Drug and Alcohol Tolerance vs. Dependence
Drug and alcohol tolerance occurs when an individual’s body gets used to the presence of specific amounts of drugs or alcohol and responds or adapts accordingly. A person develops a high tolerance for drugs and alcohol when they use these substances excessively. Tolerance can develop after a person becomes physically addicted to drugs or alcohol, or tolerance can lead to addiction. Once individuals develop a high tolerance for drugs, alcohol or both, more of the substance will be required in order for the individual to experience the same “high” or level of intoxication that their body has become accustomed to.
High Tolerance Can Lead to Addiction and Vice Versa
After a person builds a high tolerance for a particular drug or for alcohol, changes in his or her behavior typically occur. For example, individuals who have built a high tolerance for cocaine will often crave it obsessively until they are able to consume it. After consuming the drug, they generally realize that they must consume larger amounts of it in order to achieve the level and intensity of intoxication that they are used to. Because cocaine impacts the brain’s receptors and affects a person’s ability to function normally, the user will likely consume the drug continually until reaching his or her desired level of intoxication. If only a small amount of the drug is available, the user will generally consume a more potent substance or consume alcohol excessively in order to achieve a heightened level of intoxication. Most individuals with a high tolerance for drugs or alcohol become obsessed with getting high, which causes them to act in ways they normally would not act or do things they normally would not do.
Dependence Can Lead to High Tolerance
Alcoholism Symptoms and Warning Signs
Alcoholism often begins with alcohol abuse. Some of the signs of alcohol abuse include poor academic or work performance that may start with a few minor failures or setbacks caused by excessive drinking or the after-effects of drinking and then become a permanent pattern, dangerous behavior such as driving under the influence of alcohol, and relying on alcohol to relieve stress or escape from daily problems.
Drug and alcohol dependence occurs when an individual consistently and compulsively uses these substances. Dependence can lead to high tolerance, but the two terms have different meanings. Many drug users become both physically and psychologically dependent on drugs and alcohol. These individuals generally feel that they must take drugs or drink alcohol in order to relax, function, or deal with stress. Individuals who depend on drugs or alcohol are often addicted to these substances. However, it is possible for individuals to have a high tolerance for drugs and alcohol and not be addicted to them. Those who depend on drugs to function generally experience extreme discomfort, both emotional and physical, when they do not use the drug for an extended time period. Feelings of dependency are persistent and compulsive, and without help, it is possible for individuals to experience these feelings for many years.
Both dependence and tolerance are caused by chemical changes that occur in an individual’s brain and body. After excessive, continuous use, the central nervous system begins to counteract the effects that drugs and alcohol typically have on the body. Rather than negatively reacting to these substances, the body will adjust and essentially welcome certain levels of these substances. The brain also begins to expect certain levels of drugs and alcohol to be present in the body, and adjusts its chemicals accordingly. This is why individuals will consume the same level of drugs and alcohol that they are used to consuming with no effect; this is the primary cause of drug overdose and alcohol poisoning. If you are suffering from drug or alcohol addiction and need help, fill out the quick contact form, or call us at 1-888-803-9961 Who Answers?.
Withdrawal and Detoxification
Individuals who have built a high tolerance for drugs and alcohol and those who have become dependent on these substances have slightly different experiences during the withdrawal and detoxification process. As the body detoxifies from these substances, physical symptoms, such as sweating, nausea and intense cravings, will be present. However, those who depend on drugs and alcohol to function face both physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms. Support in the form of counseling and psychotherapy is often necessary and helps those who have become addicted to drugs or alcohol deal with the underlying causes of their addiction. The length and intensity of the physical withdrawal period depends on the tolerance that the body has built up for these substances. Physical withdrawal can last a few days or weeks, and supplemental drugs are often administered in order to make the physical withdrawal process more tolerable. Those who have become psychologically and physically dependent often need support and encouragement long after the detoxification period has ended.
Hotline to Call
If you, a family member or friend has an extremely high tolerance or dependence on drugs or alcohol, contact us at 1-888-803-9961 Who Answers? for help, or fill out the quick contact form to receive support and assistance.