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Signs That You May Be Developing a Substance Dependence

One of the most challenging effects of substance use is the development of a mental or physical dependence. A dependence pushes a person to use continuously more and more of a substance, only making their dependence worse as the cycle continues. The dependence on a substance may often be what causes a person to recognize the dangers of their substance use truly. If you or a loved one have developed a dependence on a drug or substance or feel that they may have to quit before a dependence forms, treatment is readily available to fit your needs.

What is the Difference Between Dependence and Addiction?

The difference between dependence and addiction is not always obvious. These are not two separate conditions but rather two aspects of substance use disorder. It is possible to have a dependence on a substance without being addicted to it, but likely these coincide. If a person does have a dependence without an addiction, it is crucial to seek treatment before an addiction develops.

Addiction is a change in the chemistry in the brain that can make it incredibly difficult to stop using a substance. Addiction often leads a person to act recklessly to obtain more of a drug or substance and not care that they are putting themselves in danger by continuing use. A person may be unable to stop substance use even if they want to due to their addiction.

Dependence is best thought of as the body’s reaction to substance use. This can include developing a tolerance to the substance as well as symptoms of withdrawal when use stops. Tolerance is defined as a body growing more accustomed to substance use, which leads a person to need larger amounts of substance taken more often to achieve the desired effects. 

Withdrawal is the symptoms that occur when substance use suddenly is cut back or stopped. As the body grows used to substance use, a sudden change can lead to a variety of mental and physical symptoms. Withdrawal can often be a challenging and potentially dangerous process that is best done under the care of medical professionals.

Signs of Substance Dependence

There are two primary types of dependence: mental and physical dependence. Mental dependence is defined by emotions, thoughts, or feelings directly caused by substance use. Usually, mental dependence is seen as negative feelings caused by the lack of use of the substance once dependence has already occurred. For examples of mental dependence could include:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Cravings or urges to use

Physical dependence, on the other hand, is related to the physical symptoms associated with substance use. Most withdrawal symptoms are usually signs of physical dependence. Physical dependence is the result of your body becoming accustomed to the heavy use of a substance. When substance use stops or pauses, the body naturally reacts to that change. Symptoms of physical dependence include:

  • Muscle weakness and cramps
  • Body aches
  • Joint pain
  • Sweating
  • Shaking
  • Fever
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Headaches

Substance Use Disorder DSM 5

Medical professionals often turn to the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or DSM-5, for diagnosing and evaluating mental health conditions. The DSM-5 also can be used to diagnose substance abuse disorders. Substance use disorder and substance dependence were previously considered as two separate conditions. However, the latest edition of the DSM treats these disorders as one now.

The DSM-5 sets eleven criteria that are considered to be symptoms of substance abuse disorder. Any person who has experienced at least two of the symptoms within the last year may be suffering from a substance abuse disorder. Medical professionals can also use the DSM-5 to evaluate the severity of the disorder. Two or three symptoms suggest a mild condition, four or five suggest a moderate condition, and six or more symptoms suggest a person suffering from a severe substance abuse disorder.

The eleven criteria for substance abuse disorder according to the DSM-5 are:

  1. Taking a substance in larger amounts than intended
  2. Feeling the need to cut back or stop substance use but failing to do so
  3. Spending a significant amount of time using, getting, or recovering from substance use
  4. Experiencing intense cravings or urges to use substances
  5. Failing to meet responsibilities at work, school, or home as a result of substance use
  6. Continuing to use a substance even after it causes a problem in relationships with others
  7. Isolating yourself or giving up social or recreational activities as a result of substance use
  8. Continuing to use a substance even after it causes physical or emotional harm or makes an existing condition worse
  9. Continuing to use a substance even after it puts you in danger
  10. Needing to take substances in larger amounts or more often to achieve the desired effects
  11. Development of symptoms associated with withdrawal between substance use that can be relieved by taking more of the substance

Let Us Help You With Addiction Treatment

At Warner Park Recovery, we’re here to help individuals and families by providing exceptional addiction treatment options. We’re a dual diagnosis (mental health combined with substance abuse treatment) program that offers partial day, intensive outpatient, and traditional outpatient levels of care. We regularly treat patients from the Woodland Hills, Calabasas, Topanga Canyon, The Valley, and Thousand Oaks areas. If you are looking for help with addiction treatment, please give us a call to learn more about our professional services!

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