Dependency or Addiction

Dependency or Addiction: What Is Drug Dependence?

Dr. Norris Von Curl, II, MD

Dr. Norris Von Curl, II, MD

Many people believe that the disease of addiction, or even a person’s apparent drug dependence, is a choice and a failure of character. These same people do not understand that a person suffering from an addiction is someone who suffers from a disease that they haven’t yet learned to identify, control, and overcome.

These same people also don’t understand that a person who is dependent on a drug is not suffering from an addiction but treating a disease. We can only control what is inside us, and so we must do our part to change the dialogue on addiction and dependency to educate the public about our conditions and what they truly mean.

Unfortunately, the language we use to describe ourselves and the terms we allow others to assign to us add to the confusion and negative stigma of addiction and dependency.

This causes those of us who suffer from addiction or dependency to remain hidden at all costs, which dampens our want and need to ask for, and receive, help. But what is the difference between addiction and dependency and what can we, those who suffer from the disease, do to stop perpetuating the stigma people have about our perceived weaknesses through our use of language?

Predefined Boxes

Many of us don’t exist within the boundaries of a societally defined label, or can be placed neatly into an identifiable box. We all have experiences, thoughts, and emotions that are strictly our own and that no one else can truly understand. Unfortunately, many of these experiences just so happen to be ones that we feel we can’t share with others due to our fear of ostracism. Some people outside ourselves have a tendency to reject that which they do not understand. We just don’t fit into their box.

If we suffer from the disease of drug addiction, or are dependent on a medication treating a disease, there is an extra stigma placed upon us by society that, so far, we can’t seem to shake. But what is this stigma and where does it come from?

The Stigma, Defined

When people see us as an ‘addict’, they lose hope in our ability to recover and may even see us as lesser human beings who cannot handle the stresses that everyone else encounters in their day-to-day lives. Many people who subscribe to this belief see success stories as an anomaly instead of the norm. When they hear ‘addiction’ or ‘dependency’, they imagine the horror stories they see in the media and not truth based on science and statistics.

When we begin to see ourselves, and teach others to see us, as people struggling with a disease, we may then be seen as human beings again and our struggles will be understood as just a symptom of a larger disease. There is hope and treatment can be successful for any of us who want it, but we have to subscribe to the idea that we must be the change we want to see in the world.

Altering the language that we use about our peers and ourselves emphasizes that addiction isn’t a choice and there is no shame in breaking apart the box created for us by people who simply do not understand.

We all must understand that there is a big difference between addiction and dependence. Confusing the two can be dangerous and harmful.

Drug Dependence and Addiction

Drug dependence and addiction are completely different concepts that can sometimes be confused for one another in the language used by laymen and professionals alike. Dependency is not addiction. We can be dependent on prescription medication, for example, that we have had to use for many years to treat a valid medical condition. Our body has become reliant on it to function as normally as possible.

Addiction, on the other hand, is when a person takes a drug, illegal or prescription, to numb harmful and negative feelings that they haven’t dealt with and may not even realize that they have. A person then takes more and more of the drug to deal with negative emotions, as opposed to treating a legitimate medical condition, which in turn causes their bodies to want more and more of the drug to achieve the numbness that masks their emotional pain.

While it is true that a person who suffers from addiction becomes physically dependent on the medication after a time, they are not suffering from a drug dependency, but a drug addiction. The difference between the two is the reason behind imbibing the substances.

A person can be dependent on a drug, but not suffer from addiction. A person may suffer from addiction, but may not be dependent on the substance. Neither the words, nor their definitions, are interchangeable. No matter what the stigma suggests, the disease of addiction can be treated, especially when you make the choice to seek help from knowledgeable and compassionate professionals who understand your pain and the diseases behind it.

Allow First Steps To Guide You AND Your Family Through Disease Treatment

Our addiction treatment centers in Fresno, California are here to help you and your family redefine your lives and move forward with a full understanding of your disease and the treatment for it. Contact us at First Steps Recovery to discuss treatment options. We are always available online or via phone at 844-489-0836. Let’s move forward, together.

Our high-quality and individualized treatment addresses the roots of your disease. You will never be an ‘addict’ here.

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