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Physical dependence is a term that many do not fully understand. While this condition mirrors some characteristics of addiction, the state of physical dependence also differs from addiction in several key ways.

To fully understand this unique condition of physical dependence, let’s first clarify what it is not: it is not simply addiction.

What Exactly Is Addiction?

“Addiction affects the parts of the brain responsible for decision-making and self-control,” according to one expert in the field. Those who are substance-addicted will often continue using a harmful substance even in the face of job loss, relationship loss or lethal overdose.

Obtaining a high or escape from reality is often the goal of the cases of substance abuse that result in addiction.

Addiction treatment demands immediate detoxification of the harmful substance, which is generally an unpleasant experience.

So, What Is Physical Dependence?

According to The Center on Addiction, physical dependence “occurs when the brain adapts to the effects of a drug and develops tolerance.”

Consider physical dependence on opioids, for example. This adaptation often begins innocently, when a patient is prescribed opioids for medical pain management. When the body begins to depend on a certain drug to maintain a decent quality of life, physical dependence has begun. This dependence can result from several different factors, which may include the following:

  • Taking a prescribed drug for too long
  • Increasing dosages of a drug
  • Taking a drug for nonmedical reasons

During physical dependence, your body tells you that you require the substance to maintain a normal quality of life. In reality, it is the drugs that are interfering with your body’s ability to function as it should.

Unlike addiction (ingesting a substance to attain a heightened state of euphoria), individuals trapped in physical dependence usually ingest the substance just to feel normal.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse states that “physical dependence in and of itself does not constitute addiction, but it often accompanies addiction.” Beginning intervention before full addiction sets in enables the body to have a less physically strenuous recovery.

How Do You Treat It?

A final distinguisher of physical dependence lies in its suggested treatment.

As stated above, addiction is treated with immediate detoxification. This treatment method is generally unnecessary for those suffering from physical dependence. More effective treatment is accomplished by methods such as these:

  • Slowly decreasing dosage to wean the body from the substance
  • Supporting the decreased substance dosages with carefully monitored medication

This type of weaning treatment allows the affected patient to maintain a large measure of physical and mental control. Slowly decreasing the level of the substance also results in far less discomfort than is experienced in a detoxification program.

An additional perk is that treatment is often faster than standard addiction treatment.

Everyone’s path toward healing and freedom is completely unique, so individual treatment results will vary. Whatever the degree of substance dependence, taking advantage of a physical dependence program will only increase the chances of a drug-free future.

Who Specializes in Physical Dependence Treatment?

If you have developed physical dependence on a drug or other substance, finding a quality drug addiction and mental health facility is crucial.

At Westwind Recovery, we are fully equipped to assist you in overcoming any type of drug or substance dependence. The focus of our dedicated and qualified staff is the wellness of both the body and the mind. We offer extensive services that include some of the following:

Overcoming physical dependence is possible! Westwind Recovery will meet you where you are and partner with you on your journey toward a substance-free life. If you have questions about our services or if you would like to schedule an appointment, call us today at 855.815.9727.