Is physical dependence the same as addiction?

Howard J. Shaffer, PhD
Addiction Medicine
Physical dependence (when the body gets used to having the substance or activity and "misses it" if it's taken away) and addiction are two different things. People who are physically dependent might be addicted, but not necessarily. People with addiction are not necessarily physically dependent. For example, many people who undergo surgery use enough pain medication to become tolerant (less responsive to a psychoactive drug) and physically dependent, though they would never engage in the activities that are characteristic of addiction, such as engaging in illegal acts to acquire drugs. On the other hand, while about half of pathological gamblers who do not misuse any psychoactive substance still experience physical symptoms of withdrawal when they stop gambling and therefore might be considered dependent, the other half don't experience withdrawal symptoms but still struggle with addiction.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.