What’s The Difference Between Physical Dependence And Addiction?

What’s The Difference Between Physical Dependence And Addiction?


It seems like a pointless argument. Does it matter whether there is a difference between physical dependence and addiction? We won’t argue that addiction is a complicated and life-altering experience.


Many people with addictive disorders are prone to relapses. However, others are merely dependent on chemical stimulants and never experience a full-blown addiction. So, how do you tell the difference between the two and provide support for your loved one?


The Difference Between Physical Dependence And Addiction


Here’s the truth: there’s a subtle but importance difference between the two. Dependence is physical in nature, while addiction is psychological.

  • Physical dependence: In this scenario, the body has adapted to a particular drug. So, a loved one who tries to go “cold turkey” will experience withdrawal symptoms. Physical dependence can occur without addiction, however. For example, you can become dependent on prescription medications such as benzodiazepines. Yet, you won’t experience uncontrollable urges to ingest the medication. Physical dependence can also be treated medically. Doctors often use the tapering method to slowly wean patients off certain medications.


  • Addiction: This occurs when a user feels an overpowering urge to ingest a drug, regardless of its harmful consequences. Researchers have found that the use of illicit drugs can impair the reward centers of the brain and increase one’s risk of developing other substance abuse disorders (SUDs). In a nutshell, the main difference between physical dependence and addiction is the development of uncontrollable urges in the latter. The treatment for addiction is also more complex, comprising a combination of medical, behavioral, and spiritual intervention.


Those with addictive disorders are locked in an unceasing battle for self-dominance; at any rate, the potential for relapse is high. In light of this, is a lasting recovery possible?

The answer is yes.

You Can Be Free From Addictive Disorders


Out of my distress, I called on the Lord; the Lord answered me and set me free. Click To Tweet

Out of my distress, I called on the Lord; the Lord answered me and set me free.

~Psalm 118:5

I can do all things through him who gives me strength.

~Philippians 4:13


Have you heard of the field of Social Neuroscience? Key research from this field shows that opiates facilitate addiction by hijacking the reward centers of our brains. The good news is that meaningful human connections and positive spiritual experiences can rewire a previously hijacked brain.

At Shenandoah Valley Adult & Teen Challenge, we recognize this truth and tailor our holistic treatments accordingly. We also work under the assumption that those who suffer from substance abuse disorders can lead fulfilling lives. If you’d like to find out how our program can help your loved one, contact us. You and your loved one will have our full support in your journey towards recovery and lasting peace.

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