For example, someone who is psychologically dependent on drugs or alcohol might continue drinking even after multiple DUIs or legal consequences. Furthermore, people with psychological dependence will experience strong and recurring urges to use drugs, even when they want to stop. Physical dependence on a substance (drug or alcohol) may be a component of addiction, but it does not itself equal addiction.

Each term conveys a distinct way in which repeated drug use has affected a person’s body, mind, and behavior. While most people are familiar with the concept of addiction, that is just one of the ways that drug use can affect a person. The main difference between tolerance addiction vs dependence and dependence is that tolerance refers to the body getting used to taking a substance and requiring higher doses. Dependence, however, refers to the physical or psychological symptoms that occur that make someone feel like they must continue taking a substance.

Addiction vs Dependence

This type of addiction can quickly lead to dependency if left untreated. Effective recovery helps alcohol users regain their confidence and deal with these situations while sober. Many patients are often confused as to how they can be dependent on a drug, such as an opioid, but not be addicted to it. The distinction is essential for patients and caregivers to understand.

addiction vs dependence

When the body physically depends on alcohol, it relies on it to feel normal. Without the alcohol, withdrawal symptoms like the ones highlighted above begin. Physical dependence affects that part of the brain that oversees autonomic body functions, such as breathing.


When you first start drinking alcohol, it may have taken only a few drinks for you to feel drunk. But over time, you may need more drinks, more often, for the same effect. If a person is exhibiting two or more of the above symptoms, professional substance use treatment is recommended. This indicates the presence of at least a mild substance use disorder.

What is physical dependence?

Listen to pronunciation. (FIH-zih-kul dee-PEN-dents) A condition in which a person takes a drug over time, and unpleasant physical symptoms occur if the drug is suddenly stopped or taken in smaller doses.

In the case of benzodiazepines, the symptoms can last for a year or longer. In most cases, withdrawal symptoms start a few hours after the last dose. Despite that, it can take a few days for the symptoms to start for certain substances, such as benzodiazepines.

Inpatient Treatment

Michael’s goal is to connect current client and alumni with resources to strengthen their life in recovery. If you or someone you know is experiencing any of these signs, proper help and support may be required to get drug use under control. Finally, there’s the myth that if you relapse after beating your addiction, you have failed. Just like with other diseases, sometimes you need multiple treatments or repeat treatments.

addiction vs dependence