Physical and Psychological Dependence

There are two aspects of substance addiction that must be confronted in order to nurture one’s platform to build their recovery upon; physical and psychological dependence. Either one of the two may be in play, or both of these factors, depending on the substances one is using. Highly addictive drugs like heroin are BOTH physically and psychologically addictive, while drugs like marijuana are primarily psychologically addictive; yes, marijuana can be psychologically addictive.

Physical dependence is exactly what it sounds like; the body needs a certain substance in order to function properly. Physical addiction is best addressed with a medical detox, because all of the substances that are physically addictive have serious withdrawal symptoms. There are dangers involved with alcohol and Xanax withdrawal, and if not done properly it is possible to die from these detoxes. Physical dependence is best handled through a detox facility if there are dangerous levels of consumption taking place for this very reason; even drugs like meth and heroin which do not risk death during detox, are usually best done under the care of a professional. This physical dependence fuels and motivates psychological dependence, by wiring together neurons in the brain through a consistent connection between ones behavior and thoughts.

Psychological dependence is a different beast altogether; it can be coupled with physical dependence or a thing all it’s own. There are substances that are not physically addictive, but, they can become extremely psychologically addictive over time. Marijuana is a prime example of this – it is often marketed as non-addictive, but this isn’t necessarily the case. Just ask anyone who has suffered from psychological dependence on marijuana, and they will tell you that they needed it to sleep, eat, relax, and socialize. This psychological dependence plagues the way one lives their life just as much as physical dependence does, and often times it persists much longer in a phase of abstinence than physical dependence. Once abstinent for a period of time, the physical dependence tends to fade away, but the psychological dependence, and the obsession that comes with, lingers on for quite some time. Psychological dependence lives in the emotional nature of one’s disease; they are emotionally invested into a particular substance and have a hard time letting it go on this emotional level. The reason for this is that the substances have been the source of pleasure for the person for so long that there is a conscious or subconscious connection with the abused substance and happiness. The best way to overcome psychological dependence is through long-term recovery facilities that teach an individual coping skills and behavior patterns that the individual can use to replace their old ways.

Treatment of substance abuse must tackle both of these aspect of dependence, in order to initiate any level of success of long-term recovery. A “simple” medical detox facility may be able to break physical dependence, but it cannot tackle psychological dependence in a mere 30 days or less. There are various strategies for tackling these two beasts, but the research has shown long-term recovery facilities to work best. The reason that they work best is because they provide a place for the individual to build, and nurture, new behavior patterns, thought patterns, and coping skills. These two distinct aspects of dependence, physical and psychological, must be the cornerstones in which one tackles their recovery, in order to be able to obtain a psychic change with results more typically from a spiritual experience.

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