Are drug dependence and addiction really the same thing? Or is there a subtle distinction? Addiction Blog says .what makes addiction different than dependence is that psychological impairment or distress is present.
In other words, when someone has a real drug addiction, there is a strong mental component to it in which they are constantly obsessing over their drug of choice.
And does it matter? Baltimore Sun says that We have to make room in our understanding of drug abuse for the distinction between drug addiction and physical dependence.
As we continue to learn more and more about drug addiction and alcoholism, we are also learning more and more about how to treat these disorders. For example, we know today that addiction is a disease of the brain, and we can see and know a lot more about what is actually happening in the brain on a molecular level, as compared to even ten years ago.
Some people seem to have the potential for real addiction while others simply do not. In other words, if you took a hundred random people and you subjected them to a series of daily shots in which you injected them with heroin every day, all of those people would become physically dependent on the drug. But of those hundred people, only a certain percentage of them would become real addicts, in the sense that they would then go on to crave the drug and continue to pursue it, even long after the experiment is over, even to their own detriment.
When you are truly addicted to drugs or alcohol, you continue to pursue the next high, even when it is to your extreme detriment. For example, an addict could lose their job because of their addiction, and yet this may only drive them deeper into their addiction and they will use it as an excuse to abuse even more drugs. A normal person would back off at this point and move further away from the problem, rather than run towards it even more.
You may be wondering if you or your loved one is suffering from a real drug addiction or if it is merely dependence. In order to really know you should consider the history and what has really happened in terms of the behavior surrounding the drug use. Addiction represents a pattern of drug abuse.
It is typical for teenagers and for college students to experiment with drugs or to abuse alcohol. This is not uncommon. But at some point you have to look at that abuse and start to see a trend and a pattern of behavior. You cannot look at one isolated incident of drug use and label the person as a true drug addict based on one single episode. Instead, real addiction is based on a pattern of repeated abuse. And obviously when you are diagnosing dependence you are looking at much the same thingsomeone who is hooked on a substance physically so they continue to take it over and over again.
However, with real addiction, the person is continuing to pursue the drug even in the face of serious consequences. They prioritize the drug use over other things in their life that would normally be more important. Eventually the addict comes to define their entire life around the use of the drug, as they are either using it, thinking about it, or thinking about ways to get and use more of the drug. It consumes their entire life and it is eventually how they come to define their happiness.
In other words, if they are currently high on their drug of choice and they have plenty of supply and there are no major problems facing them at the moment, then they can allow themselves to be happy for a brief moment. If any of those criteria are not met, however, then the addict is going to be miserable, and they will obsess over whatever thorn is currently in their side.
The problem with this kind of life in addiction is that the addict is defining their happiness based on all of these certain criteria being met, and yet that is almost never the case. So maybe 5 percent of the time they are able to fulfill all of the criteria: They have plenty of supply, they are not being bothered by friends or family members about their addiction, they are not facing any major problems, and so on. And so they are happy for just the briefest of moments because everything is going their way for once. But as soon as something gets screwed up in their life, then they have reason to complain again. And once this happens they will continue to blame everything and everyone else, always pointing the finger of blame at other things as to why they are unhappy, but never blaming their addiction for their unhappiness.
The truth is that they are miserable because they are stuck in addiction, and their denial is causing them to cling to the idea that they are actually happy when they are high and everything is going their way. The problem is that this is not reality, instead this is the image of reality that the addict continues to cling to. This is denial. The addict believes that they would be deliriously happy, every moment of every single day, if it were not for all of these things that they keep blaming: They ran out of drugs, they don't have enough money, their people don't treat them right, the world is unfair to them, the police pick on them, and so on. They have a million and one excuses as to why they are unhappy, but none of those excuses ever include the fact that their drug of choice is making them miserable.
Until the addict can see that their unhappiness is the result of their drug addiction, they will not be able to make any sort of progress towards recovery. They are just going to keep justifying their drug use, claiming that they need it, that anyone in their position would use drugs too, and so on. They will defend their drug use at all costs and protect their denial so that they can continue to self medicate and perpetuate their own misery. The outside world can look at the addict and clearly see that the root of all of their problems is their obsessive drug addiction, but the addict has a million excuses as to why it has nothing to do with the drug use, and everyone else and everything else is really to blame.
If you or someone you love has a real drug addiction, not just a dependence but an obsessive drive to keep self medicating even in the face of serious consequences, then you should try to get the addict into inpatient treatment. This is really the best option for anyone who is willing to attend rehab. The person may be trying to justify things by saying that they are merely dependent and not truly addicted, but at some point the pattern of behavior and the obsessive thoughts will give way to the truth. If you or someone you love is struggling with a real addiction, urge that person to get themselves checked into an inpatient treatment facility.
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