It is a common misconception that drug tolerance, dependence, and addiction describe the same condition. These terms refer to how drugs or alcohol affect a person’s body and brain. Knowing the difference between tolerance, dependence, and addiction can help individuals find the help they need to achieve long-term recovery.

At Fort Behavioral Health, our therapists and addiction specialists provide various recovery options, including our substance abuse treatment program. If you are struggling with substance use, we can help you recover, no matter the severity of the issue. Call 844.332.1807 today to learn how we can help you change your life.

What Is Drug Tolerance?

First, it is crucial to understand the differences between drug tolerance, dependence, and addiction. Tolerance occurs when a person’s physical response to a substance, such as drugs or alcohol, lessens over time. Therefore, achieving the same effects requires higher or more frequent doses. Over time, people build a tolerance while searching for the high they once got.

Tolerance differs between substances and falls into short-term, long-term, and learned categories. For example, cocaine tolerance occurs over short periods, whereas tolerance to prescription drugs usually develops over long periods. Learned tolerance results from frequent exposure to substances like alcohol. For instance, people who use alcohol for extended periods may not appear or even feel intoxicated yet still have a high tolerance.

What’s the Difference Between Dependence and Addiction?

Though often used interchangeably, dependence and addiction have several critical differences.


Dependence occurs when a person stops using drugs or alcohol and goes through withdrawal. It’s essential to note that a person who experiences dependence and withdrawal is not necessarily addicted to a substance.

Withdrawal symptoms vary in severity, but many people experience physical and psychological changes. Common physical signs include:

  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Tremors
  • Sweating
  • Dizziness
  • Chest pain
  • Heart palpitations
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Loss of appetite

Psychological symptoms of withdrawal may include:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Agitation

Weaning, or gradually quitting the substance, is an effective way to avoid withdrawal symptoms. Medical detox can provide a safe, comfortable environment for individuals to purge toxins in drugs and alcohol from their bodies under the supervision of clinicians.


Tolerance, dependence, and addiction occur due to repeatedly taking substances. However, addiction, also known as substance use disorder, occurs when a person continues using drugs or alcohol and cannot stop despite the negative impacts it causes in all aspects of their life, including school, work, and home.

Although addiction symptoms vary depending on the substance, there are common effects. Drug and alcohol addiction symptoms can include changes in behavior, such as recklessly engaging in risky activities or neglecting responsibilities. Addiction can also lead to physical changes like loss of appetite, weight fluctuations, and severe fatigue. Other common signs of drug and alcohol use disorders include:

  • Sudden changes in mood or personality
  • Increased isolation from family and friends
  • Slurred speech
  • Erratic sleep patterns
  • Frequent intoxication
  • Hangovers
  • Financial problems due to substance-related spending habits
  • Withdrawal symptoms such as headaches and restlessness when not using substances
  • Legal issues related to drug possession or driving under the influence (DUI)

If you or a loved one is in a cycle of addiction, comprehensive professional care in a substance abuse treatment program can help.

Begin the Road to Recovery at Fort Behavioral Health

If you or a loved one is struggling with a substance use disorder, Fort Behavioral Health in Fort Worth is here to help you recover. Our personalized treatment programs get to the root of the issue, and our caring team of professionals will guide clients through every step of their journey. Don’t wait any longer – call us today at 844.332.1807 or visit us online to get on the path to wellness.


Get Help Today!

You don’t have to face the journey of recovery by yourself. There are people out there ready to help with what you’re going through. Reach out to someone for support today.

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