Addiction Terminology

Those involved in preventing, treating, and supporting recovery for substance use disorders employ a variety of terms to describe the illness and the people it affects. We often hear people using the terms “addiction” and “dependence” interchangeably, but although they may be conceptually related, they are two different things. Another more recent term, “substance use disorder,” is increasingly used to refer to addiction; it is a diagnostic concept and is mostly used in clinical settings. Find below a brief description of, dependence, addiction and substance use disorder.

  • Dependence. According to NIDA, a physical dependence can develop in anyone who regularly uses any substance, whether the substance is prescribed or illicit. The body becomes used to the frequent presence of the substance in a person’s system and has to adjust when the person stops using it. Withdrawal symptoms may arise as the body reacts and attempts to re-adjust when the substance no longer is present.
  • Addiction. A person is addicted when they cannot control their use of a substance even if they are suffering consequences from their use, such as the loss of a job or relationship. Physical dependence is part of the criteria used to diagnose addiction, but it is not the only factor considered.
  • Substance Use Disorder. This term first appeared in the 5th edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), which was published in 2013. The DSM is a common tool used to diagnose a substance abuse problem in treatment programs. The characteristic symptoms associated with substance use disorders can be categorized into 4 major groupings: impaired control, social impairment, risky use, and pharmacological criteria such as tolerance and withdrawal.

If you or someone you love is using drugs or alcohol as an escape from life’s troubles, specialized professional treatment is available, and RECOVERY IS POSSIBLE.

For more information regarding treatment for individuals struggling with addiction and related mental health conditions, contact us at (800) 851-3291. You may also visit our addiction treatment programs’ page for a better insight into our diverse comprehensive therapies.