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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 opioids.  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 pain, for example associated with terminal cancer.  They may be dependent--if the drug is stopped, they suffer a withdrawal syndrome.  But most such patients are not compulsive users of the morphine, and they are not addicted.  However, a proportion of people treated with morphine in the hospital for pain control after surgery may become addicted.

This page was last updated November 2019

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NIDA. (2019, November 19). The Neurobiology of Drug Addiction. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/neurobiology-drug-addiction

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