There are many different factors that can contribute to the development of a drug or alcohol addiction. When various risk factors combine, individuals can develop a chemical dependence on a substance. Take a closer look at what a chemical dependency is, how it develops, how to recognize it and how to treat it.

What is Chemical Dependency?

Man on beach wall looking over water at chemical dependency rehabChemical dependency is a condition where a person is dependent upon a mood-altering substance. While it is possible for people to become addicted to behaviors like gambling, sex or shopping, a chemical dependence involves the consumption of a substance. Typically, it means drug or alcohol addiction.

A chemical dependence on a substance means that using that substance is not a choice or a decision. Instead, it is a physical response to the dependency. As humans, we can’t choose to stop breathing or inhaling oxygen, at least not without consequences. If you’re chemically dependent on drugs or alcohol, the chemical need might feel the same way.

How Does a Chemical Dependence Develop?

A chemical dependence can develop slowly over years, but it can also appear seemingly overnight. In most cases, this reliance begins with substance abuse. When a person abuses substances like drugs or alcohol over time, it changes the chemistry of the brain.

Drug consumption can also drastically change the hormones in the brain. It can increase dopamine consumption as well as serotonin levels. Drugs and alcohol use can stimulate the opioid receptors in the brain, leading to that rush of pleasure or euphoria.

Eventually, the brain thinks of substance abuse as the new normal. If you cut back on drug or alcohol use, the brain registers a problem. You might feel ill or irritable, and that continues until you use the substance again. Once this happens, you’re chemically dependent on the drug.

Of course, substance abuse doesn’t develop out of thin air. At the root of chemical dependency, there is often an underlying issue that also needs treatment. If a person struggles with anxiety and panic disorders, for example, then substance abuse is a response to that. To treat the chemical dependence for a lifetime, addressing the underlying issue is critical.

How Can You Spot a Dependency Issue?

Recognizing that someone you love is chemically dependent on a substance can be tough to recognize. It can even be hard to see it in yourself. To start, think about whether you could stop consumption of the substance in question. If the thought scares you, or if you’ve tried and failed in the past, then a chemical dependence is likely.

Another way to spot a dependency is to think about the consequences of use. When a person uses heroin despite the high costs, losing touch with family and becoming homeless, it is easy to see that heroin use is not a choice. It is a chemical dependence that is leading the person to continue to use the drug. Substance abuse despite adverse side effects often indicates a chemical dependency.

Can a Chemical Dependence be Treated?

The treatment of chemical dependency involves good news and bad news. The good news is that treatment is possible and that sobriety can be lifelong. The bad news is that the chemical problem might remain for a lifetime. That means if you’re chemically dependent on a drug, you can’t ever use it in moderation again.

Moderate use would reignite the problem, leading to a slippery slope of substance abuse. That’s why an alcoholic can’t go back to socially drinking alcohol. Doing so would be incredibly risky, and it would almost certainly lead to an eventual relapse.

Overcoming Addiction at Ocean Recovery

If you’re struggling with chemical dependency, professional substance abuse treatment is the highly recommended way out. At Ocean Recovery, opiate addiction treatment, or any other type of treatment, can combat addiction. By breaking free from the chemical, emotional and behavioral bonds of addiction, clients can recover. Treatment methods for recovery can include the following:

Chemical dependency leads straight to addiction. Help is available. At Ocean Recovery in Newport Beach, California, rehab programs pave the way to sobriety. Learn more about recovery with us by calling 800-641-2388.