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Addiction vs. Dependency

Analyzing the difference between addiction and dependency shows that the terms may seem similar in connotation although the two have quite different meanings. While the two are defined differently, they can coexist with each other. Most people automatically link addiction and dependency together because they have seen addiction take place during dependency and dependency exist during addiction. The confusion that takes place for some is that they assume that they mean the same without realizing that the two can occur separately. Some people may have withdrawal symptoms from drugs and alcohol and not become addicted because the cravings are not present. Others have the cravings that are associated with addiction, but may not experience what is considered the manifestation of a bad hangover. 


  • Addiction develops when the compulsion for drug or alcohol abuse continues even when harmful consequences are apparent, and a person has the inability to stop their abuse without help. Someone who is addicted to drugs and alcohol will avoid social and family obligations and miss school or work all together due to the obsession of drugs or alcohol.



  • Dependency is characterized by the adaptation that drugs and alcohol have on the body in two different categories. The tolerance that one exhibits during dependency requires that more of the drug or alcohol needs to be administered to maintain the same effects that they body needs to feel better.  If the tolerance is not met, then symptoms of withdrawal take place making someone feel uncomfortable.


When reading information about the subject of addiction or dependency, the terms are sometimes used interchangeably, which is where some of the confusion lies. The tag Substance Abuse Disorder has become a medical term that is used to label both addiction and dependency in one class, although different parts of the brain are influenced. The addiction uses the reward pathway and the dependency controls the thalamus and brainstem of the brain. How these two can function in different sections of the brain is another example of why dependency and addiction differentiates from one another.  

To avoid being misled about whether addiction or dependency is taking place, it is a good idea to consult a healthcare professional. A doctor, a nurse, a therapist, or a counselor can advise someone with their personal situation. Getting some guidance can better inform someone with their addiction, dependency, or both, to get the help that they need to make their future much brighter.

If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction or dependency, Serenity Oaks Wellness Center can show you how to stop drug and alcohol abuse. Our 12-Step aspects and holistic therapies combined can make help you to live a life in recovery.

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At Serenity Oaks Wellness Center, we offer residential detox and addiction treatment with a wide range of modalities to address the needs of all our clients. Our high staff-to-client ratio ensures everyone that enters our facility gets the personal attention they need and deserve for a safe and successful detox process. To learn more about our program, contact Serenity Oaks Wellness Center today at 844-720-6847.
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