

For most people the terms dependence and addiction mean the same things and the two words are frequently interchanged but is there actually a difference between the two?Experts in the field do agree that on the whole there is a definite difference between the two terms and a person may become dependent on a substance without being classed as an addict.

What Is Dependence?

The term dependence does indeed have different explanations than the term addiction. It is generally used to describe those who are taking approved medications for legitimate disorders whereas addicts are usually wrongly or rightly grouped together as those taking illegal drugs or participating in actions that are generally ‘bad’ for them emotionally, physically, mentally or socially.A person can become physically dependent on a certain type of medication if they take it for long enough. Their body can become ‘used’ to the drug and the same dose will discontinue having such as effect as when first given, leading to the need for a higher prescription or dose.

What is Addiction?

Addiction can be either a physical urge or based in psychological issues. It differs from dependence as a person can become addicted to activities such as gambling or spending without this becoming such a problem physically that they are termed ‘dependent’. In other words, without doing the activity they will not suffer recognised physical condition or distress if they go without it.A physical addiction is spawned from taking substances (like alcohol or drugs)that have caused physiological changes within the body and without these substances physical changes occur. Often this can manifest in shaking, nausea, bowel changes and headaches and sleeping disorders along with more subtle symptoms such as taste changes and irritability. A physical addiction means that without the substance that the body has become used to having frequently, physical reactions and symptoms will result.A psychological addiction is usually described as the person wanting or needing to feel that ‘fix’ again and enjoy or require the high to function. There may be no physical symptoms but the mental agony of not being able to take the substance can sometimes be as severe (often described as worse by many recovering addicts).

Physical dependence and addiction are agreed by experts to be two entirely different concepts and managed very differently. A person may be able to go ‘cold turkey’ with an addiction and come out the other side with no physical damage or effect whereas a person with a dependence may suffer physically if their dependent substance is withdrawn. The general public often misconstrue the two terms and use them wrongly and replace addiction with the word dependence which often sounds less severe and detrimental than an addiction. If you are struggling with trying to decide if you are dependent on a substance or addicted, try working out whether you want the substance mentally or whether you need it to counteract other physical conditions like pain. Usually with an addiction the result from taking the substance or participating in the activity cause a better feeling than the current one whereas with dependence the feeling after the substance is not so much to give you a high as it is to carry on with normal daily activities and experience no ‘buzz’.

You might also like...
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
as a nursing student i'm looking for your references as to who the experts are that depict addiction to be so separate from dependency? It appears to be at ends to other UK based research I have as resources and would like to know how legitimate the claim is? or whether it just legitimises addiction to prescribed drugs over addiction to non-government regulated drugs.
poorbaby - 8-Jan-13 @ 2:39 PM
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice...
(never shown)
(never shown)
(never shown)
(never shown)
Enter word:
Latest Comments
  • taylor100
    Re: Medical Help to Beat an Addiction
    I have a problem with addiction. I smoked a lot cannabis for a long time. Toyed with LSD for a bit , that ended badly, which…
    12 May 2020
  • Leanne
    Re: Is my Son Addicted to Shopping?
    My son has been diagnosed with a shopping obsession but I feel it is an addiction as he has to physically buy things to feel…
    10 May 2020
  • Kev
    Re: Recognising Alcohol Addiciton
    I've always been quite an active person, and my job requires me to be at a certain standard of fitness, I've always drunk quite…
    4 May 2020
  • Gaby
    Re: Beating an Addiction to Drugs
    Hello, I need some advice/help.. its quite urgent and really need some help. The problem we have is rehab is around 6k or 12k a…
    27 February 2020
  • A.M1166
    Re: Beating an Addiction to Chocolate
    I have been addicted to various substances for as long as I can remember, alcohol, cannabis, cocaine, ecstasy, heroin,…
    27 February 2020
  • Jane
    Re: Beating an Addiction to Drugs
    I have a son who has addictionn illness, he is aware and wants to change but can't. I am getting very stressed when he is out…
    17 February 2020
  • Lynne
    Re: Beating an Addiction to Drugs
    My son is a recovering addict I desperately need to talk to someone one
    16 February 2020
  • Mjb
    Re: Addiction Treatment Centers: What to Expect
    My son is 44 has mental health issues and is self medicating with street valium.It has taken over his life he…
    4 February 2020
  • Hannah
    Re: Recognising Alcohol Addiciton
    Hi I drink about 2 bottles of wine a day start late afternoon until evening watch tv don’t remember much after about 7.30 then…
    9 January 2020
  • Joseph
    Re: Addiction to Shopping
    Hi, I wonder if you can help? I am slightly worried about my bills and during my constant worrying, i spend money on materialistic things…
    27 December 2019