Back to Articles

How could I be addicted because I’m not physically dependent?

Good question. People can be addicted but not physically dependent, and can be physically dependent but not addicted. Let’s consider this.

A situation of physical dependence but not addiction would include situations where a terminally ill cancer patient is receiving copious amounts of morphine and other strong schedule narcotics for hospice pain management purposes. Perhaps this individual is indeed physically dependent upon the narcotic medication, and would indeed have physical withdrawal symptoms if the medications were removed. This cancer patient would not meet any other definition of addiction such as use despite harmful consequences, and psychosocial relational consequences. Indeed, in this scenario, the patient’s life, functioning, and relationships are enhanced by the prescribed use of these narcotics.

Contrast this with addiction minus the physical dependence. Typically this would occur with drugs such as cocaine, marijuana, and some hallucinogens and rave/party drugs. All of the criteria for addiction and dependence are there, minus the physical dependence. This individual cannot stop using despite harmful consequences, such as work, school, and home life being negatively affected by use. This individual cannot stop use despite the fact that all of these substances are illegal. Loss of control of use is more insidious, as people may say they just use on the weekends. However, loss of control includes going over a set budget for drug use, going over the frequency of use, starting to hang out with people one wouldn’t socialize with if not for the drug availability, and being in places where driving under the influence or drug busts are likely to occur. Loss of control and use despite harm includes situations where people are having unprotected sex with someone, with or without consent, as consent is hard to establish when all involved were stoned/high/looped.

If this sounds like you, or someone you know, get more education. Watch some WYNK flash videos on the drugs in use and some on growth. Consider getting more help.

by: Lois Cochrane Schlutter, Ph.D. L.P.

This article is ©, it may be copied in it's entirety and used only by not for profit and for educational purposes.