Why Substance Abuse Does Not Equal Substance Dependence

Why Substance Abuse Does Not Equal Substance Dependence

Many people would be surprised to learn that substance abuse and substance dependence are not the same thing. That’s because the terms are used interchangeably most times, which has led to some confusion. It’s also confusing that they aren’t really defined in specific terms that can distinguish these terms from one another. This can make it difficult to figure out whether intervention is necessary. So what should you know about the differences between abuse and dependence?


Defining The Terms


Before you consider attending a premier addiction facility, you should learn what the terms mean. A “dependence” typically refers to a physical dependence on a substance. This is characterized by symptoms of tolerance and withdrawal. It is possible to have dependence without addiction, but the latter usually isn’t too far behind.

An addiction is a marked change in behavior that is caused by chemical changes in the brain after continued substance abuse. The use of the substance becomes the primary goal of the addict, regardless of the harm that it causes to themselves or other people around them.


Mental Dependence Versus Physical Dependence


There are also some striking differences in what kind of dependence is going on. Mental dependence is when the use of a substance is a conditioned response to a certain feeling or an event taking place, also known as triggers. These triggers can result in physical symptoms occurring, such as a tight feeling in the stomach, anxiety/nervousness, or an intense desire to use drugs/alcohol. Symptoms of either kind of dependence are usually evident when an addiction is present.


Substance Abuse Versus Substance Dependence


According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, abuse and dependence were originally considered two separate disorders. However, there is no longer a real distinction between the two. They are defined on a scale that measures the time and the degree of substance use. Abuse is typically defined as the early stage of dependence. Increased usage will increase the chances of a dependence disorder occurring.


Changing The Terms


The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders has discarded the terms “substance abuse” and “substance dependence” in favor of a new term: substance use disorder. This is now the medical term for addiction and can be diagnosed as mild, moderate, or severe. This has helped to eliminate most of the confusion that once took place.


Recognizing The Differences


The difference between an addiction and a dependence can be helpful in determining the nature of addiction as a whole. Understanding the differences can be helpful in helping the person strive towards recovery and getting the help that they need.


If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction or dependence, be sure to contact a treatment provider today so that the proper help can be provided. There should be no shame in admitting that there is a problem that is taking over a person’s life, as this will help to remove the stigma so more and more people can seek the help that they need.


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