When it comes to drug and alcohol abuse, some of the terms can be confusing. These include tolerance, physical dependence, and addiction. Many people misuse these terms. In some cases, they use the terms interchangeably. Learning what they mean could lead to better understanding of your drug or alcohol problem.

Defining Tolerance, Dependence, and Addiction

Man on a Journey to Overcome Physical Dependence to Drugs and AlcoholTolerance and dependence are the physical consequences of using drugs or alcohol. Addiction means that you need to use drugs or alcohol as part of harmful behavior patterns. Your body changes in tolerance and dependence. Addiction is your action relating to those physical changes.

Some drugs cause tolerance and physical dependence over time. However, addiction isn’t always the end result.

Tolerance to Drugs or Alcohol

Tolerance is your body’s reduced response to a drug you’ve used repeatedly. It simply means that you need to consume more in order to achieve the same initial high. However, a high tolerance doesn’t always equal an addiction.

A good example of tolerance without addiction is tolerance to prescribed pain medications. After surgery, a patient uses painkillers. Over the course of a week, that patient feels less groggy or high from the painkillers. They also need more of the drug over time to ease pain symptoms.

Just because this patient needs more of the drug to feel the same effects doesn’t mean that person is addicted to prescription painkillers. Many patients will likely quit using the drug when the prescription ends instead of seeking more from the doctor or on the street.

What is Physical Dependence?

A physical dependence develops after your body adapts to having the drug in your system. If you’re physically dependent and stop using, you’ll experience withdrawal symptoms.

Both addictive and non-addictive drugs can cause a chemical dependency. A good example of a non-addictive medication that causes dependence is prednisone. When patients use this steroid for diseases like asthma, then stop using it suddenly, they suffer withdrawal symptoms like weakness, body aches, fatigue, and joint pain.

When you struggle with a physical dependence, the brain adjusts chemical production and electrical activity to work with the drug instead of against it. This means that stopping the drug throws off your body’s balance again. It must readjust to not having the drug, which can be an uncomfortable process while these changes take place.

How Does Detox Help End Dependence?

Detox programs help people overcome a physical alcohol or drug dependence. At a licensed detox center, qualified medical professionals keep you comfortable during withdrawal. When necessary, they can administer medications to make the withdrawal process easier.

Detox is an important first step in addiction recovery. By itself, however, you won’t achieve true recovery. People who skip drug or alcohol rehab have a much higher chance of relapse than those who continue with comprehensive addiction treatment.

Help for Your Drug or Alcohol Dependence

If you or someone you love is struggling with a physical dependence to drugs or alcohol, Ashley Addiction Treatment in Havre de Grace, Maryland provides comprehensive substance abuse programs for lasting recovery. Our programs feature:

Don’t put off getting help. We can help you begin a new life. Call Ashley Addiction Treatment today at 866-313-6307.