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The Difference between Addiction and Physical Drug Dependence

Whether a person is dependent on or is addicted to a drug determines the following:

  • Self-perception. A person who is labeled a drug addict will have a significantly different self-perception than a person who is labeled as dependent on a drug. The term “addict” has a loaded history with significant negative connotations. It is important to distinguish between the two in order for the individual to correctly understand his or her situation.
  • Treatment. The nature of the treatment program will differ depending on whether a person is addicted or dependent. The types of counseling and therapy and the level of intensity will change depending on the diagnosis.
  • Social response. The response of friends and family can vary depending on the term used, and it may be that certain treatments and insurance options will depend on whether the San Diego resident is classified as “drug dependent” or “drug addicted.”

Characteristics of Addiction in San Diego Residents

Drug addiction is marked by a compelling need or an obsession with obtaining and taking the drug and an inability to control use of the drug. Usually an addict uses the drug outside the legal and social constraints by falsifying information given to physicians, stealing money to obtain drugs, stealing the drugs from family members or friends or using the drug beyond the limits of a doctor’s prescription. Addicts will resort to obtaining the drug from dealers and will run the risk of legal consequences. Addiction is associated with other risky behaviors including risky sexual activity and the use of multiple drugs or drug combinations.

Drug Dependency in San Diego Residents

Continued use of a drug over a long period of time and the inability to stop using the drug does not warrant the label of addiction. Dependency on a drug can happen within the confines of legal and social limits or under the close supervision of a medical doctor. Most often a dependency is the result of ongoing issues that are being treated with medication.

At the beginning point of prescribing a drug, the doctor should have a clear understanding of the nature of the drug, its addiction potential and a plan for addressing the likelihood of dependency. The doctor should be clear with the patient about how the drug can become addictive, and the patient needs to be completely honest with the physician about the actual use of the drug. In the case of chronic pain both doctor and patient need to explore additional ways to cope with pain. Pain management needs to include non-prescription options and alternative treatment sources.

Dependent or Addicted?

If you or someone you know is puzzled over the difference between addiction and dependency, or if you are worried you may be struggling with, get more information. Call our 24 hour helpline for free, confidential and understanding help.