In Clearbrook Treatment Centers Massachusetts, Family Resources, Personal Resources

It’s no secret that substance abuse can affect both the mind and body in various ways. The difference in how addiction affects the body is known as physical vs psychological dependence. While a person’s mind may become addicted to the substance in question, their body may also become accustomed to ingesting it regularly. Understanding both sides of this coin is necessary to understanding addiction and how it affects people’s lives. At Clearbrook Massachusetts, we’re looking into the difference between physical and psychological dependence. 

What Is Physical Dependence?

A physical drug dependence refers to the chemical or physical changes caused by the substance. With most drugs, especially commonly abused ones like heroin, cocaine, opioids, and meth, the chemical makeup of a person’s brain may change as a result of long-term abuse. Most drugs affect the levels of neurotransmitters in the brain, which affect how neurons send messages to each other and a variety of other functions. Long-term drug abuse causes the brain to change, causing it to become dependent on the drug in question. Simply put, physical dependence on a drug occurs when a person becomes so accustomed to using a drug that they can no longer function without it. 

Some common signs of physical dependence include: 

  • Dilated or pinpoint pupils 
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Changes in sleep pattern
  • Unusual body odor
  • Neglect of personal hygiene 
  • Slurred speech
  • Poor motor movement 
  • Slow reflexes
  • Dizziness or drowsiness
  • Fatigue

The higher the dose of the drug, as well as the length of time you’ve been using it, the more negative the physical effects will be. Over time, the body becomes tolerant of a substance that is being abused, developing an addiction. If the person suddenly stops taking the substance in question, they may experience uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. 

Common physical withdrawal symptoms include: 

  • Inability to sleep 
  • Difficulties breathing 
  • Heart palpitations
  • Trembling 
  • Muscle aches
  • Headaches
  • Stomach problems 
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Fever
  • Excessive sweating 
  • Lack of appetite 
  • Runny nose or congestion 

In more extreme cases, seizures and cardiovascular problems may occur. These can be life-threatening without proper care. At Clearbrook Treatment Centers Massachusetts, we offer a medical detox that is designed to treat withdrawal symptoms and help patients begin their rehab programs on a clean slate. 

What Is Psychological Dependence?

The word psychological means arising from or relating to emotions and the mind. Psychological drug dependence refers to a person’s behavior regarding their substance abuse. It’s how addiction has affected a person’s mind and is reflected in their behavior. A person with a psychological dependence on drugs or alcohol may feel an emotional or mental attachment to them. They may feel constantly compelled to seek out their substance of choice and use it frequently. When the individual doesn’t get what they want, they may become emotionally aggressive. 

Common signs of psychological dependence include: 

  • Intense cravings for the substance 
  • Denial of the problem 
  • Inability to imagine life without using the substance 
  • Feeling restless when they aren’t using
  • Mentally obsessed with the substance 
  • Feeling anxious when thinking of not using 
  • Lack of sleep-related to not using the substance 
  • Mood swings 

When going through withdrawal, a person may also experience a rollercoaster of emotions. Some typical emotional withdrawal symptoms of addiction include: 

  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Anger
  • Depression
  • Feelings of emptiness
  • Social isolation
  • Restlessness
  • Inability to concentrate on anything else 

What Is The Difference Between Physical Dependence & Psychological Dependence?

Overall, the main difference between physical and psychological dependence is in the way they affect a person. While the former may cause changes in a person’s outward appearance, the latter may cause a mental obsession regarding drug use. The two may also change depending on what the person is addicted to. For example, a person with a gambling addiction may suffer from psychological dependence more than physical dependence. Although the two are distinct, they aren’t entirely separate. Both physical and psychological dependence together can develop into a debilitating and difficult disease. Regardless of the substance in question, the effects of substance abuse are best treated with formal addiction treatment programs

If you or a loved one is battling addiction, we can help. At our drug and alcohol rehab in Massachusetts, we offer residential treatment where patients can receive 24-hour care from our staff of professionals. To learn more, call us today at 570-536-9621.

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