By definition, dependence is made up of three types of symptoms: cognitive, behavioral and physiological. With repeated use, a person may develop tolerance to the drug, withdrawal symptoms and compulsive use. For dependent users, getting and using the drug becomes more and more important — even if they want to cut back or stop, of if they suffer negative consequences because of their use.
Weighing the benefits and risks of alcohol use is a balancing act. You may read one article about the heart benefits of a glass of red wine. Then, you read another article claiming too much alcohol increases your risk of cancer. For most adults, drinking small amounts of alcohol is safe. Moderate to heavy drinking, however, can increase your risk for both physical and mental health conditions, as well as social problems.
Be aware of your drinking habits. At-risk drinking increases your health risks and can, over a period of time, lead to alcohol dependence. Talk to your doctor about consumption of alcohol with medications. Alcohol can increase the effects of certain medications. It can also create adverse side effects when combined with medications.
People can become dependent on or addicted to many different types of drugs, including alcohol, tobacco, pain pills and sedatives. Addiction is a complex brain disease that develops over time and is characterized by:
Drug dependence may result in significant and potentially life-threatening withdrawal symptoms. Experimenting with any drugs is dangerous, especially for children and adolescents. For example, people who use nicotine during their teen years are more likely to use other illegal drugs later on.
Just because a drug is legal does not mean it is safe to use. Even a legal medication prescribed by your doctor can become a problem if over-used or abused. This is the fastest growing area of drug abuse, especially for teenagers. If your doctor prescribes a medication that could lead to dependence, take the medication exactly as prescribed. Tell your doctor right away if you feel the need to take more than prescribed.
If you or someone you know has a problem with alcohol or substance abuse, help is available. You can start by: