man struggles to understand the difference between tolerance, dependence, and addiction

What’s The Difference Between Tolerance, Dependence And Addiction?

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The difference between tolerance, dependence, and addiction can be hard to spot. It doesn’t take long to cross the threshold from one to the other, and all can be dangerous. Struggling with substances like drugs or alcohol can result in drastic life changes, and change the course of someone’s life quickly. Getting proper help and support as an individual decides to end the consumption of these substances is crucial to recovery.

Defining a Drug or Alcohol Tolerance

Chronically using substances can lead to building a tolerance. This means that drugs or alcohol don’t have the same effects they once did. Where it once took one drink or one pill to achieve a desired effect, the continued use of these substances has caused the body to tolerate that dose and requires more of the substance to feel the way someone once felt. 

Defining a Drug or Alcohol Dependence

Continued chronic use of these substances can result in dependence. This means that a person’s body begins to need, or rely on, the substance. While tolerance focuses on the amount being consumed, dependence focuses on the physical effects the body experiences without the substances.

If someone were to abruptly end the use and consumption of drugs and alcohol, it could result in withdrawal symptoms. Dependence leads to addiction.

Defining a Drug or Alcohol Addiction

To define addiction, one must understand how it affects the lives of individuals that are struggling. Addiction is a long-term behavioral condition that affects the physical, emotional, and social well-being of an individual. Not only is the body dependent on drugs and alcohol, the mental effects have taken over, and using these substances becomes all that a person wants. These mental cravings lead a person to behaviors and risks they wouldn’t normally take. They could begin stealing, lying, and harming those individuals around them who mean something to them.

The difference between tolerance, dependence, and addiction can be seen in these behaviors that could arise as a result of addiction.

Signs of Drug or Alcohol Tolerance

The signs to look out for when someone could be building a tolerance can include needing more than before in order to feel the effects they are looking for. This could mean using more than one substance, more of the substance, or drinking excessively in order to feel a little bit of a change. It can be a sign of bigger problems to come if this tolerance is not addressed.

Signs of Drug or Alcohol Dependence

Signs of drug or alcohol dependence can include someone needing the substance in order to function normally. They may not have behavioral changes as of yet that could be indicative of addiction.

However, it may seem as though they need drugs or alcohol in order to function on a daily basis. They have to consume the substances in order to go about daily activities. Without the substance, they may begin to feel uncomfortable and excruciating symptoms if they don’t have drugs or alcohol, or if they try to go without it.

The difference between tolerance, dependence, and addiction can drastically change from tolerance and dependence to addiction.

Signs of Drug or Alcohol Addiction

Addiction to drugs can be dangerous. The sign of drug or alcohol addiction can be pretty easily spotted. At this point, a person cannot go a day, or sometimes even an hour without using the substance. They have mental cravings and physical dependence to use drugs and alcohol, and tolerance continues to build. It can be dangerous and lead to severe complications such as overdose and alcohol poisoning.

Getting proper help and support to overcome is crucial to survival.


The difference between tolerance, dependence, and addiction can be drastic. Getting help as soon as possible can ensure someone’s safety and health. Addiction is dangerous and often leads to fatality. Both drugs and alcohol can lead to fatal results. Getting help is crucial.

Detox is essential to removing the substances from the body, safely. The symptoms of drug and alcohol detox can be life-threatening. Having proper medical supervision and support is vital to ensuring safety as someone begins the process of a life of recovery.

Treatment for addiction can help a person learn new and positive coping skills. Instead of turning to drugs and alcohol as a means of coping, someone can begin using these positive and healthy skills to get through times when they would normally turn to drugs and alcohol as a means of coping. Getting help can be life-changing and make the process of recovery smoother.

Getting Better

Struggling with drugs and alcohol can be a life-altering challenge. Leading to broken relationships, trust, and loss of control, tolerance, dependence, and addiction can all be dangerous results of substance abuse. If you or a loved one are struggling with drugs or alcohol, there is help available. At Ocean Hills, we offer help to those who are struggling. We strive to provide a healing and safe environment for individuals to begin living a normal life again.

Contact us today and begin your healing process. 

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