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The Neurobiology of Drug Addiction

10: Addiction vs dependence

Addiction vs dependence

As you have just explained, different parts of the brain are responsible for the addiction and dependence to heroin and opiates. Review the areas in the brain underlying the addiction to morphine (reward pathway) and those underlying the dependence to morphine (thalamus and brainstem). Thus, it is possible to be dependent on morphine, without being addicted to morphine. (Although, if one is addicted, they are most likely dependent as well.) This is especially true for people being treated chronically with morphine, for example, pain associated with terminal cancer. They may be dependent - if the drug is stopped, they suffer a withdrawal syndrome. But, they are not compulsive users of the morphine, and they are not addicted. Finally, people treated with morphine in the hospital for pain control after surgery are unlikely to become addicted; although they may feel some of the euphoria, the analgesic and sedating effects predominate. There is no compulsive use and the prescribed use is short-lived.

This page was last updated January 2007

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National Institute on Drug Abuse (2007). 10: Addiction vs dependence. In The Neurobiology of Drug Addiction. Retrieved from http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/teaching-packets/neurobiology-drug-addiction/section-iii-action-heroin-morphine/10-addiction-vs-dependence

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