Substance use, abuse, and addiction

It’s important to realize that addiction is a chronic disorder that can result in relapse. At the same time, the distinction between addiction and dependence is not trivial. Medical professionals are ethically required to get the diagnosis right so that they can get the treatment right. Treatment for substance use disorder and physical dependence differ, which is why knowing the difference between the two is so important. When the symptoms of mental and physical dependence are apparent, an addiction is usually present. However, the main characteristic that distinguishes addiction from dependence is the combination of mental and physical dependence with uncontrollable behavior in obtaining and using a substance.

Withdrawal symptoms from certain drugs can be fatal, so it is important that detox is done professionally, in a safe and controlled medical facility. If someone with a drug dependence detoxes, especially by slowly decreasing the amount of the medication they take over a period of time, they may suffer addiction vs dependence withdrawal symptoms, but can end that physical dependence. If you think you might have an alcohol problem, discuss it with a healthcare provider. They can offer advice on how to approach your treatment and assist you with the process of detoxing, withdrawing, and recovering from alcohol use disorder.

‘Substance Abuse’ Vs. ‘Substance Dependence’

The line between the two can sometimes be blurred, though, especially when discussing potentially habit-forming prescriptions like opioids. Today, the APA classifies substance use disorders as mild, moderate, or severe. It doesn’t use the terms abuse and dependence to categorize the severity of an addiction.

PHP also involves counseling and group therapy, as well as specialized services that focus on skill-building, relapse prevention, and employment assistance. Short-term inpatient centers typically start with medical detox and are followed by a program of addiction treatment, such as therapy or counseling for 30 to 90 days. These programs range from basic inpatient to luxury options, all varying in terms of their amenities and types of therapy.

History of the Terms Dependence and Addiction

Previously, abuse was a mild form of addiction, and dependence was a moderate or severe form of addiction. That terminology was problematic because in biology — the study of organisms — dependence refers to a physical adaptation to a substance. Accurately identifying persons with addiction is critically important for effectively targeting treatment and harm reduction interventions. Misdiagnosis of addictive disorders can lead to a cascade of negative outcomes, including stigma, discontinuation of needed medications, undue scrutiny of both patients and physicians, and even criminal consequences. It is hardly surprising that physicians frequently mislabel patients when the ICD terms used to code for addiction are themselves misleading. ICD codes have not been updated to reflect current understanding of addiction, unlike those in the DSM-5.

  • People who are addicted to a substance use it even if it has no medical benefit.
  • People who are addicted to drugs or alcohol are characterized as people who consistently use those substances and use them to excess.
  • The reason is that genes affect how someone experiences reward when initially using a substance, as well as the way the body processes alcohol or other drugs.
  • Such confusion can also contribute to a reluctance among prescribers to treat pain conditions among individuals on opioid agonist treatment.
  • However, the most recent edition of the DSM no longer creates this distinction.

However, a person who is dependent on a drug may not addicted to it. Keep in mind, a physical dependence is usually a precursor to addiction, so it is important to recognize the signs of both. Amidst the worsening polysubstance overdose crisis driven by illicitly-manufactured fentanyl, accurately identifying opioid use disorder is crucial to target effective treatment and harm reduction efforts. Frequently, payers, health care providers, and even epidemiologists utilize claims data based on diagnosis code data to guide policy and treatment. However, a recent study [1] raises significant concerns about the accuracy of these diagnostic data. The problem, we argue, is caused by confusingly-worded International Classification of Diseases (ICD)-9 and ICD-10 codes, which reflect a general misunderstanding of the difference between addiction and physiologic dependence.

Definition of Dependence

While drug addiction affects the reward pathways of the brain (including the mesolimbic pathway and the mesocortical pathway), dependence affects the thalamus and brainstem. Delirium tremens is a symptom of severe alcohol withdrawal that can be potentially fatal. Contact emergency services immediately if you experience symptoms such as fever, involuntary muscle contractions, seizures, delusions, hallucinations, or rapid mood swings as you withdraw from alcohol.

Program Helping Babies, Mothers With Opioid Dependence Receives More Funding – West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Program Helping Babies, Mothers With Opioid Dependence Receives More Funding.

Posted: Tue, 19 Sep 2023 07:00:00 GMT [source]

A person who has a substance use disorder prioritizes seeking and using the drug above all else, and may act irrationally when they do not have the drug in their system. Addiction is characterized by an inability to stop using a substance, despite the harmful consequences. A person who is addicted typically struggles to meet work, social, and/or family obligations. Generally, this person will also have built a tolerance to their drug of choice, and experience painful withdrawal symptoms (mental or physical) upon stopping use of it. We provide our readers with factual, evidence-based content concerning the causes and nature of addiction, as well as available treatment options. However, this informative content is intended for educational purposes only.

What Are The Differences Between Crack and Cocaine?

This type of psychodynamic explanation assumes that the individual is predisposed to this type of psychological adjustment prior to any actual experience with drugs. It has also been suggested that the type of drug used will be strongly influenced by the individual’s characteristic way of relating to the world. The detached type of person might be expected to choose the “hard” narcotics to facilitate indifference and withdrawal from the world. Passive and ambivalent types might be expected to select sedatives to assure a serene dependency. Various types of persons might experiment with drugs simply in order to play along with the group that uses drugs; such group identification may be joined with youthful rebellion against society as a whole. Obviously, the above descriptions are highly speculative because of the paucity of controlled clinical studies.

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