Physical dependence is a term that many do not fully understand. While this condition mirrors some characteristics of addiction, the state of physical dependence also differs from addiction in several key ways. If you are struggling to stop using drugs and alcohol despite negative consequences, you might be facing physical dependence.
Physical dependence is not simply addiction. If you experience withdrawal symptoms when you try to stop using drugs or alcohol, an addiction treatment program can help.
What Is Physical Dependence?
Physical dependence has to do with how the brain and body build a tolerance to certain substances and actually begin to depend on them.
Consider physical dependence on opioids, for example. This adaptation often begins innocently when a patient is prescribed opioids for medical pain management. When the body begins to depend on a certain drug to maintain a decent quality of life, physical dependence has begun. This dependence can result from several different factors, which may include the following:
- Taking a prescribed drug for too long
- Increasing dosages of a drug
- Taking a drug for nonmedical reasons
During physical dependence, your body tells you that you require the substance to maintain a normal quality of life. In reality, it is the drugs that are interfering with your body’s ability to function as it should.
Unlike addiction, which involves ingesting a substance to attain a heightened state of euphoria, individuals trapped in physical dependence usually ingest the substance just to feel normal.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse states that “physical dependence in and of itself does not constitute addiction, but it often accompanies addiction.” Beginning intervention before full addiction sets in enables an individual to have a less physically strenuous recovery.
How Is Physical Dependence Different From Addiction?
Addiction affects the parts of the brain responsible for decision-making and self-control. While those who struggle with addiction are likely to be physically dependent on the substance, it’s possible to be addicted to behaviors that do not cause physical dependence, like gambling. Those who are addicted to drugs or alcohol will often continue using a harmful substance even in the face of job loss, relationship loss, or lethal overdose.
Obtaining a high or escape from reality is often the goal of the cases of substance abuse that result in an addiction.
Addiction treatment demands immediate detoxification of the harmful substance, which is generally an unpleasant experience.
Treating Physical Dependence
A final distinguisher of physical dependence lies in its suggested treatment. Immediate detoxification treats addiction. But this treatment method is generally unnecessary for those suffering from physical dependence. More effective treatment is accomplished by methods such as these:
- Slowly decreasing dosage to wean the body from the substance
- Supporting the decreased substance dosages with carefully monitored medication
This type of weaning treatment allows the affected patient to maintain a large measure of physical and mental control. Also, patients experience less discomfort by slowly decreasing the level of the substance. An additional perk of this approach to treatment is that it is often faster than standard addiction treatment.
Everyone’s path toward healing and freedom is unique, so individual treatment results will vary. Whatever the degree of substance dependence, taking advantage of a program will only increase the chances of a drug-free future. You’ll build the healthy coping skills you need to avoid relapse in the future and to rebuild your life in recovery.
Reach Out to Westwind Recovery® Today for Addiction Treatment
If you have developed a physical dependence on a drug or other substance, finding a quality drug addiction and mental health facility is crucial.
Westwind Recovery® is fully equipped to assist you in overcoming any type of drug or substance dependence. The focus of our dedicated and qualified staff is the wellness of both the body and the mind. We offer extensive services, including:
- Detox programs – Go through the challenging early days of recovery in a supportive environment with medical care
- Inpatient programs – Receive 24/7 support as you begin to recover
- Outpatient programs – Live at home or in sober living while participating in treatment
- Family therapy – Healing and support for the whole family unit
- Holistic therapy – Yoga, physical exercise, nutrition training, and other services to help you heal in body and mind
- Adventure therapy – Fun connection with your therapy community through group activities like surfing, hiking, and snowboarding
Westwind Recovery® will meet you where you are and partner with you on your journey toward a substance-free life. If you have questions about our services or if you would like to schedule an appointment, call us today. In our Los Angeles treatment center, you’ll find the support and high-quality treatment programs you need to heal.
Dr. Deena is the Chief Clinical Officer of Westwind Recovery®, an award-winning outpatient treatment center in Los Angeles where she oversees the clinical and administrative program and treatment methods. Dr. Deena is a doctor of psychology and licensed clinical social worker since 1993. LCSW #20628. Originally from the East Coast, Dr. Deena has worked running treatment centers, worked as a therapist in psychiatric hospitals as well as school settings and currently has a thriving private practice in the LA area. Dr. Deena has appeared regularly on the Dr. Phil Show as an expert since 2003. She has also been featured on many other TV shows, podcasts and has contributed to written publications as well as podcasts.