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Chemical Dependency

The term chemical dependency is used to describe any addiction and prolonged abuse of a substance including alcohol, nicotine, and narcotics (both amphetamines or ‘uppers’ and barbiturates or ‘downers’). Dependency to a chemical substance can stem from either a physical or psychological need and desire to continue abusing the substance. To understand dependency it it necessary to first look at substance abuse in general.

Substance abuse is medical term used to indicate the use of a substance, legal or illegal, which impacts or negatively affects an aspect or aspects of an individual’s life, including attendance/performance at work or school, damage to interpersonal relationships (with family and friends), and the individual’s health and well-being, either physically or psychological. There are no definitive answers to what can cause an addiction to and dependence on a chemical substance but many cite social and peer pressure, genetic predisposition and psychiatric illness as some of the main influencing factors.

Chemical dependency develops with the physical or psychological addiction to a substance. Continued and repetitive abuse of that substance leads the the body’s ability to tolerate increased doses of the substance, thus requiring larger doses in order to achieve and experience the effects of the substance. Dependence on chemical substances is a very serious problem and should not be taken lightly, by the abuser or by those around them. Early detection and treatment are essential to effective and continued rehabilitation and detoxification from the substance. A major sign of chemical dependency is, according to John Hopkins Health Library, the continued abuse of a substance, “even when significant problems related to their use have developed”. Additional indicators to substance abuse and dependence include decreased social activity, changes in behavior and difficulties in attempting to decrease or limit the intake of the particular substance.

Withdrawal Symptoms can occur when the individual does not increase the dosage of the substance as their tolerance rises or eliminating the administration of the substance altogether (going ‘cold-turkey’) . Withdrawal can lead to temporary sicknesses including nausea, fever symptoms, hallucinations, and elevated blood pressure. Detoxification from a substance can be a difficult and often-times hazardous experience for the individual and should not be treated without the assistance of professionally trained medical personnel. Detoxification does not simply require a physical detachment from the substance, but a system of therapy and support groups in order to ensure full and continued rehabilitation.

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