Last Updated: January 17, 2023
While many believe that drug tolerance, drug dependency, and drug addiction are the same thing, there are subtle but vital differences you should know as you enter a path to recovery so you can understand your situation and better cope with it. The most noteworthy distinction is that tolerance and dependence are physical manifestations of drug reliance and that addiction is an umbrella term that can describe any overwhelming physical or psychological need to abuse substances.
What is Drug Tolerance?
Tolerance is usually the first step in an overall drug problem. It happens when you no longer respond to a substance the way you used to and need to consume or use more of it to get the same feeling or effect. This is why people with drug or alcohol problems sometimes will use more and more of the same substance to reach that “high” they seek.
Biologically, tolerance is the result of two phenomena, the first being pharmacokinetic tolerance, which happens when the drug cannot reach the brain receptors because enzymes that recognize it break it down before it can, and the second being pharmacodynamics tolerance, which happens when receptors in the brain are lost or damaged due to a weakened chemical response over time.
What is Drug Dependency?
If a habit is not kicked before or during the tolerance-building stage, you may become dependent on a drug. Dependency is when you cannot stop or reduce your substance use without experiencing symptoms of withdrawal. These mental or physical symptoms may range from mild (such as the “withdrawal” you may suffer from caffeine) to severe or even deadly if you are addicted to opiates or another hard drug. Withdrawal is a sensitive time for an addicted person, so it is essential to manage it under medical supervision, where you can be weaned off a substance gradually with the right medication and emotional support for all of your symptoms.
What is Drug Addiction?
Unlike tolerance and dependence that are both acute conditions, addiction is a chronic disease that requires long-term care for a successful recovery. If despite ongoing negative consequences, you continue to drink excessively or use drugs, it is likely you are battling addiction and need professional help in a medically supervised environment to kick your habit. Addiction is a complicated disease with many genetic, environmental, and emotional/psychological factors that impact how each person manifests the symptoms and reacts to the condition. Symptoms of addiction may include out-of-controlled drug use or other risky behaviors, diminished relationships with others, inability to work or function in daily life, and prioritizing the use of the substance over all other activities or responsibilities to the point that it controls your life.
Are you or someone you love struggling with any of the conditions discussed above? Whether the problem is early-stage drug dependency or a full-blown addictive disease, the Recovery Village Columbus is an Ohio drug rehab solution centered on patient care and support. Contact us to confidentially discuss treatment options with one of our trained intake specialists. We are just one phone call away.
Our Recovery Advocates are ready to answer your questions about addiction treatment and help you start your recovery.