What’s the difference between physical dependence and addiction?

Addiction is characterized by compulsive alcohol or drug use despite serious harmful consequences. As part of addiction, a person usually also experiences physical dependence. Physical dependence includes tolerance to the substance (needing more of the drug to experience the same effects) and withdrawal symptoms when they cut back or abruptly stop using.

However, physical dependence can exist without addiction. It means that a person’s body has developed tolerance to a drug and may experience withdrawal symptoms.  A natural physical dependence can develop with the chronic use of many types of drugs—including many prescription drugs, even if taken as instructed.

What is withdrawal?

When someone has been heavily using drugs or alcohol and they abruptly stop or cut back, they often experience withdrawal symptoms. The intensity and length of these symptoms can change greatly depending on the substance involved, the biological make-up of the person and the severity of their addiction. Withdrawal symptoms can be both physical and psychological. Withdrawal can sometimes be dangerous, so you should be sure to seek out help from a qualified health professional.

I’ve heard that it’s not safe to stop using abruptly. Why?

Treatment may begin with detoxification, sometimes called medical stabilization if the addict’s physical health is impaired and if stopping use causes withdrawal. Medically supervised detox in a hospital or an inpatient treatment is usually very effective and lasts 3-4 days. Ambulatory detox is also available at many outpatient treatment programs under the supervision of a physician.

What is drug addiction treatment?

Drug treatment helps addicted individuals stop habitual, and uncontrollable drug seeking and use. Treatment can occur in a variety of settings, in many different forms, and for different lengths of time. Because drug addiction is typically a chronic disorder characterized by occasional relapses, a short-term, one-time treatment is usually not good enough. For many, treatment is a long-term process that involves multiple interventions and regular follow-up.

The specific type of treatment or combination of treatments changes depending on the patient’s individual needs and, often, on the types of drugs they use. The severity of addiction and previous efforts to stop using drugs can also influence a treatment approach.

Finally, people who are addicted to drugs often suffer from other health (including other mental health), occupational, legal, familial, and social problems that should be addressed at the same time.

The best programs provide a combination of therapies and other services to meet an individual patient’s needs. Specific needs may relate to age, race, culture, sexual orientation, gender, pregnancy, other drug use, co-existing illnesses (e.g., depression, HIV), parenting, housing, and employment, as well as physical and sexual abuse history.

Behavioral therapies can help motivate people to participate in drug treatment; offer strategies for coping with drug cravings; teach ways to avoid drugs, avoid slippery places and slippery people, and prevent relapse; and help individuals deal with it if it occurs. Behavioral therapies can also help people improve communication, relationship, and parenting skills, as well as family dynamics that may act as enabling or provoking towards addictive drugs.

Many treatment programs employ both individual and group therapies. Group therapy can provide motivation and social support and help enforce behavioral contingencies i.e. possible occurrence that promote abstinence and a drug-free lifestyle. We at Sadaqat Clinic, provide a combination of therapies tailored to individual needs to help and support the recovery process.


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