The Mechanics of Physiological Dependence

The Mechanics of Physiological Dependence
Addiction January 25, 2019
Author: Ilana Jael

Addiction is a complex disease that has lasting impacts on both the body and the mind. Over time, a complex web of physical and psychological changes develop that cause withdrawal syndrome as soon as substance abuse ends. An intensive treatment program in a sober living facility may be the safest route to recovery.

Physiological dependence describes these pervasive changes to how the mind and body function as a result of continued drug or alcohol use. Understanding how drug dependence works will help you or your loved ones create realistic expectations of the challenges ahead.

So, as we delve deeper into the mechanics of addiction, keep in mind that there are new treatments which will guide you through these stages and forward into full recovery.

What Is Physiological Dependence?

Scientifically speaking, physiological dependence describes the adaptive changes the body makes in response to the continued use of an addictive substance. These adaptations to brain and body chemistry, hormone levels, and organ functions develop slowly and will take time to return to normal.

The gradual process of developing dependence may look like this:

Comparing Psychological and Physical Dependence

Psychological dependence traditionally refers to the behavioral decisions, emotional triggers, and other feelings and mental health factors which fuel addiction or result from it. Depression, anxiety, or risk-taking behaviors might be part of this category.

Physical dependence describes changes to the body that could be measured in a medical lab test, as a result of addiction. Seizures, rapid heart rate, and measurable changes to serotonin or endorphin levels might be symptoms of physical dependence.

These terms can be confusing but, in fact, they are both parts of the physiology of addiction. Scientists are increasingly understanding the links between brain chemicals, hormonal triggers, the nervous system, and consciousness. Separating the body and mind when treating drug dependence would be counterproductive. The addiction impacts the whole person, so the person needs healing in all aspects.

Why Does Physiological Dependence Develop?

Researchers and treatment professionals have many theories on the precise process that causes addiction, with a varying focus on the body or brain sides of treatment. Sober living communities incorporate the most effective techniques drawn from these new ways of thinking about the disease.

Early addiction theories included the “tolerance-withdrawal theory”, which identified the desire to avoid withdrawal symptoms as the cause of addiction. However, some drugs have limited withdrawal symptoms but are still highly addictive, and some addicts relapse long after their physical symptoms have passed. This is one factor, but is not the only answer.

Alcohol withdrawal and relapse studies of animals and humans are documenting the triggers that provoke relapse, and they are working to understand why some people are more sensitive than others to these behavior drivers.

The alcohol dependence process develops this way:

Medication may be needed as part of the alcohol recovery program to speed the brain’s return to healthy activity. More natural methods of achieving relaxation can help bridge the gap during treatment.

The Symptoms of Physiological Drug Dependence

Understanding the Reasons for Relapse

appreciating the helping hand of his friends

Most people choose to take drugs for the first time voluntarily. Once addiction sets in, however, the associated brain changes interfere with the individual’s ability to make a healthy decision. Even when they are clearly aware of the destructive effects of their drug use and have made progress in their recovery, they remain at risk for relapse.

Like other chronic, relapsing diseases, including high blood pressure and diabetes, treating drug addiction is an ongoing process. If a relapse occurs, this is not a failure of treatment; it is a sign that ongoing, different, or more intensive treatment is needed to control the disease.

Contributing risk factors for relapse include:

Treatment and Recovery from Physiological Dependence

Addiction may not be “cured,” but it is effectively managed with an individualized treatment program. Restoring control, confidence, and self-worth start by taking meaningful action toward those goals.

Some of the therapies and strategies that might be part of a long-term program to manage addiction include:

The Mechanics Can Be Repaired

father and daughter laughing and being happy

Most people must start their repair process by acknowledging that they have developed a dependence on drugs or alcohol. Until the need for repair is recognized, nothing can be fixed.  Once you’ve realized that you need tools and guidance, choosing a treatment program that provides what you need will get the recovery process underway.

Let what you’ve learned about the physiological effects of addiction be a motivating reason to take that step now. You don’t need to do all the work alone, but you can seize the opportunity to put yourself or your loved one in the best possible environment to repair the body, heal the mind, and free the spirit from the bonds of drug dependence.

At RECO Institute, we offer sober living facilities that offer the ideal healing environment and innovative therapeutic supports. In cooperation with RECO Intensive, we can guide your journey from the first step toward sobriety to a strong and supportive sober lifestyle for the future. Reach out to us today to find out more about sober living in Delray Beach, Florida.

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