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Opioid Addiction Not the Same as Physical Dependence

Opioid Addiction - The Bergand Group

When it comes to discussing substance abuse, language is everything. That’s why it’s crucial that you understand the difference between an addiction – particularly an opioid addiction – and a physical dependence.

Are You at Risk of Developing an Opioid Addiction?

Some of the more positive news within the realm of the current state of the opioid epidemic is that more people are becoming aware of the situation. More than that, they are learning that there is much more to the conversation than they might have thought, particularly when it comes to correct terminology.

As people become aware of the opioid addictions that are plaguing the country, they may look at their own use of painkillers (whether for chronic pain or after a surgery) and wonder if they fall under the umbrella of being addicted. Of course, not everyone who takes prescription pills is an addict, so long as they are using the drugs as prescribed. “There is an ever-increasing need for patient awareness about the risk involved when taking opioids for pain management,” and so while this education and caution is absolutely key, it doesn’t mean that everyone taking painkillers is an addict.

So, then, how can they best distinguish when they may have crossed that line? Consulting with their health professional in order to determine the signs and symptoms of a budding dependence – and then, addiction – is a first step. If troubling behaviors or patterns are identified at an earlier stage, then they have access to the best range of options in order to steer clear of more serious issues. Otherwise, it’s good to know the distinction: that many “patients with chronic pain are physically dependent, not addicted, to their pain medications. ”

An opioid addiction is categorized by more standard patterns of addiction. The pills are taken outside the doctor’s allotment and are used for “non-medical” reasons (to satisfy cravings rather than to relieve pain, for example). Essentially, there would be an unregulated use of opioids, if it is a true addiction, with the patient taking more in order to avoid the highly uncomfortable feeling of being without. Conversely, what can be described as a “pseudo-addiction” would fall more along the lines of seeking relief from pain, but still using the drug outside of the bounds of the prescription. Both are dangerous, of course, and it’s often hard to distinguish between these two.

“The key difference between tolerance and addiction is the fact that tolerance will develop over a period of time at any physician prescribed dosage.” A physical dependence means that the patient is taking the pills in proper form, but feels as if they would have a difficult time without. This is normal, considering that they are seeking to work through pain, and this is fine so long as everyone involved is aware of the dangers that are possible with any opioid use.

To learn more about the difference between an addiction and a dependence, contact The Bergand Group. We offer recovery programs for yourself or for others or are seeking education materials about addictions. The Bergand Group is Maryland’s leading addiction treatment and recovery center and offers support for those struggling with addiction and mental health issues, including direction for those who may be denying an addiction.  We can help you to work through your addiction in a safe and healthy environment where everyone is committed to your care.

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About The Bergand Group:

At The Bergand Group in Baltimore and Harford County, Maryland, our therapists have more than twenty years of experience in the mental health and addiction fields. Our focus is on providing comprehensive mental health care and appropriate care for addictive disorders. We offer both alcohol rehab and drug rehabilitation. If you or someone you know is struggling with alcohol or substance addiction, there is help available. We also offer several other services, including family therapy and counseling. We can help. Contact us today.[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

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