Why is Building a Tolerance Dangerous?
Posted on 06/07/19: Addiction Treatment
If you or a loved one is suffering from an addiction or is abusing drugs, you may have heard the term tolerance being tossed around. If you are unsure about what tolerance means or how an increased tolerance can be dangerous, becoming informed can help you better understand addiction.
Although addiction and tolerance are not synonymous, they are related. Drug abuse is a serious matter and should be handled accordingly. If you or a loved one is abusing drugs and you fear they may be suffering from an addiction, seek help immediately. The first step toward recovery will lead you down a happier and healthier path.
What is Tolerance?
Drugs can affect a person’s body in different ways. The same drug may even present different effects on different people. Tolerance is not the same as dependence or addiction. A person who develops a drug tolerance will no longer receive the same effect that the drug provided them. This is because parts of the body, primarily the brain, have become used to the dose.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, drug tolerance is when an organism no longer responds to a drug. The sense of euphoria the brain once felt when using drugs is no longer present. It will usually develop over a period of time, causing the person to seek more of the drug to achieve the same effects they felt prior.
For example, someone may have felt the effects of alcohol after two drinks. Over time, they find they need to drink more in a shorter amount of time to feel the same effects. When a person ceases use of a drug, tolerance levels will revert back to normal. But again, the time frame is dependent on the person.
It is important to note that by itself it is not defined as a health problem, but it can lead to dangerous consequences. People who are taking prescription medication, such as those for pain relief, can find that their tolerance levels have started to rise after a period of time. Those who are experiencing this should seek the help of their primary doctor who will be able to adjust their medication.
Types of Tolerance
There are two main types of tolerance and two ways they can potentially develop. These are acute, chronic, behavioral and physical respectively. Keep in mind that each person’s body may react differently. Acute tolerance may occur in someone who has drugs entering their body in a short amount of time very frequently. Chronic tolerance can occur when someone has drugs entering their body over a long period of time. This extended exposure is often constant and can be over weeks or months.
Tolerance can develop by being behavioral, which is also sometimes called learned tolerance. This is when a person may become accustomed to the setting where a certain drug is, such as drinking coffee at work. This behavior leads to someone drinking caffeine every morning and perhaps associated mood improvement with the caffeine, although the coffee may actually not be causing those feelings. Behavioral tolerance can also fall in line with the placebo effect. A person may believe that a certain drug will make them feel a certain way. They believe this so strongly that they tend to feel that way even if that’s not how it is affecting them.
Physical tolerance is much different and occurs at the cellular level of the body. As drugs enter the body, your bodily processes are working to remove the toxins. As your body grows accustomed to the presence of the toxins, it begins to adjust. This adjustment happens by your body increasing how fast it can break down the drug. Your brain may become desensitized to the effects of the drug. This will make the person feel like they need more and more of the drug to achieve the same effects as before. Larger and larger doses will be needed, as long as the tolerance continues to rise.
Why is Tolerance so Dangerous?
All drugs can react differently, depending on the individual. No two bodies will react the exact same way to a specific drug. It is important not to assume that your body will react the same as someone you know. Many drugs can cause tolerance, even those that help treat ailments. As tolerance develops, the risk of overdose significantly decreases. This is because although certain areas of your body may seem like they are able to keep up, others are drastically falling behind and even suffering damage.
A person may be unaware of this ill-effects due to the euphoric feelings they are still experiencing. A phenomenon that can also occur is called cross-tolerance. This usually happens to the body in regards to drugs from the same category, such as depressants. People who hop from drug to drug, trying to achieve the high feeling they used to experience, may accidentally take a higher dose than what their body can handle. This can lead to overdose and even death.
How is Tolerance Different Than Addiction?
Addiction and tolerance are not the same things. Addiction is a chronic brain disease. It can result from the continued use of drugs or alcohol. They still engage in this behavior, despite negative consequences that may happen in their lives. Heightened tolerance can lead to addiction. If someone is experiencing elevated tolerance, they should still consult their primary doctor. If drug abuse is involved, professional medical help should be sought. Detox may be suggested.
If you or a loved one is suffering from drug abuse or addiction, do not wait to get help. The sooner you start the road to recovery, the more manageable and enjoyable your life will become. Individualized care that features custom plans is often the most successful.
If you or someone you know needs help with addiction, contact Sober Living of AZ now to get the help you need. Sober Living offers an acclaimed recovery environment that merges upscale and luxury accommodations with affordability, clinical expertise and an unwavering commitment to patient care and aftercare. Call us now at 602-737-2458.