How Tolerance Builds from Drug or Alcohol Use

Using a drug or alcohol can cause changes to the way that the substance impacts the body. Over time, tolerance can build up and an individual may need to take more of the substance to obtain the same effect. By recognizing the way that tolerance builds up, it is easier to determine if it is necessary to seek professional assistance for a substance.

Extended Usage of a Substance

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, tolerance occurs when an individual no longer gets the same impact from the substance after using the drug for a period of time. As a result, the individual needs a larger dosage of the drug to get the same effects on the body and mind.Tolerance will usually build up over a period of time as a direct result of extended use or abuse of the substance. In some cases, tolerance can develop when an individual is taking a prescription medication for legitimate medical reasons.Using a substance for an extended period of time can cause the body to get used to the original dosage and many require a larger amount of the drug to get the same effects. That means that an individual has developed a tolerance to the substance.

Persistent Use of the Substance

Although the primary reason that functional tolerance to a substance can develop is the extended use of the drug, it may also relate to the amount of time that an individual waits between dosages. For example, an individual who uses a drug one time and then does not use it again for several months may not develop a tolerance to the substance. On the other hand, an individual who uses the substance on a daily basis may develop a tolerance to the substance at a fast rate.The duration of substance abuse and the amount of time between dosages are the primary factors that impact the development of a physical tolerance to the substance. Depending on the drug, the way that the body adapts to the substance may vary slightly. Some substances can cause the enzymes to adapt to the drug so that a larger dosage is required to cause an effect on the body, says the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Tolerance vs. Addiction

The National Institutes on Health explain that tolerance to alcohol or other substances can be a factor that helps medical professionals determine if an individual has a risk of health concerns or addiction. Although substance abuse can increase the risk of developing a physical tolerance to the drug, it does not always mean that an addiction will develop.

Tolerance is not an addiction. It simply means that an individual must take a higher dosage of the substance to get the same impact. In some cases, tolerance will apply to drugs that are medically necessary for the health and well-being of an individual.

An addiction occurs when an individual feels the urge to abuse the substance or has a compulsion to use a drug. The University of Rochester says that tolerance can be a sign of physical dependence; however, the university also notes that only about 50 percent of individuals actually develop physical dependence on a drug when they have a tolerance.

When Tolerance Becomes Addiction

Developing a tolerance to a drug or alcohol can increase the risk of developing a physical dependence and addiction to the substance. When you are concerned about a loved one’s increased usage of a substance, it may be time to seek professional assistance and to look for treatment options that are appropriate for the needs of the individual. A tolerance to a substance is a potential warning sign that an individual has a high risk of developing a physical dependence on the substance.

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