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What Is Chemical Dependency?

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Chemical dependency on a psychoactive substance can easily lead to an addiction. Narcotics and alcohol are substances on which people become dependent with repeated use, a situation that very often leads to a substance use disorder (SUD). If you recognize that you are chemically dependent on a drug, alcohol, or more than one substance, it’s time to consider substance abuse treatment programs in your area.

A substance use disorder can derail a life and shatter families and careers. Nashville Treatment Solutions (NTS) can offer information about chemical dependence, tolerance, and addiction, answer your questions about recovery options, and guide you through the sometimes confusing addiction rehab landscape. Call us at 866.714.5630, or use our online form.

What Is Chemical Dependency?

Chemical dependency refers to the body’s physical need for a psychoactive substance. Repeated use of alcohol or a narcotic, for example, increases the body’s tolerance. That means more or larger doses are required to achieve the desired effects, such as euphoria or the muting of anxiety or other mental health symptoms. The body’s tolerance means that without the increased intake, withdrawal symptoms will ensue.  

Eventually, the drug user cannot maintain normal functioning or physical balance without the drug, as when the brain’s neurons become accustomed to a drug after repeated exposure. These neurons stop functioning without the drug being present. For example, the brain may stop producing dopamine after becoming dependent on heroin, so without heroin, the user cannot experience pleasure, satisfaction, and other feelings linked to dopamine levels.

Chemical dependency is a normal reaction to repeated use of an addictive substance. When there are no links between medical needs and drug use, dependency becomes drug addiction.

When Chemical Dependency Becomes Drug Addiction

Not all dependencies are addictions, for example, in the case of a terminal cancer patient who relies on opioids for pain relief or a person with a major depression who takes Zoloft. Both would withdraw if the drug were stopped precipitously, but because these people are regular but not compulsive users, they are not considered addicted. A substance use disorder can be diagnosed when the user continues to abuse the drug or alcohol despite clear negative consequences compulsively. Chemical dependence is part of addiction, but behavior defines a SUD.

Some of the most common behaviors that a person with a substance use disorder will exhibit are:

  • Changes in behavior such as lying, switching friend groups, or secretiveness
  • Inability to meet normal obligations, for example, to work, family, or school
  • Job loss, financial problems, and stealing
  • Relationship loss
  • Sudden or marked mood or energy swings
  • Physical changes such as weight loss or gain, more frequent illness, excessive exhaustion, and sleep
  • Poor self-care, including decreased efforts in diet, hygiene, and exercise
  • The majority of waking hours focused on drug-seeking, drug use, or recovery from drug use
  •  Increased drug abuse due to physical tolerance
  • Denial that any of the above signs are related to drug or alcohol use
  • Onset of withdrawal symptoms when the substance is unavailable or withheld

If you or someone you care about shows any of the signs above, it is time to learn more about substance abuse treatment.

Treat Chemical Dependency at Nashville Treatment Solutions

At NTS, we offer a wide range of evidence-based and experiential therapies in a modern, state-of-the-art facility. For example, at NTS, you have access to treatments such as:

If you have lingering questions about chemical dependency vs. addiction, whether you have cause for concern about your drug use or that of a family member, and what the recovery process looks like, reach out today by calling 866.714.5630 or using our online form.