What is Drug Dependence?

Drug dependence is a psychological or physical state characterized by behavioral responses that result in compulsions to take a drug on a continuous basis.

Drug Dependence

This occurs when an individual takes a certain drug over a certain period of time and their body becomes accustomed to having the substance in their body. This can create a physical or psychological reliance upon the substance, causing withdrawal symptoms if a person stops taking the substance.

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Drug Dependence vs. Drug Addiction

The terms “addiction” and “dependence” are sometimes used interchangeably for drug abuse. However, addiction is not the same as dependence. Dependency usually connotes physical dependence on a substance, while tolerance and withdrawal symptoms characterize dependence. It is possible to physically rely on substance use without being addicted, but this change can happen quickly. 1

Dependency is followed by a need to experience a drug’s psychic effect and, at times, to avoid the discomfort of its absence. These dependencies could take the form of physical drug dependence or even psychological drug dependence. 2
Addiction, however, is characterized by a behavioral change caused by biochemical changes in the brain due to continued substance misuse. At this point, a person with substance use disorder would continue with the substance use regardless of the adverse effect on them and others.

Types of Drug Dependence

There are multiple different types of how the body can become dependent upon drugs. Mainly, our bodies can become either physically or psychologically dependent upon the substance.

Physical Dependence

Physical dependence is a condition created by the long-term use of a tolerance-forming drug. In this case, abrupt or gradual removal of that substance would result in unpleasant physical symptoms. It is further defined by withdrawal symptoms after substance use suddenly stops.

Some drug dependence symptoms include depression, anger, lack of sleep, trembling, and gastro-abdominal issues.
Physical drug dependence can develop due to the long-term use of sedatives, pain relievers, or stimulants. Typically, the larger the dose, the bigger the physical dependency that develops. Depending on the substance being used, withdrawal symptoms can last anywhere from a few days to several weeks or months.

Psychological Dependence

Psychological dependence on a drug focuses on the body’s emotional or mental response to the substance, such as overwhelming desires for the substance, or difficulty thinking about anything else. It also refers to the process through which the mind and body becomes reliant on that substance to help the individual feel a certain way. Upon the cessation of substance use, individuals often experience withdrawal symptoms. One sign of psychological dependence is the belief that drugs or alcohol are required to perform or be successful in specific settings, such as social occasions, family gatherings, for a sleep aid, or work.

Causes and Risk Factors of Drug Dependence

There can be multiple causes to drug dependence. For example, due to some people’s genetic predisposition, drug dependence can frequently affect more than one member of the same family. Specific genes may predispose a person to struggle more with substance use than others do. While this is not always the case, genetics can play quite a large role in substance dependence.
A person’s environment and access to certain substances can increase the likelihood of drug dependency. An environment that accommodates the ease of substance use and unregulated availability of those substances would encourage drug dependence.
Adolescence is a time of increased vulnerability due to stress and risk-seeking behaviors, as the brain undergoes significant development during this stage. Stressful events, such as familial or social tensions, or mistreatment during critical periods, might produce higher sensitivity to substance use, increasing the likelihood of substance dependence later on.

Risk Factors

While various reasons may cause substance dependence, some factors raise a person’s propensity to have a substance use disorder. Some examples of this include physical, emotional, or sexual abuse, along with bullying and neglect. 3

Signs and Symptoms of Drug Dependence

There can be many different signs of a person becoming dependent or addicted to a certain substance. These also range from physical to psychological symptoms, and different people can experience or exhibit varying symptoms, as substances impact everyone’s brains and bodies diversely.

Physical Symptom

Some of the physical indicators of a person developing a drug dependence are:
While these in and of themselves might not point to a person’s drug dependence, if you or a loved one are exhibiting symptoms like these alongside substance use, speaking to a doctor could be beneficial for your overall health.

Psychological Symptoms

Some psychological signs of an individual developing a drug dependence include:

Diagnosis and Complications of Drug Dependence

A complete evaluation is required to diagnose drug dependency, which frequently includes an assessment by a psychiatrist, a psychologist, or professional alcohol and drug counselor. Blood, urine, and other lab tests assess drug usage, but they are not utilized to diagnose addiction.

These tests, however, may be used to monitor the treatment of drug dependence. Most mental health practitioners utilize criteria from the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) to diagnose a substance use disorder.

Complications of Drug Dependence

There are several complications of drug dependence revolving around subsequent addiction and physical harm. Overuse of psychologically altering substances can also be harmful physically in various ways, depending on side effects and how an individual might ingest the substance.

For example, continual opiate use can cause opiate-induced constipation, a persistent and potentially fatal form of constipation if not treated. Smoking methamphetamine may contribute to a severe form of tooth rot known as “meth mouth.”

Treatment and Rehabilitation of Drug Dependence

Detoxification is a common form of drug dependence treatment. It involves the total removal of a substance from the body in a way that does not interfere with the body’s function. Detoxification might take a few days to a month, depending on the substance being involved, the severity of dependence, and the aid available.

drug dependence treatment

Inpatient and Outpatient Treatment of Drug Dependence

In inpatient facilities, a person with substance use dependence stays in a facility where they receive around-the-clock care and medications for treating substance dependence. At outpatient facilities, patients are free to check into the facility to receive their treatments at almost any time of the day. The duration of treatment depends on the type of program.

A support group is typically used in both inpatient and outpatient treatment regimens. A doctor or therapist can assist in determining whether inpatient or outpatient treatment is appropriate.

Getting Help at Stillwater Behavioral Health

Stillwater Behavioral Health is a cutting-edge substance use treatment facility with a Montecito based office. We offer programs that take a balanced and comprehensive approach to multiple therapy techniques to adapt to everyone’s needs by understanding that not everyone goes through the same issues or concurring problems. As a result, trained and professional staff employ various therapies to treat various issues ranging from drug and alcohol dependence to mental health illnesses.