Drug Dependence and Addiction
When an individual is unable to function normally and participate in everyday activities like attending school, going to work and meeting their social and personal needs without taking a particular substance, they can be described as being dependent on that drug. This usually happens after using it multiple times, during which tolerance gradually develops.
It’s possible to be dependent on multiple drugs at the same time, particularly when alcoholism is involved. The rate at which dependence forms is reliant on several factors. The most significant among them are the nature of the drug, the unique profile of the user and any mental disorders the user may be suffering from and attempting to cope with.
What Is Drug Dependence?
Dependence refers to when the continued use of a drug results in an individual’s neurons adapting to repeated exposure to the drug. When this happens, the individual’s brain can only function normally in the presence of the drug. Withdrawing the drug often leads to different physiologic reactions. Depending on the drug, withdrawal symptoms vary in severity. For example, those of alcohol can be life-threatening.Dependence typically leads to an individual continuing to use a drug to avoid withdrawal symptoms.
Untreated dependence can be dangerous as it often causes individuals to increase their drug usage as their bodies adapt to the substance, which can result in an overdose.
The Difference Between Dependence and Addiction
While dependence is heavily centred on an individual being unable to function without a drug, addiction refers to an overwhelming compulsion to take the drug. Individuals suffering from substance dependence but not addiction are not likely to experience withdrawal symptoms if they don’t take the substance.
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Signs and Symptoms of Drug Dependence
Dependence can involve many of the symptoms of addiction as well as some additional ones. Generally, the symptoms of dependence are marked by bodily reactions caused by the absence of a substance.
One of the key symptoms of dependence is the development of tolerance for the substance, which results in a desire to take larger or more frequent doses. Individuals suffering from drug dependence are also likely to experience physical withdrawal symptoms when they try to stop using the drug. These can include tremors, sweating, nausea and difficulty breathing.
Another significant symptom of substance dependence is when an individual uses a drug in situations where it’s dangerous for them to do, such as before driving. This usually extends to using the drug within the workplace and other places where doing so is highly risky.
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