Addiction: Substance Abuse Community
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Avatar universal

Define dependency vs. addiction

I'm serious about this question; are some people simply physically dependent on a drug, and therefore get through the physical withdrawals, and go about their happy way, as opposed to addiction, which results in a mental craving long after physical withdrawals are done? Or if a duck = a bird, then a bird must equal a duck? What defines these two terms?
35 Responses
401095 tn?1351395370
lots of defintions i think...to me dependent is physically based and addiction is mentally based...and addict would have both components where as someone physically dependent does not have the mental behavior that goes along with it
Avatar universal
I do have to agree with worried about this one.
Avatar universal
I also agree with worried and confused...There are many people that have never been "addicts' to anything and then find themselves addicted physically for many reasons..surgery, anxiety,tachycardia (benzos) etc..but..when you have an addictive personality and take it to the extreme, then it becomes mental. i think those in the "mental" category would agree..I have been addicted to exercise, health "stuff', drugs, etc..I have that tendency and I know it now..I think the pain killer thing bites you in the a$$ before you know it..what makes an addict??? i have no frickin clue..but..that is the way it seems to go. I have come across many people who can take what is prescribed in the way in which it was prescribed and be done with it..and the others, like myself...just go way too far. There is a difference, but once your addicted, i don't think it's necessarily any easier to get off the **** than one who has abused and is addicted..hope that makes sense.  xo Lisa
325131 tn?1227188381
Some people have easier and faster wds. Some even go to work in the first few days.I don't know why.
The bottom line is, if you want to get clean you have to put in time. Then your mind will be clearer  to understand the whys.
This is a great place to get through withdrawal no matter how long.
401095 tn?1351395370
I do think "addicts" focus too much on the physical aspect of this when quitting time has come for them...I know I did...i was so scared and imagined myself shaking and vomiting..all kinds of stuff...and it was not fun going thru the physical wds...not something i want to take off work again to do over and over for sure...the addict part of us/of me anyway is what makes this so hard...not the physically dependent part...i did not know this until i was on the ride already...i often think that had i known about this aftermath of mental crud i would have never done this...maybe i woulda anyway...i really did not understand the whole picture...i did not know this thing persisted after the physical wd part...i am an intelligent medical professional who has seen alot over the years...i did not know......would i have done it anyway?  I wonder
489042 tn?1211423977
All said is to a "T" from what I've always expeirenced.  I can say that I always thought I would die if I went through w/d's.  I didn't think that it was humanly possible, and that there was no way a person could make it.  Just seeing people that have 14+ days is inspiration enough that a person did it and didn't die to me was proof enough, and it became possible.  I still think about the d@mn pills to this day.  I was in CVS today getting a card and some stuff for my mom and something in me made me look at the pharmacy.  That's the addict in me making me look over there for some stupid reason, and I thought for about two seconds not about any certain thing in there but something just came over me.  I haven't thought twice about it today but it feels good to get out to people that understand.  I don't think there is any difference in the two, it just takes the person to realize it and be willing to do something about it.
401095 tn?1351395370
I dont know how people feel i guess that are just physically dependent and not addicted...i do know that there is this other personality inside of me that i dont like that comes out when the pills are in my life...i did things and put myself in situations i would have never put myself in otherwise...drug seeking behavior...when i used post neck procedure, it scared me because that other personality was breaking thru again after a couple of days...now i am not a crazy person nor do i have multiple personality disorder...but that addict componenet of my personality did not used to be inside of me before i used, and now it is...interesting post cj
488264 tn?1226523907
There is most certainly a difference between the addict and the physically dependant, and that is their reasons for starting, or continuing to use medications.  Most drugs of abuse are medicinal drugs, used to treat physical or mental pain.  In the same way that alchohol is an antiseptic and an anaesthetic, yet also can lead to addiction, there is the risk with these drugs.  The problem is with stereotypes in our culture, in that any heavy drug user is nagged and browbeaten into accepting the addict label, which may not be right for them.  Addicts are the way they are primarily because of who they are, if it is not drugs then it will be something else they cannot stop, be it food, exercise, alchohol, sex...Then there are others with non-addictive personalities who behave like addicts around drugs, and that's where the definitiion blurs. The non-addicts crave drugs because they crave relief from suffering, and when the cause of their suffering is removed, they are able and keen to withdraw from the drug.  The addict craves the drug to fill the needs of their addictive personality.  Many drugs cause physical dependance, so to define the difference between the addict and the dependant involves looking into the personal make-up of the user.  It is mostly the non-addicts who lose out, as we are classed as something we are not, offered support which is inappropriate to our needs, and denied the help we actually do need, as society and the medical profession places all drug users in the one category.  There needs to be so much more education about drugs, and we need to lose our fear of them  The crazed junkie mugger on the streeet may even be a normal person in severe pain who has been abandoned my their doctors and has taken corrupted poison as a result.  Why can't we just legalise drugs, like alchohol, and deal with the fall our more responsibly.  I am talking as one who has been abandoned by family, friends, and even doctors as an addict.  I have thank God found some doctors who have taken the trouble to see past the stereotype, prescribe me with what I need, and also help me with my medical needs.  For how long I don't know.  Every week is just one step away from me begging for drugs on the street (which I have never done).  I am in severe pain and will do anything will to relieve it, even drink (although I dislike alchohol).  Those of us who are dependant have nowhere to go, you cannot treat an addiction that doesn't exist.  I'm sick of the media coverage of drug users, in news and fiction, as all being manipulative frauds, when there is a world of us out here who need pharmaceutical support, and are being denied it through stereotypes and ignorance.  So good to keep getting this out of my system.  Have just taken my pills, pain is subsiding.  Is that so wrong?
Avatar universal
All of these responses seem reasonable. In the end, the answer is ultimately academic. Time will tell a person into which category they may fit, I suppose. The safe route seems to consider oneself an addict, regardless.

Thanks for the answers

182775 tn?1209739627
I think dependence is when you need something in order to function in life.

On the other hand, an addiction is when you say, "I am not going to
live without this in my life."

C/T Jan 2007
Avatar universal
I am so glad you posed this question.  For the past month or so I have had to ask myself am I an addict or just dependant on this one drug?  And when I joined here a few weeks ago, some people made me feel like I was definitley an addict.  At first that bothered me, but then I thought everyone thinks different on this. Had I been a person that took this med to get high, then I might feel like everyone did too.

I agree with you on the stereotype thing. But now I have to ask "Just HOW much of this med does a person actually really NEED?"  And "When a person gets to the point that this med is not helping their pain anymore, and their doctor tells them, take 2 at a time"- Then the patient reaches the level where 8 a day is not relieving their pain OR from what I have come to understand here, this drug makes your brain remember the pain and makes you crave more of it.

I was a heavy cigarette smoker- I stopped 2 years ago.  I was addicted to smokes for sure.

I went through a taper of Norco's.  I have a whole thread going (New person tapering question) that details my progress and what I went through daily. Hoping it will help just one person who is like me.  We all are the same yet differnt on this subject.  Great analogy with the duck=bird.

I was terrified to do my taper based on what I read on this board. One person here thought it was a "too fast taper." That scared me.  Plus  I read where everyone had these nasty w/d effects.  I am not bragging..just stating when I say this:  I have not had a severe w/d on my taper.  I had to do the same amount of med for 2 days then step down one pill every other day. On the first day of the next step, I did feel a little punchy (agitated). But the 2nd day of the reduced dosage I felt great.  Then the next day I would step down and felt that agitation again. And so on.  

Here's the thing that gets to me:  I was expecting my pain to really flare up.  I remembered that I use to never have to take these pills in the summer because my pain was at a minimum in the warmer months.  My pain level has been tolerable - no more or less than on those Norco's.  Interesting.

When I got to yesterday - NO PILLS DAY - I was a little reserved..anticipating feeling like cr^p.  I felt a little funny..a little tired..not too motivated..but I did follow what I read what other people did here to relieve their symptoms and I picked the ones that were do-able for me.  I took a hot bath at night (to relieve some pain)- took Tylenol & Volteran,  Zinc, did a little excercise, ate only food I really enjoyed (to treat myself) and tried to keep myself busy and not think of taking a pill.  For the past 2 years, my life was on a pill schedule.  My doctors exact words were "Stay ahead of the pain...take these pills every 4-6 hours so you do not FEEL this pain."  So..if you are taking this med on a routine schedule, then you never know IF you are going to have the pain.  In my case, my body became DEPENDANT on this med. But in the same breath, I must have become addicted too...but not a "addiction to get high."

Something else my med did to me:  I could not get on an airplane on this med because I would get all dizzy feeling.  I hated that feeling.  I also hate to feel drunk, but I love the taste of wine.  So I limit myself to only one glass of wine.  Maybe that is why I never became addicted to this stuff.  I would never take the doses that some people here took just to get high.  So as a result of this, for the past 2 years I have not been on a vacation because of these stoopid meds.

Avatar universal
It's like gambling:  When I hear someone is going to a casino, I never say "I hope you win big"   because I had a friend who liked to gamble here and there...She won real big on her 3rd casino visit.  Now she is totally broke because she wanted to keep getting that same winning feeling.   This is just like drug addiction and why people can go up to 45 pills a day.  They are always looking for a bigger high.  But if a person does not go looking or expecting that high, will he increase his amount of med to those extremes? I don't think so.  Same for the gambler:  I went to the horse races 2x.  I lost $80 each time. I never went back.  $80 is a new pair of cool shoes for me.  And those shoes will last me alot longer than that one day high from winning a horse race.
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