What is Drug Dependence?

What is drug dependence? Learn about the consequences of substance use addiction, as well as relevant symptoms and available treatment options.

What is Drug Dependence?

Drug dependence is a set of physiological changes in the body as a result of consistent and prolonged substance use. When a person experiencing drug dependence proceeds to discontinue their ongoing consumption of their addictive substances, they will experience withdrawal. Withdrawal symptoms can be debilitating, painful, and even potentially life dangerous. It is important to consider professional medical supervision when attempting to undergo withdrawal in the pursuit of sobriety. In a medical facility, they can manage and mitigate the severe effects of corresponding symptoms.
Drug Dependence


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Impact of Drug Dependency

The effects of drug dependence can be severe and can even be life-threatening. Treatment is unique to every situation, dependent on a variety of factors (ranging from the specific substance, the health of the individual, and the length of time dependency has evolved).

What Does Drug Dependency Mean, and How Does it Differ From Addiction?

Drug dependency means that substance use cannot be stopped without the body going through withdrawal symptoms. Addiction is a disease that results from repeated substance use in which individuals are unable to stop despite adverse consequences.
Negative consequences could be legal repercussions, family strain, issues at work, or financial hardship. A drug dependence can impede on a person’s overall health and quality of life, as the drug takes priority over all other aspects of a person’s life, therefore ridding them of self-autonomy.
Additionally, it is important to note that drug dependence and addiction can be experienced simultaneously. 1

Symptoms of Drug Dependence

There are a variety of symptoms to look for if you think you or a loved one is experiencing the pitfalls of drug addiction.

Symptoms of drug dependence can be severe and life-threatening. If you or someone you know displays any of the below detailed symptoms, pursue medical attention immediately.


Anxiety and mood disorders can be both symptoms and/or contributing factors to drug dependence, with approximately twenty percent of Americans with an anxiety disorder or other mental health diagnosis also having an alcohol or substance use disorder. 2


Symptoms of drug dependence and depression can make the symptoms of the other worsen, sometimes with debilitating severity. 2

Muscle Weakness

Skeletal, cardiac, and bodily muscle weakness can be a symptom of drug dependency. Different types of drugs are associated with increased likelihood of muscle weakness and movement disorders. 3


Nightmares, dreams of substance use, and increased cravings can occur in drug dependence. An individual in recovery from alcohol-use may have nightmares about relapsing, or other unpleasant drug-use related dreams. Drug dependency increases the likelihood of experiencing trauma and developing post-traumatic stress disorder, of which nightmares are a common symptom. 4

Body Aches

Withdrawal symptoms may often result in uncomfortable symptoms such as body aches, tremors, and disorientation. 5


Sweating, fatigue, nausea, temperature changes, and insomnia are all symptoms of substance dependence. 5


Severe and possibly life-threatening substance dependence symptoms include vomiting, paranoia, confusion, tremors, and disorientation. 5

Can Medicine Help With Drug Dependence?

Medications are available to treat drug dependence and can help mitigate the risks of substance use and prevent relapse. Scheduling an evaluation with a local substance use professional is the first step for receiving medication-assisted treatment (MAT). 6
Medicine Help for Drug Dependence


MAT is an effective treatment for opioid dependence. Methadone, Buprenorphine, and Naltrexone, are used to treat opiate dependence by reducing cravings, minimizing withdrawal symptoms, and blocking intoxifying effects. Because opiates are dose-dependent, treatments should be prescribed in proportion to the amount of opiates consumed. 7


Cocaine and amphetamines can be highly addictive due to their ability to prevent symptoms caused by withdrawal from other substances. Unfortunately, there is no current medicine to treat stimulant drug dependence. 8


Alcohol and drug dependence is common in the United States. Luckily, Acamprosate, disulfiram, and naltrexone are available treatments. These medicines do not cure alcohol dependence but do increase the likelihood of successful treatment. These medicines can block alcohol’s euphoric effects, create unpleasant side effects if alcohol is consumed, and treat chronic alcoholism. 9


Benzodiazepines are commonly misused while individuals participate in MAT programs for drug dependence. Currently, medication management is not widely available to treat benzodiazepine dependence. 9


Nicotine is the addictive chemical in tobacco and vaping products. Medications used to treat nicotine dependence include Varenicline, Bupropion, and Nicotine Replacement Therapies such as patches and gums. 10

Get Help With Drug Dependence at Concise Recovery

If you have been affected by drug dependence, or have had someone you love show symptoms described above, Concise Recovery is here to help. At Concise Recovery we offer a range of services to assist in all phases of drug dependence treatment. We understand how difficult reaching out can be, which is why at Concise Recovery we seek to make treatment as straightforward and transparent as possible.

Withdrawal treatment, residential inpatient and outpatient programs, sober living, and dependable on-site drug testing facilities are cornerstones of our practice. Our graduated process of intense hands-on support in the beginning of treatment, reduced as patients develop the skills necessary to require less hands-on support, creates a smooth transition from dependence to recovery.

All of this and more is available for you or someone you care about at Concise Recovery. Contact us today to learn more about our services and start your journey with us!