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The Difference Between Psychological, Physiological Dependence and Addiction

In summary, animal research has demonstrated that midbrain DA A10 neurons and several modulatory neurochemical access points, including GABAA, 5-HT3, nACh, and glycine receptors, play an essential role in the acquisition of primary alcohol reinforcement processes. Thus mesolimbic DA activation is a property of ethanol and may possibly mediate its reinforcing effects. Whether DA also plays a role in mediating hedonic aspects of alcohol intake is not known. However, the endocannabinoid and endogenous opioid systems may well serve as neurochemical substrates involved in the mediation of these positive mood states. While some people can safely treat symptoms of physical dependence at home , many individuals find that treating psychological dependence to drugs or alcohol is most effective while done under the care of mental health professionals and addiction specialists. As the symptoms of psychological dependence vary amongst individuals, choosing a recovery facility that focuses on personalized care may be crucial to maintaining long-term sobriety. It has been postulated that naltrexone may blunt the rewarding effects of alcohol, whereas acamprosate may attenuate adaptive changes during abstinence that favor relapse (Heilig and Egli 2006; Litten et al. 2005). Finally, a history of multiple withdrawal experiences can exacerbate cognitive deficits and disruption of sleep during withdrawal (Borlikova et al. 2006; Stephens et al. 2005; Veatch 2006). The relationship between high alcohol intake and a depressive-like state has been studied in alcohol-preferring rat lines; however, results have been inconsistent. Some studies indicate a positive correlation between high alcohol intake and a depressive-like state, whereas others do not .

Schuckit MA, Klein JL. Correlations between drinking intensity and reactions to ethanol and diazepam in healthy young men. Rimondini R, Sommer WH, Dall’Olio R, Heilig M. Long-lasting tolerance to alcohol following a history of dependence. Becker HC. Positive relationship between the number of prior ethanol withdrawal episodes and the severity of subsequent withdrawal seizures. They have a Bachelor’s degree in Teaching Students with Learning Disabilities and Emotional Impairments from Western Michigan University. DisclaimerAll content on this website, including dictionary, thesaurus, literature, geography, and other reference data is for informational purposes only. This information should not be considered complete, up to date, and is not intended to be used in place of a visit, consultation, or advice of a legal, medical, or any other professional.

Detoxification Overcomes Withdrawal Symptoms

Occasionally a small dose of a benzodiazepine (e.g., 0.5–1.0 mg of lorazepam) or of methadone (with its longer half-life) may be necessary to settle the feeling of slight uneasiness or restlessness that accompanies a rapid tapering process. If restlessness or agitation is anything more than very mild, the rate of tapering should be slowed. Knowing the stance of the American Psychiatric Association, can we still assume there is a difference between psychological and physical addiction? Absolutely, but the distinction all depends on the particular experiences of the person struggling with a substance use disorder. In summary, the DSM-V incorporates elements of both psychological and physical addiction into the diagnosis of a substance use disorder and does not prioritize one over the other. 520 Wand G, Levine M, Zweifel L, Schwindinger W, Abel T. The cAMP-protein kinase A signal transduction pathway modulates ethanol consumption and sedative effects of ethanol. 517 Volpicelli JR, Alterman AI, Hayashida M, O’Brien CP. Naltrexone in the treatment of alcohol dependence. 491 Thiele TE, Willis B, Stadler J, Reynolds JG, Bernstein IL, McKnight GS. High ethanol consumption and low sensitivity to ethanol-induced sedation in protein kinase A-mutant mice.

Methionine synthase depends on vitamin B12 and uses methyl-5,6,7,8-tetrahydrofolate for transmethylation. Acetaldehyde, the first product generated in alcohol metabolism, is produced not only in the liver but can also be produced in the brain by the enzyme catalase after alcohol exposure . Acetaldehyde-mediated inhibition of methionine synthase might be one pathological mechanism leading to enhanced homocysteine levels following chronic alcohol intake, a condition called hyperhomocysteinemia. It is able to transfer methyl groups to cytosine residues in the dinucleotide sequence “CpG” of genomic DNA. CpG islands are genomic regions that contain a Sober House high frequency of CG dinucleotides. The “p” in CpG notation refers to the phosphodiester bond between the cytidine and the guanosine. In mammalian genomes, CpG islands are typically 300–3,000 base pairs in length. They are in and near ∼40% of promoters of mammalian genes (∼70% in human promoters) . CpG sequences are spread throughout the genome and are usually heavily methylated, whereas those occurring in CpG islands in the promoter regions of genes are less methylated. In the majority of cases, inactive genes are more heavily methylated than active ones , the reason being that methyl groups reduce DNA-binding capacity of transcription factors.

Using Narcotics to Cope With Life’s Problems

There are also medications that can help reduce the symptoms as well as cravings for opiates. By getting the help of a qualified addiction treatment center, you’ll be in good hands when you detox. At a treatment facility, you can have peace of mind knowing that you’re safe. You’ll have medical staff available to you at all times to can help minimize your symptoms. For example, somebody who drinks a few drinks every day for years will almost certainly develop a physical alcohol addiction. They might experience shakes, heart palpitations, and anxiety if they were to stop suddenly.

  • When someone uses narcotics to cope with life’s problems, it is a symptom of psychological dependence rather than physical dependence.
  • The increase in the chemicals in the brain responsible for feeling happy and good about oneself temporarily replaces the negative emotional feelings.
  • 430 Schubert F, Gallinat J, Seifert F, Rinneberg H. Glutamate concentrations in human brain using single voxel proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy at 3 Tesla.
  • The addiction impacts the whole person, so the person needs healing in all aspects.
  • Lower haplotype-driven NPY expression predicted higher stress-induced activation of the amygdala.
  • Addiction is a central condition that is characterized by unmanageable cravings, an inability to control drug use, compulsive drug use, and use despite inflicting harm on oneself or others.

Early addiction theories included the “tolerance-withdrawal theory”, which identified the desire to avoid withdrawal symptoms as the cause of addiction. However, some drugs have limited withdrawal symptoms but are still highly addictive, and some addicts relapse long after their physical symptoms have passed. Physical dependence describes changes to the body that could be measured in a medical lab test, as a result of addiction. Seizures, rapid heart rate, and measurable changes to serotonin or endorphin levels might be symptoms of physical dependence. Role of alpha-2 adrenoceptors in stress-induced reinstatement of alcohol seeking and alcohol self-administration in rats.


If someone is experiencing any of these symptoms, they have likely become psychologically addicted to a substance. Lastly, meeting two of the eleven criteria will result in a substance use disorder diagnosis. 519 Wallner M, Hanchar HJ, Olsen RW. Ethanol enhances alpha 4 beta 3 delta and alpha 6 beta 3 delta gamma-aminobutyric acid type A receptors at low concentrations known to affect humans. 510 Vengeliene V, Vollmayer B, Henn FA, Spanagel R. Alcohol self-administration in two rat lines selectively bred for helplessness and non-helplessness behavior. 492 Thorberg FA, Lyvers M. Negative mood regulation expectancies, mood, and affect intensity among clients in substance disorder treatment facilities. 480 Sumner BE, Cruise LA, Slattery DA, Hill DR, Shahid M, Henry B. Testing the validity of c-fos expression profiling to aid the therapeutic classification of psychoactive drugs. 459 Spanagel R, Herz A, Shippenberg TS. Opposing tonically active endogenous opioid systems modulate the mesolimbic dopaminergic pathway.

Blockade of 5-HT3 receptors, therefore, selectively prevents both ethanol-induced DA release in the NAC and the somatodentritic release of DA in the VTA . Finally, glycine receptors also modulate the DA release properties of A10 neurons since they are a primary target of ethanol. Thus reversed microdialysis of the competitive glycine receptor antagonist strychnine into the NAC decreases accumbal extracellular DA levels, whereas reversed microdialysis of the agonist glycine increases DA levels in the NAC . Furthermore, local perfusion of strychnine not only decreases accumbal DA levels per se, but also completely prevents an increase in accumbal DA levels following administration of ethanol . Thus ethanol inhibits dihydropyridine-sensitive L-type Ca2+ channels, and single-channel recordings suggest that the effects of ethanol on gating are consistent with the interaction of a single drug molecule with a single target site, possibly the L-channel itself . In addition, ethanol opens G protein-activated inwardly rectifying K+ channels .

How does it compare to physical dependence?

Such a sex difference is also seen in other species such as mice and monkeys . At first glance, this appears to be in stark contrast to observations in humans, since epidemiological and clinical studies demonstrate that women consume less alcohol than men. However, we have recently reported that if alcohol intake in humans were to be calculated on a g/kg basis instead of the number of drinks consumed, consumption in females would be much the same or even more compared with that in males . Contrasting sex differences in humans and animals are mainly related to social barriers in different populations and to an artifact in calculating exact alcohol intake. The reasons for sex differences in alcohol consumption are still poorly understood. However, it is obvious that intrinsic sex differences in brain physiological dependence on alcohol organization and the actions of circulating gonadal steroids may contribute to the enhanced voluntary alcohol intake observed in female animals . The most promising approach, however, is the in vivo mapping of functional connectivity in neurotransmitter systems using phMRI. Schwarz and colleagues have pioneered the application of functional connectivity studies to pharmacological challenges. In their studies, analysis of the phMRI responses to various drugs revealed specific structures for functionally connected brain regions that closely reflect known pathways in the neurotransmitter systems targeted by these drugs . These studies therefore demonstrate that the hemodynamic responses observed following a pharmacological challenge are closely related to drug-specific changes in neurotransmission.

Therapists may use a variety of approaches to help you address past wounds and maintain sobriety by learning healthier ways to think about yourself and deal with triggers. Common addiction therapy approaches include cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavior therapy, and acceptance and commitment therapy. You’ll learn relapse prevention skills to help you resist urges and cravings and build a supportive network of sober peers. Most people must start their repair process by acknowledging that they have developed a dependence on drugs or alcohol. Once you’ve realized that you need tools and guidance, choosing a treatment program that provides what you need will get the recovery process underway.

Treating Addiction

You may have some underlying issues that prompted you to first use drugs or alcohol. It can help you address and manage recovery as you discover different ways to handle challenging emotions, stress, or social events that may act as a trigger to begin using drugs or alcohol. You learn to become aware of these moments and how to change negative feelings, thoughts, or behaviors that haven’t served you well in the past. This is one of the reasons that addiction is classified as a chronic disease. Although it can be managed and treated, like other chronic health conditions, at this time there is no “cure” for addiction. In order for addiction treatment to be effective, patients must receive treatment for their physical and psychological symptoms. By attending a residential rehab program, you will be able to confront your addiction, learn how to manage your symptoms, and gain life-long support that will be there for you throughout your sobriety. Sana Lake Recovery Center is a Joint Commission Accredited addiction treatment program. We offer a safe and trustworthy facility for people struggling with substance abuse.
physiological dependence on alcohol