ClickCease Physical Dependence | Granite Recovery Centers Drug Addiction

Physical Dependence

Authored by Granite Recovery Centers    Reviewed by James Gamache    Last Updated: August 27th, 2021


James Gamache Medical Reviewer
Jim is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LICSW) and Licensed Masters Level Addictions Counselor (MLADC). He has been working in the field of mental health/addiction treatment since 1995. Jim earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Human Services from Springfield College in 2000, and a Masters Degree in Social Work from Boston University in 2002. In 2002 Jim was hired by the Mental Health Center of Greater Manchester holding the position of Clinical Case Manager. From 2004-2019, Jim was employed at WestBridge Inc. During his time at WestBridge, Jim held the following positions; Clinician, Team Leader, Director, & Chief Operations Officer. In 2019 Jim transitioned employment to GateHouse Treatment Center as the Clinical Director for 10 months. In October of 2020 Jim transitioned to Granite Recovery Centers and is currently serving as the Senior VP of Clinical Services and Quality Assurance.

Addiction is a combination of psychological and physical dependence. Some symptoms of each overlap, so what is physical dependence? A combination of things occurs within the body and the brain, which makes walking away from drugs or alcohol difficult. This difficulty is often downright painful. Let’s take a closer look.

Body and Brain Changes in Addiction

What is physical dependence?  In simple terms, it is your body, believing that it needs a drug or alcohol to function properly. Think about the times you may have tried to quit drinking or taking a drug. After several hours without the substance, you may have started to feel nauseous. Your whole body may have felt weak or hurt all over. You may have felt like you were coming down with the worse case of flu than you ever had. All of this is an indication that you have a physical dependence.

When you take a drug or drink, your brain releases chemicals that help your body feel good. After a few times of indulging, you need more of the substance to get that exact feeling. That is because when something artificial causes your brain to produce the hormones, your brain starts closing down its natural production of the substance. The longer this goes on, the less your brain produces it on its own. Thus, more of the substance is required. In time, the hormones are no longer produced naturally. That part of your brain has shut down. The only way your body can feel good is by giving it the drug it now seeks. It has become dependent on the drug to feel what should come naturally. Over time, there are actual physical changes in the brain’s structure.

What Happens During Withdrawal

Your body can no longer produce things like serotonin. Yet, your body needs these chemicals to help with things other than mood. They help with sleep, motivation, and even energy levels. When you decide to withhold the drug or alcohol from your body, your brain sends out panic signals to the rest of your body. These signals create symptoms such as pain and nausea to convince you to give it the substance that will stop the panic. If you don’t give it that substance, symptoms can become worse.

Over time, however, your brain starts to go into self-preservation mode and begins to release a bit of the chemical it had stopped producing. This production keeps increasing until it is once again back to where it was before you first started putting the artificial stuff into your body. Your brain begins to re-establish paths it had formerly closed. You no longer need the substance to feel good.

Physical Dependence’s Role in Addiction

Physical dependence plays a role in addiction. It causes your body to feel so deprived that when you don’t indulge, you begin to believe that feeling that way is natural. Like all instances of illness, it is a clue that your body is in a panic because it is missing something that it feels is a normal part of life. It helps keep you addicted to the substance because you want to avoid the symptoms. The good news is that physical dependence is often broken within a week. Then it is possible to start breaking the psychological dependence.

Granite Recovery Centers

To overcome the physical dependence of addiction, you need medically supervised detox. At Granite Recovery Centers, we make sure this period is safely managed so you can clean your body of whatever you are addicted to. If you feel you are ready to start your healing journey, contact one of our many centers 855.712.7784 and talk to an intake representative. We can have you on your way to a drug-free life quickly and with as little frustration and discomfort as possible. Granite Recovery Centers provides medical detoxification for people who do not need immediate medical intervention, are not a danger to themselves, and are capable of self-evacuation in the event of an emergency.

At Granite Recovery Centers, we want to provide accurate information about health and addiction so that our readers can make informed decisions.

We have credentialed medical doctors & clinicians who specialize in addiction treatment review the information on our website before it is published. We use credible sources such as government websites and journal articles when citing statistics or other medically related topics.