How Does the Body Become Dependent on Drugs?

Problematic young woman leaning on brick wall in city street

Dependency on drugs or alcohol is a core feature of addiction, the most severe form of a substance use disorder. There are numerous physical, behavioral, and psychological signs that you or someone you know may be struggling with addiction. Detoxing safely and developing a routine packed with healthful habits can help free you from dependency on drugs or alcohol.

Defining Important Terms: Dependence or Addiction?

Dependence may develop when drugs or alcohol are used repeatedly over a period of time. Some prescribed medications can cause dependence, even when used correctly. It can even happen with caffeine in your daily cup of coffee. If you are dependent on a substance, you will develop tolerance, meaning that you need more of the substance to achieve the same effect, such as pain relief. You will also experience physiological and psychological symptoms of withdrawal when the effects of the substance have worn off.

Dependence and addiction are not the same. However, the line distinguishing them can be fuzzy and hard to understand. Substance dependency can occur without addiction. However,  with continued substance use, addiction is usually right around the corner.

Addiction is marked by chemical changes in the brain that can trigger drastic changes in a person’s behavior. Addiction causes a person to compulsively seek substances despite harmful consequences to their health, family, finances, and social life. Addiction is a dangerous cycle. It is critical to get help for drug or alcohol dependency as soon as possible.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), dependency and addiction have been lumped into one term, substance use disorder (SUD). SUDs are on a spectrum from mild, moderate, to severe. Addiction is the most severe kind of SUD.

Telltale Signs of a Substance Use Disorder

The signs of a substance use disorder depend on the substance being taken. Still, there are some key physical, behavioral, and psychological signs to help identify a growing problem in yourself or someone you know:

Physical Signs

  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Slurred speech
  • Poor personal hygiene
  • Impaired coordination
  • Sudden increase or decrease in weight
  • Deterioration of appearance

Behavioral Signs

  • Increased tolerance to the drug or alcohol
  • Unexplained need for money
  • Changes in appetite or sleep patterns
  • Neglecting important responsibilities
  • Life becomes consumed with substance use

Psychological Signs

  • Memory problems
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Unexplained changes in personality
  • Sudden mood swings and irritability
  • Appearing spaced out or having no motivation
  • Appearing anxious, nervous, or paranoid for no reason

The development of relationship problems with a partner, friends, or family is another telltale sign that it may be time to get help.

Benefits of Getting Detox

Medically supervised detox at a licensed treatment facility is the first step in treating many substance use disorders. Whether you’ll need detox depends on the substances you are using and the duration you’ve been using them. Detox is typically recommended for the following substances to avoid painful, uncomfortable, and even dangerous side effects of withdrawal:

  • Cocaine
  • Amphetamines
  • Benzodiazepines
  • Opioids
  • Methamphetamine
  • Alcohol

Getting clinical help detoxing can help you stop using drugs or alcohol and avoid withdrawal symptoms that make relapse likely. This first step sets you up for physical and mental health improvements throughout treatment and recovery.

Developing Healthy Habits to Replace Substance Use

Individuals who have a dependency on substances experience cravings, strong urges to drink alcohol or use drugs, making it challenging to quit even if you want to. Developing healthy habits help you learn how to cope with cravings and other psychological symptoms like anxiety and depression.

Whether you are currently attempting to manage your substance use or you are in recovery, one of the most useful things you can do is develop and commit to a routine. A routine provides you with the structure you need to stay focused on living a healthy, substance-free lifestyle.

You can make wellness activities and practices a part of your daily or weekly schedule. Some examples, which are also encouraged in treatment programs, include:

  • Exercise daily
  • Eat nutrient-dense meals
  • Clean and organize your living space
  • Allocate time for some relaxation
  • Spend time reflecting on your recovery progress
  • Attend support meetings and therapy
  • Meditation
  • Journaling

Find the Right Treatment Facility for You

Dependency on drugs or alcohol can quickly lead to the cycle of addiction. Addiction causes a deterioration of physical and mental health, making it harder to quit using the substance. If you or someone you know is struggling with substance dependence, getting help as soon as possible is crucial to preventing the development of an addiction.

When your body becomes dependent on drugs or alcohol, you have developed tolerance and may experience withdrawal symptoms after periods of abstinence. With continued use, there is a high possibility of developing a severe substance use disorder or addiction. Finding a treatment center like Casa Recovery that administers medically supervised detox is a critical first step in treating multiple types of SUDs. We are a mental health and addiction treatment facility located in San Juan Capistrano, CA. Our programs utilize evidence-based treatment and holistic services to support our client’s sobriety and address underlying disorders that may complicate the recovery process. We are dedicated to a client-driven approach that considers each individual’s unique experiences and preferences. If you or someone you know is having a hard time with drugs or alcohol, give us a call. We can provide the information you need to make that first step towards recovery. Call Casa Recovery at (888) 928-2272

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