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What is Physical Dependence?

Physical dependence is a term you often hear associated with addiction but are they the same thing? But what is physical dependence? There is a difference in these two terms — a complicated one. A person can be dependent on a drug without having an addiction to it, so it’s essential to understand how these two concepts differ.

What is Physical Dependence?

As the name suggests, physical dependence means your body dependant on a drug. It also means if you stop using abruptly, you will experience physical symptoms of withdrawal. Physical dependence occurs due to the chronic use of a drug, whether the application is medical or recreational. People develop dependencies on prescribed pain relievers, anxiety medication, and even antiepileptics. They can also develop a dependency on a drug they use for enjoyment like heroin or cocaine. The dependency occurs either way because your body doesn’t know the difference. Dependence focuses on your physical reaction to the drug, not on your reason for wanting it. What is physical dependence? Once a dependency exists, it takes more and more of the drug to elicit the same effect. You may start increasing the dose or making it more often to avoid signs of withdrawal.

What is Addiction?

Addiction is a broader term. It means you use a drug compulsively even when there are consequences. The use of that drug may include both psychosocial and biological factors. In other words, you impulsively want the drug because you have a physical or emotional dependence on it. Addiction is a disorder that utilizes the reward system of the brain to make you feel good. For most drugs, that means the release or mimicking of dopamine, the chemical that creates a feel-good sensation to motivate you to do things. Dopamine works to make you want to do things that are important to your survival, like eating or the continuance of the species, such as have sex. It backfires when it comes to addiction, though. Drug use and other behaviors stimulate or mimic the release of dopamine. Your body makes a connection between that behavior and feeling good, so it creates a craving that makes you want to do it again.

How Can You Have Physical Dependence Without Addiction?

Addiction is the combination of the physical and psychological need for the drug. Physical dependence is the precursor to addiction. Addiction also relates to behaviors beyond just using drugs. You can have an addiction to anything that stimulates the reward system in the brain like gambling or porn. You don’t develop the same physical dependence, though, just a psychological one.

Do You Need Treatment for Physical Dependence?

At the very least, you will want to consider medical detox. The Ranch PA works with clients who have physical dependence via their medical detox services. Other services from The Ranch PA include:

Their pain management program means they can help you find other ways beyond medication to deal with chronic pain. They work with clients with a dependence on a variety of substances, too, like opioids, alcohol, benzos, cocaine, meth, heroin, and marijuana. They provide a mix of traditional and innovative programs, also, and focus on neurobiological treatments. While a client at The Ranch PA, you’ll enjoy relaxing on their 15-acre campus in the rolling hills of Pennsylvania. What is physical dependence? If you think you or someone you love might have a physical dependence, now is the time to get help. Give us a call at 717.969.9126 to find out more about The Ranch PA.

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