Michael C. Hennenberg

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Difference between addiction and dependence

Knowledge about substance abuse in Ohio may prove useful in combatting it, but the terminology that often applies can be confusing. For example, when it comes to drug use, people often use the terms "addiction" and "dependence" interchangeably. However, the National Institute on Drug Abuse explains that they are not necessarily the same

Dependence refers to the physical effects that prolonged use of a drug has on a person's body, both while taking the drug and after ceasing its use. The two main components of dependence are tolerance and withdrawal. Tolerance occurs while a person is taking the drug. Over time, the body adapts to the substance. Once this happens, in order to achieve the same effects, the individual needs to take a higher dosage of the drug. Withdrawal occurs when an individual abruptly ceases to use the drug and experiences specific mental and/or physical symptoms as a result. 

On the other hand, according to the Cleveland Clinic, addiction is the continued compulsive use of a substance, i.e., the inability to stop using it, even in the presence of detrimental effects on the individual. Such effects may be physical in nature, such as damage to the kidneys or liver or the development of ulcers. It can also be social in nature, such as losing a job or failing to meet familial obligations. 

Dependence on and addiction to a drug can, and often do, occur simultaneously. However, it is also possible to have an addiction to a drug without being dependent on it, and vice versa. 

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