Physical Dependency

Figure 4 shows how alcohol and drugs are able to “short-circuit” the body’s survival system. By artificially stimulating the brain’s reward center, the body feels the benefits despite anything beneficial actually occurring. This dependence leads to increased confidence in the addictive substance, and less confidence in the normal rewards of life.

How does alcohol dependence or drug dependence develop?

Dependence first happens on a physical level, and then, psychologically. Confidence in the addictive substance replaces other survival feelings. People, places, and activities involved with using alcohol or drugs become more important, while those that worked through the body’s normal reward system, before using the addictive substance, become less important. Eventually, the individual will resent those things that do not fit in with alcohol or drug use. This is physical dependence.

The Cycle of Abuse

Early in the cycle of abuse, the addictive substance leaves small pleasure impressions in the memory (see Figure 4). As the natural chemistry becomes increasingly suppressed, the survival mechanism receives a greater feeling of pleasure from the substance, and the addicted individual feels, “I needed that.” The subconscious memory learns through the body that the substance is not only pleasurable, but also something that is needed just to make it through the day. This is psychological dependence.