There is a significant difference between tolerance and dependence. By understanding this difference, it is possible for an individual living with drug addiction to see where they are and to take the best possible treatment path for their needs. Are you dependent? If so, seek out care immediately.
Before a person becomes dependent on a drug, tolerance occurs. At this point, the body begins to recognize the drug itself as it has been taken numerous times. The body begins to get used to it. Initially, a desired feeling occurs, but over the continued use of the substance, the body needs more of the same drug to reach the same level of high or the same benefit. Those people who have a chemical tolerance take more of the same drug to get the same feeling.
How Does Tolerance Occur?
Tolerance happens when two biological events begin to happen. Pharmacokinetic tolerance is the first. At this point, the drug is not getting to the brain’s receptors. There are enzymes present in the body that see the drug, recognize it, and then break it down. The second is pharmacodynamics tolerance. At this level, there are damaged or otherwise lost receptors present. This happens as a result of a weakened chemical response in the brain.
Tolerance occurs differently among various drugs. It can also vary significantly between people and genders. However, some people may not see as much of a reaction to a drug that other people do. However, tolerance does not always require long-term use to happen. In fact, a tolerance to drugs such as cocaine can occur from a single usage.
Dependence takes a bit more time. It occurs as a person continues to use a drug. Tolerance occurs first, and, over time, this leads to more dependence. Dependence occurs when the body changes to adapt to the constant access and usage of the drug. The body adjusts to this use – though that adjustment is not necessarily a good thing. By adjusting, it becomes dependent. At this point, the body needs to have the drug present.
How Does Dependence Occur?
As noted, dependence occurs as a person develops a tolerance and continues to take the drug. The body changes to allow for this continued exposure. A good way to observe this is when a person using a drug stops doing so. In dependence, withdrawal occurs. Withdrawal is a physically painful experience. Without a doubt, it can be difficult and even deadly if it does not occur in a safe manner under medical supervision. The reason for this is because of those changes. The body now requires the drug to function.
Drug tolerance and dependence are different than addiction. That may seem very difficult to understand as most people use these terms so interchangeably. However, drug tolerance and dependence can lead to addiction. While these two elements are physiological changes – meaning they impact the body – addiction is about behavior. When addiction occurs, it is evident by a person’s continuous use of a substance even when that person is already experiencing negative consequences from it. When addiction occurs, a person is unable to stop using even if he or she tried to do so.
When Does Use Cross Over Into Addiction?
Tolerance vs. addiction – what do you have? When does this crossover occur? The most important factor to consider here is the persistence of use. This means that when a person is dependent on a drug, the person keeps taking the drug as a way to push off withdrawal systems. However, he or she understands what is happening. When a person crosses over to addiction, there is a significant break. That is, the addict will continue to use the drug even when there are consequences such as physical changes, overdoses, social negative experiences, and mental health complications. Understanding this difference is critical to understanding just how important it is to seek out treatment.
Crossover of Tolerance, Dependence and Addiction
While all of this seems like an easy to manage the transition from tolerance to dependence, and addiction, that is not the way it always happens. More so, there are not always clearly defined areas here. In all cases, individuals in tolerance, dependence, and addiction phases can seek help. They can overcome the condition and they can enter recovery. It becomes more important to do so as the condition worsens.
However, it’s not really having one or the other that is important here. When a person is in active addiction, that individual can have a strong tolerance and a physical dependence. And, when someone with a strong tolerance may innately have it. However, this does not mean they have what is considered the standard definition of addiction.
It can be confusing to recognize which phase a person is in. It can also be overwhelming to try to figure out which phase you are in or when you find yourself in need. The key to remember here is what the signs of addiction become more obvious as the condition goes on. As a result, individuals need to have access to care they need right away.
Finding Help for a Loved One or Yourself
When you read through these definitions, do you consider yourself in any one of these phases? Perhaps you are unsure where you are. Many times, individuals who are tolerant or dependent have no real ability to grasp just how bad it is or how bad it can be. For this reason, it becomes essential to seek out treatment as soon as you notice any of these signs.
There is help available for individuals who are in any phase of addiction to drugs or alcohol. We encourage you to take action to enter into a treatment program for drug or alcohol abuse if you feel that you are in any level of this process. Doing so can help to change your life and it can give your body the ability, tools, and resources it needs to overcome the addiction you are facing. Take action now. Our team at FHE Health can provide treatment options to help you to overcome your addiction, no matter which of these phases you are working through. Help is available to you immediately for any level of care that you may need without our programs.