Chemical Dependency Vs. Addiction: What’s the Difference?

When comparing chemical dependency and addiction, many people may believe they are the same thing. While they do share some similarities in causes and symptoms, there are some contrasts between these two mental health conditions.

Learn about the differences between chemical dependency and addiction so you can help yourself or a loved one overcome either of these challenges.

What is Chemical Dependency?

Among the biggest mental health conditions in the United States, chemical dependency is defined by people who physically depend on substances like alcohol, drugs, and medical prescriptions. It becomes such a problem that people aren’t able to overcome the desire because of how strong the dependency is.

Whenever someone tries to stop using this substance, they will typically experience significant symptoms of withdrawal. They’re highly likely to relapse and go back to use within a short period of time.

The most common signs of chemical dependency are:

  • Higher doses of a substance since lower amounts don’t work
  • Lack of care with the effects it has on their personal life
  • No interest in hobbies or activities
  • Always looking for their next chance to take the substance
  • Mood swings or violent outbursts

Causes of Chemical Dependency

There are a handful of reasons people end up with a chemical dependency, with one of the most common causes being genetics or family history. Beyond that, other factors in chemical dependency are cultural and societal.

Someone may turn to substance use because of stress or social pressure they feel within their personal or professional life. In some instances, people could become chemically dependent because of psychiatric or emotional concerns.

What is Addiction?

Addiction is the powerful urge to do something detrimental that is difficult to stop or control on a consistent basis. Most people turn to an addiction as a way to either feel good, improve their mood, boost their cognitive abilities, or simply because they are curious.

Some of the most common substances that people are addicted to include:

  • Alcohol
  • Cigarettes
  • Prescription drugs
  • Cocaine
  • Heroin
  • Marijuana
  • Stimulants
  • Inhalants
  • Pornography

While each substance will lead to unique symptoms, some of the signs of addiction are social issues, impaired judgment, effects of drug use, and risky use.

Causes of Addiction

There is no clear reason why a person develops an addiction, but there are a few risk factors that could make it more likely.

One of the recognizable causes of addiction includes abuse or neglect from parents, which leads to coping issues as an adult. If they dealt with aggressive circumstances as a child, they could develop an addiction to various substances.

Additionally, addiction may stem from experimenting with drugs, alcohol, or other items. This may come due to early access to these substances when they’re younger, either at home or at school.

Folding under peer pressure could also lead someone to become addicted to a harmful substance.

Some studies have even shown that addiction may be genetic.

Differences Between Chemical Dependency and Addiction

While there are many similarities when it comes to chemical dependency and addiction, there are still some major distinctions when comparing the two.

The main contrast between chemical dependency and addiction is that you can have a physical dependence on a substance without being addicted, but you can’t have an addiction without a dependency.

Addiction is both physical and psychological with biochemical changes in the brain that lead to the behavior, while chemical dependency is mainly physical alone. Dependency will lead to withdrawals when a person tries to stop using their substance.

Getting Chemical Dependency Treatment

The most effective way to treat chemical dependency is with an adult inpatient program, partial hospitalization, or by combining both. At Orange County Behavioral Health, we focus on providing the best chemical dependency treatment to help you or your loved one overcome these mental conditions. Contact our reliable team today by calling 949-900-8426 or 877-467-2223.

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