Chemical dependency occurs when the body physically and/or psychologically relies on drug or alcohol usage.
Any type of drug misuse can result in chemical dependency. Even drugs prescribed by a family doctor, such as pain pills or anxiety pills, can result in chemical dependency or substance abuse.
While some people experience chemical dependency without addiction, most often the two co-exist. Chemical dependency often develops into addiction because it is hard to stop using addictive substances.
Physical Dependence and Psychological Dependence
Physical dependence can happen with the chronic use of many drugs—including alcohol and many prescription drugs, even if taken as directed. Physical dependence, in and of itself, does not constitute addiction, but it often accompanies addiction.
Psychological dependence describes the mental and emotional processes associated with the development of, and recovery from, a substance use disorder.
Is Chemical Dependency the Same as Addiction?
Chemical dependence is not addiction, but it often is found in people with addiction.
Discerning the difference between the two can be difficult, particularly with prescription pain drugs, where the need for ever larger dosages can represent tolerance or a deteriorating underlying condition and not the start of a substance use disorder (addiction).
What is Substance Use Disorder?
Substance use disorder (addiction) is a recognized medical brain disorder and refers to the abuse of illegal substances (such as methamphetamine, cocaine, opiates, marijuana, or heroin) or legal substances (such as alcohol, nicotine, or prescription drugs).
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) uses “substance abuse disorder” as the official medical term for drug or alcohol addiction.
What is the Most Common Form of Substance Abuse?
Alcohol is the most common legal drug abused by people. Considered socially acceptable, it lowers inhibitions and anxiety. Side effects may include slurred speech and loss of coordination.
While drinking alcohol in moderation is usually safe, ongoing abuse or excessive use can cause health problems or result in addiction.
Not everyone who drinks will abuse alcohol, but a person without control over their drinking most likely has an alcohol use disorder (AUD). In the US, more than 14 million adults struggle with an addiction to alcohol.
Many other drugs, including methamphetamine, opioids, and cocaine, are addictive substances.
Drug Addiction Catches Users Off Guard
When first taking a drug, all the users may notice is the euphoria it causes. Whether the substances are drugs or alcohol, they feel good and believe they can control their use.
But substances can quickly take over a person’s life. If abuse continues over time, the person may have to take the substance in ever-larger doses to achieve the same effect.
How is Chemical Dependence Diagnosed?
Identifying chemical dependence is best done by a doctor, healthcare provider, psychiatrist, or trained mental health professional.
The medical professional will assess general health and perform tests to evaluate drug use. These tests establish drug use, but do not determine dependency.
Symptoms of Substance Abuse
Depending on the frequency of use, the substance abused, and the length of time since last use, these common behaviors and symptoms of substance abuse and addiction may occur.
- A powerful desire or need to continue taking the drug
- Tolerance to or need for increased amounts of the drug to get an effect
- Withdrawal symptoms when drug use decreases or stops
- Hazardous behavior, such as sexual risks or driving under the influence of a substance
- Taking a substance in larger amounts or for longer periods than intended
- Spending a lot of time to get, use, and recover from the effects of drugs
- Withdrawal from social and recreational activities
- Continuing to use alcohol or other drugs despite the negative consequences
- Continued use of a drug even though you are aware of the physical, psychological, and family problems that are caused by ongoing drug abuse
More severe substance use may also lead individuals to become embroiled in legal problems like arrests for drinking-and-driving or domestic violence, debt, and bankruptcy.
What is Drug Abuse?
Drug or alcohol abuse occurs when either illegal substances or legal substances are used in an inappropriate way and/or not as prescribed.
This includes prescription drugs that are prescribed by health professionals and are used for treatment of certain medical problems.
Drug Abuse Causes Many Problems
Researchers say that up to 80 percent of Americans who commit crimes abuse alcohol or drugs, and half the inmates of U.S. prisons and jails are substance abusers.
Substance abuse causes serious problems at work, school, in relationships, and with the law.
Chemical Dependence Treatment at La Hacienda
With a thorough review of facts to determine the best treatment plan, medical assistance, good clinical therapy, involvement in a 12-step support program, and continuing care follow-up, a chemically dependent person can receive successful treatment.
It is also important to involve family members and loved ones in the process. They need to understand what is causing the problem in order to provide better support.
For 50 years La Hacienda Treatment Center has provided these services and more for people seeking to overcome substance use disorders and lead sober lives.
If you or someone you know is looking for help with chemical dependency, phone (800) 749-6160 to talk with one of our trained admission specialists.
Chemical Dependency Counselor
A chemical dependency counselor is a qualified mental health professional who specializes in chemical dependence or addiction. They work with chemically dependent persons to address the reasons behind their substance problem and addiction.
Chemical Dependency Treatment
Successful treatment of alcoholism and other drug addictions is rooted in immersion in 12-step support groups and solid counseling administered by competent, empathetic staff. Treatment is only the beginning of recovery.
Chemical Dependency Evaluation
A chemical dependency evaluation is usually the first step before starting treatment for substance abuse. It involves questions that may recognize, depending on the substance abused, whether someone suffers from a substance use disorder.