Physical Dependence

December 7, 2021

Dr. Ashish Bhatt, MD explains the differences between physical dependency and addiction. Oftentimes, a physical dependency can escalate to an addiction.


Hi, this is Dr. Bhatt with Straight Talk With The Doc. I want to take a few moments to talk about a question that I often get while in practice, and that’s the difference between physical dependence and addiction.

Addiction is the chronic brain illness that occurs when we are using a substance to a maladaptive degree. We’re using with the inability to abstain, with behavioral loss of control, with active cravings, dysfunctional recognition of negative consequences, and an emotional roller coaster that occurs. We’re using to get high. We’re using to escape. We’re using to feel different. And we’re using something that is not prescribed. Or if it is prescribed, we’re using it in excess.

Physical dependence often occurs on the substance that has the potential for developing dependency. Meaning that if we take it for a period of time and then we stop, we can have negative withdrawal. And this thing can be dangerous. The point here is that physical dependency can ultimately lead to addiction if not treated properly by a medical professional.

So, it’s very important that if you taking a substance such as an opiate or a benzodiazepine which is prescribed you need to have proper supervision with a medical professional. And if you are going to cut back, that you cut back slowly because you could experience significant withdrawal.