Dependence vs Addiction

Know the important distinction between drug dependence and addiction (substance use disorder).

From the Benzodiazepine Information Coalition:

“It is common for people to conflate physical dependence and addiction, believing they are synonymous. 

According to the FDA

Physical dependence is not synonymous with addiction; a patient may be physically dependent on a drug without having an addiction to the drug. Tolerance, physical dependence, and withdrawal are all expected biological phenomena that are the consequences of chronic treatment with certain drugs. These phenomena by themselves do not indicate a state of addiction. 

Drug addiction is a cluster of behavioral, cognitive, and physiological phenomena that may include a strong desire to take the drug, difficulties in controlling drug use (e.g., continuing drug use despite harmful consequences, giving a higher priority to drug use than other activities and obligations), and possible tolerance or physical dependence.”

So while someone with addiction or SUD may be physically dependent on a drug, it is entirely possible to be physically dependent WITHOUT experiencing addiction (or SUD).

See this Primer on psychiatric drug-induced dependencetolerance, and withdrawal from the Inner Compass Initiative Withdrawal Project which talks about what kinds of psychiatric drugs cause dependence when taken at doctor-prescribed doses, which medications can cause tolerance, how long psychiatric drug withdrawal typically lasts, and more.

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