Understanding Drug Tolerance and its Role in Addiction
Knowing drug tolerance and how it plays a critical role in addiction can help us better understand the disease of addiction. Yet, there is often confusion surrounding what drug tolerance truly means. When your body builds up a tolerance for drugs or alcohol, it equates to your body being able to handle a larger quantity of the substance to feel its effects.
Tolerance can lead to addiction because the individual will require a larger dose of the medication, drug, or alcohol to feel anything. The larger quantity of drugs entering the system will set a benchmark, and anything below a certain level of intoxication will not affect the individual, which is when tolerance leads to addiction.
What Is Tolerance?
It’s essential to understand the definition of tolerance. Tolerance means you have a larger capacity to handle something without it completely disrupting how you function. Drug and alcohol addicts have a high tolerance, meaning they require a hefty dose of the substance to feel a ‘high’ or to feel ‘drunk.’
The Difference Between Tolerance and Addiction
Tolerance and addiction can be better understood when we know how the body and brain react to drugs or alcohol. When an individual has a higher tolerance, they may be able to rid the body of the substance quicker.
More than tolerance and dependency, addiction is a chronic disease and ‘brain disorder.’ Without comprehensive treatment, the condition will continue to worsen. When an individual is an addict, their brain chemistry is altered, and the receptors in the brain begin to crave drugs or alcohol for the individual to keep from feeling withdrawal symptoms.
Tolerance bleeds into addiction when an individual has a high tolerance; they begin to be unable to function without the presence of the substance in their system. This inherently leads to substance abuse and then addiction.
Risks of Developing Drug Tolerance
Several risks come with building up a high drug tolerance. Some of these include:
- Requiring a higher dose to achieve the same relief
- Relapse that can lead to overdose
- Errors in medications due to dose changes and regime alterations
- Addiction is a risk factor, especially in controlled substances such as opioids which can lead an individual to develop substance use disorder (SUD)
- Building up a cross-tolerance, which occurs when one drug/medication simultaneously produces tolerance to another drug/medication
How Tolerance Contributes to Addiction
An individual who is on the path toward addiction will first experience a high tolerance to their drug choice. If you are a chronic drug or alcohol user/abuser, your tolerance level will prevent you from feeling the effects of the substance if you take an amount that is less than your tolerance.
By taking an increasing amount of drugs or alcohol, you send the message to your brain that you need this substance to function. If it is not circulating throughout the body, withdrawal symptoms may begin to set in.
What to Do If You Develop Tolerance to Drugs
If you notice that you or someone you love has developed a tolerance to drugs or other substances of abuse, you must speak to your doctor right away. Doctors can help guide you toward the proper help so you can prevent a spiral into addiction before it begins. Knowing when to seek help due to your tolerance level can be the difference between getting help and leading a sober life or falling into the grips of addiction. Contact WhiteSands Alcohol and Drug Rehab or visit one of our Florida locations to learn more about how tolerance can lead to addiction today.
If you or a loved one needs help with abuse and/or treatment, please call the WhiteSands Treatment at (877) 855-3470. Our addiction specialists can assess your recovery needs and help you get the addiction treatment that provides the best chance for your long-term recovery.