Online counseling is a tool you can use throughout your recovery journey to help you overcome addiction. At Recovery Coaching Alliance, our online substance abuse counseling provides several forms of support, one being information. We feel it’s important for you to understand your addiction in order to better defend yourself against future relapses.

One of the common questions we hear from addicts and their families is, “what is the difference between addiction and dependence?” While the two sound similar, there are some very real differences. The Center on Addiction states, “There is a range in the severity of substance problems: from mild to moderate to severe. Drug or alcohol abuse is a mild substance Man Struggling With Addictionproblem, defined by having two or three symptoms of addiction. People who abuse drugs or alcohol can experience serious consequences such as accidents, overdoses, crime, school problems, violence and suicide. Many people experience alcohol or drug abuse problems, but are able to stop using or change their pattern of use without progressing to addiction. “

Here, we will help you better understand dependence and addiction and how they differentiate from each other.

Drug and Alcohol Dependence

Dependency is defined as the requirement of someone or something for support. In terms of alcohol or drug dependence, this points toward one’s inability to feel normal without the substance in question. The National Institute on Drug Abuse writes, “Physical dependence can happen with the chronic use of many drugs—including many prescription drugs, even if taken as instructed. Thus, physical dependence in and of itself does not constitute addiction, but it often accompanies addiction. This distinction can be difficult to discern, particularly with prescribed pain medications, for which the need for increasing dosages can represent tolerance or a worsening underlying problem, as opposed to the beginning of abuse or addiction.”

With alcohol and most drugs, changes occur inside your body. An example of this can be seen in somebody who drinks alcohol for several days in a row. By the end of those few days you won’t feel “normal” unless you’ve had a drink. This is called dependence, because your body is now dependent on the alcohol to obtain normalcy.

When somebody is dependent on a substance, they can sometimes wean themselves off by avoiding the substance, or slowly decreasing the intensity of the substance. You see weaning a lot in patients taking pain medication long-term. When the time comes to halt medicine use, patients are unable to feel normal without it. Many doctors will prescribe opioids to slowly wean the patient from the medication. When the weaning process completes, the hope is that the patient is no longer dependent on the substance.

Sometimes, even following a weaning treatment with the best intentions, patients who have become dependent on certain medications can form an addiction to it. This is separate from the dependence, which affects the thalamus portion of the brain.

Drug and alcohol Addiction

Addiction can be witnessed in many stages, and while it is treatable, it is not curable. Addiction is a chronic illness, which affects the afflicted throughout the entirety of their lives. While the addiction never goes away, it does become more easily managed through treatment, counseling, and support.

Somebody who is addicted to alcohol or drugs is dependent on them, but somebody who is dependent on alcohol or drugs is not necessarily addicted to them. Addiction is a disease, which occurs when intense changes in the brain take place. This is usually due to a response in the pleasure and reward center of the brain.

Addiction is the compulsive need for a substance despite the negative effects it causes. Addiction doesn’t affect everybody who tries a substance, or even those who become dependent for a time. Some pain medication users are weaned from drugs easily, while others will never fully regain that feeling of normalcy. The American Psychiatric Association reports, “Addiction is a complex condition, a brain disease that is manifested by compulsive substance use despite harmful consequence. People with addiction (severe substance use disorder) have an intense focus on using a certain substance(s), such as alcohol or drugs, to the point that it takes over their life. They keep using alcohol or a drug even when they know it will cause problems.”

Those facing addiction can seek help through online addiction counseling and rehabilitation centers. Obtaining addiction help online provides ongoing support throughout the recovery process and onward as you go on to lead an alcohol or drug free life.

Statistically, men and women who use alcohol or drug addiction counseling services have a stronger potential for a successful recovery. As we mentioned earlier, addictions are never cured, but treated to a point where they become manageable. Taking your addiction one step at a time is an important lesson to learn, and a helpful tool to utilize.

Contact Recovery Coaching Alliance Today

If you’re concerned that you or somebody you love might be at risk of dependency or addiction, we invite you to contact us today. Our online drug and alcohol counseling program will partner you with a recovery coach to answer questions, discuss options, and be an ongoing support for you throughout the recovery process.

It’s important to reach out for help as early as possible. The longer alcohol and drugs are used, the more substantial the biological changes are. According to, “Binge drinking and heavy drinking can lead to a number of health risks including overall development and specific effects on the brain, liver, and endocrine system. Individuals who reported starting to drink before the age of 15 were four times more likely to also report meeting the diagnostic criteria for alcohol dependence at some point in their lives.”

While starting young points toward a higher risk for addiction, there are many addicts who don’t begin using drugs or alcohol until later in life.

We work closely with those in recovery and their families as you face the ongoing pressures of addiction recovery. Online drug counseling provides the flexibility and support needed to face each day with a positive outlook. Contact us for more information.