It can be challenging to understand chemical dependency. You might hear people talk about it interchangeably with substance abuse and addiction. Learning what each term means can help you tell the difference.
Defining the Terms
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) offers guidelines for understanding and diagnosing substance use disorder and chemical dependency. In the past, it defined substance abuse and dependence as two separate disorders. It’s the most likely reason why so many people use the terms interchangeably.
The most recent DSM drops this distinction in favor of the term “substance use disorder.” It defines substance abuse, dependence, and addiction on a scale. This scale measures the degree and time of substance use. The worse that your condition is on the scale, the more likely you are to develop an addiction.
Stages of Substance Use Disorder
In the early stage of substance use disorder, you may abuse an illegal or prescription drug. However, substance abuse can also develop while following a legitimate prescription treatment. During this stage, the drugs affect the communication system in your brain, changing how it sends and receives information. Whether the drugs diminish or imitate the signals, they cause a chemical imbalance with ongoing use.
Over time, your brain adapts to the new chemical levels in your brain. Because of that, it begins to depend on the irregularity to function normally. At this point, you have developed a chemical dependence. You’ll have a tolerance to drugs and experience withdrawal symptoms when you don’t use.
Substance use disorder progresses toward addiction the longer that you abuse drugs. The chemical imbalance in your brain changes your behaviors and drugs become your main priority. Even if you recognize that there’s a problem and that the drugs cause harm, you can’t stop using. The physical and mental dependence that you’ve developed make it impossible without drug and alcohol rehab.
Physical vs. Mental Chemical Dependency
Physical dependence is the most common and obvious type. It prevents the cells in your body from functioning when you don’t use. This effect triggers a withdrawal response, which is your body’s way of telling you that you need the drugs. The distressful symptoms drive you to use to feel better.
However, not all drugs cause physical withdrawal symptoms. For this reason, some people don’t think that marijuana is addictive. Instead, the drug causes mental or emotional dependence with long-term use. It involves a compulsion or the perceived need to use.
For example, people with a mental dependence might believe that they need weed to fall asleep peacefully and quickly. When they don’t use the drug, though, they eventually fall asleep without physical withdrawal symptoms.
Get Help for Substance Use Disorder
If you have a drug or alcohol abuse problem and are ready for treatment, San Antonio Recovery Center can help. We offer Texas addiction rehab programs and services that treat various stages of substance use disorder, including:
- Men’s and women’s drug addiction rehab
- Aftercare treatment program
- Family therapy
- Individual therapy
- Group therapy
Don’t make the mistake of believing that you can’t stop using drugs. Recovery from chemical dependency is possible with the right treatment plan. Call us today at 866-957-7885 to learn more about our services.