haggard woman drinking has an alcohol dependence

Many people wonder what’s the difference between alcohol dependence and addiction. Understandably, these two conditions are very similar and have overlapping signs Plus, some people use these terms interchangeably. However, knowing the differences helps people make informed decisions when seeking treatment.

What Does Alcohol Dependence Mean?

Addiction experts define dependence as a scale measuring degree and duration of use. They consider alcohol abuse an early stage of dependence.

Others in the field characterize dependence based on levels of alcohol tolerance and withdrawal symptoms. They note that people may have physical dependence but not an addiction. However, addiction is often not far from becoming a full-fledged problem.

The Difference Between Mental and Physical Dependence

Overall, there are two types of dependence. Physical dependence causes a conditioned physical response. Whereas, mental dependence causes a conditioned emotional response.

Triggers, which motivate people to use, could be specific people, places, or events users associate with drinking. When physically dependent, triggers cause muscle pain, nausea, shaking, and sweating. When mentally dependent, triggers create anxiety or depression.

What Does Alcohol Addiction Mean?

The main determining factor of alcohol addiction is cognitive chemical changes. People make drinking their priority even though it harms them. They also become irrational when they don't have alcohol. These are all examples of your brain’s reaction to alcohol’s absence.

Addiction also occurs without physical dependence. However, experts consider physical dependence the most severe form of addiction. Often, when physical dependence isn't present, addiction is the result of mental dependence. The body doesn't need alcohol, but the brain truly believes, in order to function, drug use is necessary.

Signs That You Need Help for Alcohol Use

Although dependence and addiction are different, they have similar signs. People who notice these signs in themselves or others need to seek treatment.

Those with alcohol problems can't control how much they drink or quit when they want to. They start to build tolerance, so they need more drinks to get the same euphoria. Often, drinking starts in the morning and may last all day.

Likewise, drinking itself takes up a lot of time. Instead of participating in activities they love or visiting with family members, substance abuse becomes the priority.

Furthermore, those struggling with alcohol use continue drinking despite the harmful effects. Therefore, frequent use may damage health and relationships, yet alcohol use continues. Typically, they experience withdrawal symptoms when they try quitting.

Alcohol Dependence Requires Detox

When a physical dependency is unfulfilled, the affected person undergoes withdrawal. Withdrawal is particularly severe for heavy users, and for users of alcohol, heroin, and benzos. This severity is dangerous not only to a person's health, but also to their recovery. If a person undergoes withdrawal but has access to their substance of choice, the urge to relapse will be very strong. Withdrawal is the first, and perhaps the most difficult, roadblock to your recovery.

Since withdrawal is so severe, doctors strongly recommend against going through withdrawal alone, aka "cold turkey." Instead, doctors recommend that patients seek detox treatment. At San Antonio Recovery Center, we offer detox programs for alcohol and heroin, for both men and women.

Detox starts with withdrawal, lasting anywhere from a few hours to a couple of days. The benefit of detox is that it takes place in a secure, medically monitored environment. Some withdrawal symptoms, like seizures or delirium tremens (for alcoholics), can be fatal if left untreated. Medical professionals monitor detox patients 24/7 to keep them comfortable and safe as their body purges itself of alcohol.

Help Is Available for Alcohol Use Problems

If you or a loved one has an alcohol use problem, San Antonio Recovery Center in San Antonio, Texas can help. At our addiction treatment center, patients participate in AA meetings as part of our 90-day program. We also design other programs according to each person's individual needs, including:

Don't let your or your loved one's alcohol dependence transform into addiction. It's possible to overcome the problem before developing the disease. Contact San Antonio Recovery Center online or call 866.957.7885 today.

Now is the time to focus on your recovery.


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