Most people if asked would say that dependence and addiction is the same thing. However there is a difference, as a person can be dependent on something without actually being addicted to it. In normal use the term dependence is often used to describe individuals who have been prescribed medication for a particular ailment or illness, whereas addicts are generally categorized as being those individuals who take illegal drugs. Of course it is possible for an individual to become physically dependent on a type of medication, especially if it is taken for long enough.
Addiction is different because the individual who is addicted is driven by a physiological or psychological urge to do or take something and this differs from dependence. Psychological addiction can be described as an individual wanting or needing to feel that rush of excitement or feeling of euphoria again. Often there will be no physical symptoms but psychologically the mental agony of not being able to take the substance or conduct the activity can be torturous for the addict.
The medical profession agrees that physical dependence and addiction are different and as such they are treated differently. An individual may be able to withdraw from an addiction with no physical damage but an individual with dependence may suffer physically if the dependent substance is withdrawn.
The two terms are often used wrongly by the general public, the term dependence often being used to replace the term addiction, the perception is that dependence is not as bad as addiction. If you crave a thing mentally then the likelihood is that you are addicted, but if you need a substance to prevent other physical conditions like pain then you are more likely to be dependent on that substance to stop the pain. The difference is subtle, but important in determining whether a person is dependent, or addicted.
In most cases, with an addiction, the result of taking the substance or carrying out the act induces a better feeling than the one before the substance was taken, or the act done, whereas with dependence the feeling after the substance has been taken is not necessarily one that induces a better feeling, it is more a case of the individual being able to carry out normal daily activities, rather than feeling high or having a feeling of euphoria.
Once it has been established that the individual is an addict and that it is not a case of dependency, then proper medical treatment can be sought. Normally this starts with a visit to the individuals GP. GPs will often refer an individual to a local addiction centre, so that an assessment can be undertaken, and a treatment plan agreed. There are a number of private clinics that offer detoxification and drug rehabilitation programs, where the individual stays at the treatment centre whilst the treatment is being undertaken.
There are many other organizations that can also be contacted for help and advice.