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. Our Massachusetts inpatient drug rehab compares physical vs. psychological dependence and how they affect people differently.
Physical Dependence Definition
Physical dependence is a condition in which someone experiences unpleasant withdrawal symptoms if a drug is suddenly stopped or taken in smaller doses after taking it for long periods. 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, including chemicals like dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine, which are all linked to mood, heart rate, body temperature, and other functions. When drugs are taken or misused, they affect how the brain manages these chemicals on its own. After a while, the brain becomes accustomed to the influence of these substances.
In other words, long-term drug abuse causes the brain to change, causing it to become dependent on the drug in question. When a person reaches the point where they can’t stop using drugs or alcohol without experiencing withdrawals, then it’s safe to say they’re struggling with physical dependency.
Some common signs of physical dependence include:
- Bloodshot eyes
- Changes in sleep pattern
- Dilated or pinpoint pupils
- Dizziness or drowsiness
- Neglect of personal hygiene
- Poor motor movement
- Slow reflexes
- Slurred speech
- Unusual body odor
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:
- Difficulties breathing
- Excessive sweating
- Heart palpitations
- Inability to sleep
- Lack of appetite
- Muscle aches
- Nausea and vomiting
- Runny nose or congestion
- Stomach problems
In more extreme cases, seizures and cardiovascular problems may occur. These can be life-threatening without proper care. At our rehab in Massachusetts, we offer medically assisted detox for all kinds of substances. Our rehab provides medication-assisted care and round-the-clock support to manage withdrawals and help patients begin their rehab programs on a clean slate.
Psychological Dependence Definition
The word psychological means “arising from or relating to emotions and the mind.” Psychological dependence is generally defined as the emotional and mental processes associated with the development of and recovery from a substance use disorder or addiction. Being psychologically dependent on drugs or alcohol refers to how the abuse of these substances impacts a person’s mind and how this change is reflected in their behavior.
A person with psychological drug dependence may feel an emotional or mental attachment to drugs or alcohol. 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 distraught, which can lead to outbursts and other behaviors that may not be typical of their sober character.
Common signs of psychological dependence include:
- Cognitive problems, such as problems with concentration, memory, problem-solving, and other aspects of judgment, etc.
- Denial of the problem
- Feeling anxious when thinking of not using
- Feeling restless when they aren’t using
- Inability to imagine life without using the substance
- Intense cravings for the substance
- Lack of sleep related to not using the substance
- Loss of appetite or increased appetite associated with not using the substance of choice
- Mood swings
- Obsessing over obtaining or using the drug of choice
- Uncertainty about quitting the use of the substance
When going through withdrawal from drugs or alcohol, a person may also experience a rollercoaster of emotions. Some typical psychological and emotional withdrawal symptoms of addiction include:
- Feelings of emptiness
- Inability to concentrate on anything else
- Social isolation
What Is the Difference Between Physical Dependence vs. Psychological Dependence?
Overall, the main difference between physical and psychological dependence is that physical dependence refers more to bodily symptoms of withdrawal, while psychological dependence refers to the emotional challenges of withdrawal. While the former may cause changes in a person’s outward appearance, the latter may cause a mental obsession regarding the use of the substance in question.
The intensity of physical vs. psychological dependence may also vary depending on the type of disorder the individual has. In other words, not all addictions are as physically involved as drug or alcohol addictions. For instance, gambling addiction is a behavioral addiction that is mainly associated with the mental effects of compulsive gambling.
Drug Dependence vs. Addiction
When people use the term “dependence,” they’re usually referring to a physical dependence on a substance or the occurrence of withdrawals if the person were to cut back on or stop use. Dependence is mainly characterized by the symptoms of tolerance and withdrawal. While it’s possible to have a physical drug dependence without a substance use disorder, usually, addiction isn’t far behind.
A substance use disorder or addiction, on the other hand, is marked by a change in behavior caused by the biochemical changes in the brain as a result of long-term substance abuse. At this point, the use of drugs or alcohol has become the individual’s main priority, regardless of the harm they may cause to themselves or others.
Substances that cause dependence and addiction include:
- Prescription medicines, such as pain pills, stimulants, or anxiety pills
Although the two are distinct, physical and psychological dependence aren’t entirely separate. Both can develop into debilitating and difficult diseases. Regardless of the substance in question, the effects of substance abuse are best treated with professional care.
Our Clearbrook Rehab Can Help
If you or a loved one is battling addiction, we can help. Our Northeast addictions treatment center offers various inpatient addiction services where patients can receive the care needed to help them become medically stable and learn how to live a sober lifestyle.
Send us your contact information or call Clearbrook Treatment Centers today at 570-536-9621 for more information about our Massachusetts substance abuse treatment.
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