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Difference Between Physical and Psychological Dependence

Although there is a difference between physical and psychological dependence, people who suffer from addiction will likely experience both throughout their journey.

However, it is entirely possible to become physically dependent on a substance without developing a psychological dependence.

Addiction is a complex issue and people often feel confused about the difference between physical and psychological dependence. In this article, we aim to provide some clarity on this matter.

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What is the Difference Between Physical and Psychological Dependence?

Physical Dependence

The key indicator of physical dependence is the experience of physical withdrawal symptoms from the substance when the person using them reduces use or stops completely. Physical dependence does not develop overnight but is rather a result of frequent and prolonged use of a substance.

A sign of developing physical dependence is tolerance. This means that an individual must use more and more of a substance to feel its full effect. This happens with both drugs and alcohol.

However, certain substances such as methamphetamine, opioids, alcohol, and benzodiazepines have a higher risk of causing physical dependence than other less addictive substances.

Psychological Dependence

While physical dependence is a phenomenon that happens in the body of someone who is addicted, psychological dependence happens in the mind. Addiction is characterized by ongoing and compulsive substance use behavior and for this reason, psychological dependence is often used to describe addiction as a whole.

Addiction changes the brain’s structure and causes complications in the functioning of the brain. Psychological dependence negatively impacts a person’s mental health, ability to make sound decision, and their judgment. The result is that despite the serious impact their addiction is having on their work, home, and personal life, they continue to abuse substances. Additionally, someone with psychological dependence will experience uncontrollable mental urges to use their substance of choice even when they want to stop.

Step Away – Addiction Treatment Center South Africa

We offer both inpatient and outpatient treatment programs to treat a number of different substance abuse issues.

Contact us to find out more.

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