The Difference between Substance Tolerance, Dependence, and Addiction

When you start substance abuse, you require only a small dose of the drug or alcohol to feel its full impact. However, when you continue abusing these substances, your body develops resistance, and you start using larger amounts. This can eventually lead to addiction, but you can get treatment for that at a rehab Alabama-located ( Before you get to the addiction level, you first develop tolerance to the drug, and then dependence follows. If the three confuse you, read on to understand what they are all about.

Drug Tolerance

Developing drug tolerance means that your body does not respond to the initial dose of whatever substance you are abusing. Instead, it now requires higher amounts of the same substance to get the high you experienced with a lower dose. However, you need to note that the development of tolerance does not mean you are addicted, although it can lead to substance addiction if you do not quit drug abuse

Biologically, one develops tolerance when some cell receptors in their body that became active in the presence of a particular substance stop responding like before. For instance, morphine activates the opiate receptors, which inhibit the adenylate cyclase enzyme. This enzyme later adapts to the drug, and it does not bring about any changes in cell firing. In other words, this means that your body has developed a tolerance to morphine. 

Drug Dependence

In this scenario, your body becomes dependent on drugs or alcohol. This means that it cannot function properly and manifest physical disturbance in the absence of the substance. The physical disturbance mentioned here refers to the withdrawal symptoms. Drug dependency is caused by repeated use of a substance or using large amounts of drugs and/or alcohol. The time it takes for this condition to develop in your body depends on the substance you abuse and its addictive properties. 

Like with tolerance, dependence can occur with prescribed drugs, such as opioid prescription painkillers, and illicit drugs, such as heroin and cocaine. To explain it scientifically, substance dependence occurs when the functioning of the nervous system, which includes the nerve cells (neurons), is affected by the alcohol and drugs that you abuse. The human body’s information transmission and feedback systems are accurately controlled to keep it active and balanced. 

When you consume drugs and alcohol, the nervous system produces fewer natural neurotransmitters as it tries to remain balanced. During that time, you may experience intense pleasure and excitement, but the brain and the nervous system are in a tight spot. 

Drug Addiction 

Experts define it as the compulsive use of drugs or alcohol, regardless of its bad and harmful consequences. You lose control of limiting the substance consumption or develop an inability to stop the consumption even when it messes up with your job, business, family, and other obligations. Unlike drug tolerance and dependence, you are considered a patient when you get to the addiction stage. 

It is not news to hear someone say that they need a particular drug or alcohol to feel ‘normal.’ However, this condition is similar to the other two discussed above in that they all result from continuous substance abuse. You should note, though, that you can develop tolerance or independence for a particular substance and not be addicted to it.

For a while now, many people have been confused by the three terms: drug tolerance, dependence, and addiction. The three are related, but each means a different thing. Even their ways of developing your body are different. The above information is an in-depth explanation of the three subjects. Read through it keenly to get a clear glimpse.

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