Tolerance, Physical Dependence, Addiction: the Differences

I began working in the treatment field for alcohol and drug addiction in January 2020, and it has provided me with a sense of purpose, as helping others has always been a passion of mine. I worked in construction prior to this field and needed a complete change in career as I was too suffering from substance addiction. I watch clients walk through the door, broken, and still remember when it was I who felt hopeless. After learning the necessary coping skills and engaging in a 12-step fellowship, my life began to change, and only for the better.

  • It is hardly surprising that physicians frequently mislabel patients when the ICD terms used to code for addiction are themselves misleading.
  • Many people experiment with illegal drugs for fun, to feel better, to perform better, or simply due to social pressures.
  • Cultural and societal factors determine what are acceptable or allowable forms of drug or alcohol use.
  • A person with an addictive temperament is generally using a drug or alcohol consistently to excess.

The key to effectively treating either is to address both physical symptoms as well as the psychological. Identifying the underlying cause of drug use in the first place is instrumental to kicking this harmful habit. Learn more about the different types of recovery programs available and how to determine which one is right for you. ‘Dependence’ is a term used to describe a person’s physical and psychological loss of control due to substance abuse. If a person uses many drugs and develops a physical dependence on these drugs, that person is usually described as dependent. That alone isn’t always an addiction, but it can accompany addiction.

Director of Community Outreach

When they see success in reaching those goals, they want to try again. All of these risks are serious, and proper support is necessary for those struggling with drug dependence. For example, we have long been told that people need to hit “rock bottom” before they’ll get help, but this isn’t true. Anyone with an addiction can get help at any point if they feel it’s the right time.

When someone abuses high doses of an addictive substance, they may develop a dependence. Drug dependence refers to someone feeling like they cannot function normally without the use of the substance. A drug dependence can be either physical or psychological and can have many negative effects on someone’s life. Generally, those who are physically dependent on a drug will benefit from detoxification.

You are unable to access

Working with a health care professional will allow you to explore the options to treat your addiction. Unlike tolerance, which focuses on how much of the substance you need to feel its effect, physical dependence happens when your body starts to rely on the drug. If you were to suddenly stop using it, you would likely experience some harsh symptoms.

addiction vs dependence

Bunmi is dedicated to helping her clients reach their full potential and build their toolkit of resources to support their long-term recovery. Full-blown addiction is determined less by physiological symptoms and more so by behavior. This chronic disease is defined by the National Institute on Drug Abuse as “compulsive drug use despite harmful consequences.” These consequences include more than just deteriorating health. They are an inability to fulfill the responsibilities of day-to-day life that can cost them personal and professional obligations and relationships, financial stability, and more. Someone with a drug addiction continually prioritizes the use and acquisition of drugs despite the detrimental effects it can have on their life and overall wellbeing. An example of drug dependence would be someone who smokes cigarettes regularly for some time.

What substances are associated with substance use disorder?

Those who favored the term “dependence” felt that this was a more neutral term that could easily apply to all drugs, including alcohol and nicotine. The committee members argued that the word “addiction” was a pejorative term that would add to the stigmatization of people with substance use disorders. A vote was taken at one of the last meetings of the committee, and the word “dependence” won over “addiction” by a single vote.

addiction vs dependence