Difference Between Abuse and Dependence

Abuse and dependence are terms that are used identically. They are used in defining drug abuse and the various stages related to it. Both abuse and dependence have serious repercussions in personal as well as public life.


Education Quiz

Test your knowledge about topics related to education

1 / 5

GPA is considered important as it is required for taking admission into the Bachelor's and Master's degree programme. State true or false. 

2 / 5

Dianne has the above-average mental ability, but she is poorly motivated in class. That is why she has low grades in her academic performance. Is she?

3 / 5

What is GPA used for?


4 / 5

The purpose of the evaluation is to make a judgment about educational...

5 / 5

First step in measurement is:

Your score is


Substance abuse and dependence can become life-threatening. Substance abuse leads the user to mental and physical dependence and finally to addiction.

People can overcome both these stages. The APA removed both these terms and placed “substance use disorder” to refer to these conditions.

Abuse vs Dependence

The difference between abuse and dependence is that abuse is the unfair or improper use of any substance like drugs or alcohol, while dependence is the continuous reliability of those substances to avoid withdrawal symptoms or to satisfy the triggers. Both these conditions can become hazardous.

Abuse vs Dependence

Abuse is a condition where an individual uses a drug or any other substance for attaining a benefit. Substance abuse is mostly illegal.It is the first stage of drug usage.

The repeated use of substances builds tolerance. It is after these two conditions that a person goes into dependence. Abuse often leads to addiction. Initial abuse is usually driven by peer pressure, experimentation, or other reasons.

Dependence is the condition where the use of the substance is set as a mandatory rule for the sustenance of the individual. It is more severe than abuse and close to addiction.

One can stay dependent on the substance without being addicted. It is a response to a drug. It involves signs of addiction. In this phase, the individual develops high tolerance for the drug and craves for more amount to get the initial experience.

Comparison Table

Parameters of ComparisonAbuseDependence
DefinitionThe use of drugs or other substances for purposes other than the intendedReliance on drugs or other substances for normal functionality
Proximity to addictionFarClose
Levels of consumptionLowHigh
Symptoms of withdrawalAbsentPresent
BehaviorActs normallyAbnormal

What is Abuse?

Abuse can exist in many forms. It is the mistreatment of anything for benefit. It may involve crime, unfair actions, or violation.

Substance abuse is the wrong usage of drugs for individual satisfaction or gain. The intended purpose of the drug is to avoid and is illegally used in substance abuse. 

It can lead to disabilities, ineffectiveness, lack of control, and unhealthy behavior. Some common practices of drug abuse involve: consuming too much alcohol, using prescriptions improperly, or using illegal drugs.

Substance abuse gives a sense of euphoria. For that feeling, users tend to continue its usage leading to addiction. It can ruin an individual and society as well.

Common indications of substance abuse are a sudden change in behavioral patterns, lack of appetite, mood fluctuations, unhealthy skin, lack of hygiene, and so on.

People who abuse drugs have anti-social behavior. The intensity of damage varies with different drugs.

Using the signs and symptoms of substance abuse, one can identify such people and intervene in them for treatment. At the level of substance abuse, it can be cured.

The abuse treatment is on various levels. The psychological level involves therapy, behavioral analysis, and social skills training. Medication is also a treatment option for substance abuse.  

What is Dependence?

The reliance on substance for satisfying the trigger to use can be termed as dependence. It can lead to addiction.

When an individual continues to abuse a particular substance for a long, they develop a tolerance to it. So, to attain the “high,” they have to increase their levels of consumption. This is called tolerance.

Dependence comes after the level of tolerance. Once a person reaches the tolerance level, they start feeling withdrawal symptoms. To retain their normal bodily existence, the individual will keep on consuming the substance.

Sometimes people who take a medicine for a long time can develop dependence. People in the phase of dependence consume drugs to ignore the discomfort of withdrawal. When an individual consumes a substance repeatedly, they get into addiction.

Various factors determine the development of drug dependence, like the substance, mode of consumption, and time. The psychological dependence on drugs is implicated by brain structures like the nucleus accumbens.

The variations in gene expressions fluctuate the dopamine levels. Thus, an individual is triggered to take more of the substance to reach the “high.” It creates the sensations of withdrawal, and eventually, the physical dependence happens.

Main Differences Between Abuse and Dependence

  1. Drug dependence involves bouts of withdrawal and tolerance, while abuse enables tolerance and withdrawal.
  2. Abuse is the earliest stage of addiction, while dependence lies nearby to addiction.
  3. There are clear indications of the perils of drug usage in the condition of abuse. But it is absent in dependence as the substance controls the individual.
  4. People who abuse substances can hide their intoxication symptoms by acting normal. But people who are dependent exhibit retardation in almost all aspects of life.
  5. Abuse is mostly episodic and doesn’t show withdrawal signs. While dependent people show withdrawal symptoms.
  6. Abusers are not routine users, while dependent people use the substance routinely to avoid withdrawal symptoms.
Difference Between Abuse and Dependence


  1. https://digitalcommons.fiu.edu/srhreports/health/health/32/
  2. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1360-0443.2009.02596.x
One request?

I’ve put so much effort writing this blog post to provide value to you. It’ll be very helpful for me, if you consider sharing it on social media or with your friends/family. SHARING IS ♥️