What Is the Difference Between Drug Tolerance and Addiction?

The Recovery Village RidgefieldRehab

Person sitting down with a pill dispenser.

Drug tolerance is different from drug addiction, although there is a slippery slope between the two. However, of these two human challenges, drug addiction is a far more costly occurrence.

This article explains the difference between drug tolerance and drug addiction. Are the two related? How can a person discern whether he or she has developed a tolerance to a drug or an addiction to it? If addiction is suspected, where can you go for help?

Drug Addiction in Washington State: Tolerance vs. Addiction

Chronic pain is a huge problem in the United States. The National Institute of Health says nearly 50 million Americans suffer from severe or chronic pain. Unfortunately, many of the medications that currently treat pain are highly addictive. While you may see the word “tolerance” in relation to these drugs, in fact, the medical definition of tolerance is much different than addiction.

WebMD explains that drug tolerance is when the body adapts to a medication so that more and more of the drug is needed to achieve the same effect. This can happen without a person becoming addicted to a drug.

However, tolerance can sometimes trigger an addiction to a medication or a drug. WebMD defines addiction as a physical and psychological response to consuming narcotic pain medications. People who take a class of drugs called opioids for a long period of time may develop tolerance and even physical dependence. This does not mean, however, that a person is addicted.

Black and white triangle shaped sign Slippery Slope.

Tolerance is a slippery slope that can lead to addiction over time.

How Addiction Differs from Tolerance or Dependence

Addiction is a clinical disease. It is a behavioral and physical disorder tied to the brain’s function. When a person feels compelled to take an illegal drug or a prescription medication despite the negative ramifications on their life and health, they may have spiraled into addiction. Medically, addiction occurs when the body goes through withdrawal, which is a mental and physical symptom of stopping the medication or drug.

Understanding tolerance vs. addiction is important; however, both symptoms require further discussion with a doctor. In the case of tolerance, talk with your clinician about how the drug is no longer managing your chronic pain and try to determine f there is an alternative set of treatments that can achieve a better effect. In the case of addiction, there are Washington State addiction treatment facilities standing by to help you get your life back. In both cases, medical intervention is necessary.

Washington State Addiction Treatment

The first step toward understanding whether you are experiencing drug tolerance or drug addiction is to talk with someone who understands addiction. One of our compassionate addiction treatment professionals can help you determine if you need addiction treatment. If your tolerance and dependence on a drug have led to addiction, Washington State addiction treatment facilities offer a way to regain control of your life while learning to cope with the symptoms and triggers of addiction. To learn more about admissions,  contact us today.