This past weekend I was chastised on the subreddit site for chronic pain for not knowing the difference between dependency and addiction. The reader of my post was a chronic pain person using opioids and did not at all like those words used interchangeably. I get it. Addiction is an ugly word with lots of ugly connotations.
When opioids are the topic, the differences get really blurry. And what makes the words addiction and dependence harder to differentiate is they are often used interchangeably.
The word dependence "usually refers to a physical dependence on a substance. Dependence is characterized by the symptoms of tolerance and withdrawal."
The word addiction is more complicated. "Addiction is marked by a change in behavior caused by the biochemical changes in the brain after continued substance abuse. Substance use becomes the main priority of the addict, regardless of the harm they may cause to themselves or others. An addiction causes people to act irrationally when they don’t have the substance they are addicted to in their system."
To my critic on Reddit, I yield. I stand corrected and I will stop using the word addiction. Substance use disorder (SUD) is a preferred term in the scientific community – so I will instead use SUD. And I will differentiate between the person with chronic pain dependent on opioids and the person with SUD – but with caution — as it is possible to have a physical dependence without being addicted, substance use disorder could be right around the corner.