What is the Difference Between Dependence and Addiction?

Here at our outpatient detox Delray Beach facility, we understand how important it is to know the difference between drug dependence and addiction. Understanding the difference between addiction and physical dependence can help you know whether you need help for addiction, or whether you’re using drugs as intended.

For many people who use prescription opiates for pain management, the distinction between dependence on a drug and addiction to a drug is crucial. Patients who rely on prescription opiates to manage chronic pain face stigma from friends, family, members of the general public and even, in some cases, their doctors.

What Is Drug Addiction?

Drug addiction is a neurobiological disease that negatively affects all aspects of an addict’s life. The addicts we help in our outpatient detox in Delray Beach take drugs compulsively. They have no control over their drug use. Addicts keep taking drugs despite the physical and mental harm it does to them and their families, and the professional and legal consequences it causes. Addicts also struggle with intense physical and mental cravings for drugs.

The line between physical dependence and addiction can become blurred in a phenomenon that specialists refer to as “pseudo-addiction.” This phenomenon refers to a set of behaviors that pain patients exhibit when they are not receiving adequate treatment for their pain. They include doing things that would normally be associated with addiction, like watching the clock until it’s time for their next dose of medication, taking medication that has not been prescribed to them, taking street drugs or lying to get more medication. However, these pseudo-addictive behaviors disappear when the patient receives adequate pain management; therefore, they are not indicative of true addiction.

Women reaching into medicine cabinet full of pill bottles.

Physical Dependence Withdrawal at Outpatient Detox Delray

Physical dependence on a potentially addictive drug can be compared to a diabetic’s physical dependence on insulin. Not only does a diabetic person experience a physical reaction when insulin is taken away, he or she actually needs insulin in order to remain healthy. For many patients who use opiate painkillers to relieve chronic or acute severe pain, they serve a similar purpose.

Of course, here at our outpatient detox Delray Beach program, we understand that opiate painkillers are very addictive. A number of the people we’ve helped at our outpatient detox Delray Beach facility have been patients who originally took prescription opiate painkillers to treat chronic or acute severe pain. It does not typically take very long for a pain patient’s body to become accustomed to a regular dose of prescription opiate painkillers. Over time, a person using prescription opiates for pain treatment may even develop a tolerance to the drug, and will experience physical withdrawals if he or she stops taking it.

The Distinction Between Physical Dependence and Addiction

The people who come to outpatient detox Delray Beach program looking for opiate addiction treatment generally report that they feel “high” or euphoric when they use opiate drugs. Before long, they develop a tolerance to the drug and need more and more in order to keep feeling that same euphoria. As a result, they may turn to stealing drugs or prescriptions, lying to get new prescriptions, doctor shopping and using multiple pharmacies. They take medication at higher-than-prescribed doses, and may take them by crushing and snorting them or injecting them. Many of the people we help in our outpatient detox in Delray Beach, especially lately, have turned to heroin now that prescription painkillers have become difficult to find on the black market and law enforcement authorities have cracked down on pill mills.

The crucial distinction between patients who are physically dependent on opiate painkillers and people who are struggling with addiction to these drugs is that, for addicts, using drugs makes their lives worse. For pain patients, on the other hand, taking prescription painkillers enables them to function normally, attend to their responsibilities, spend time with their families, get active in their communities, go to work, and generally move forward and upward with their lives. People are using drugs for legitimate medical reasons, even potentially addictive drugs, can be objectively seen to benefit from the use of those drugs.

The addicts we help in our outpatient detox Delray Beach program, on the other hand, spiral further and further downward, until their relationships with friends and family are irreparably damaged, they can no longer remain active in their communities, and they can no longer even hold jobs.

If you think you or someone you love may be addicted to prescription painkillers, don’t wait for the problem to get out of hand.

Call The Delray Center for Healing now at 888-699-5679.