Substance Dependence

Drug dependence and drug abuse differ in several key aspects. Firstly, dependence is characterised by measurable tolerance and withdrawal phases, unlike abuse, which may only lead to these conditions. Abuse is indicated by early signs that suggest potential for physical and psychological dependence, such as life disruptions that could predict more severe addiction issues. For example, adults caught driving under the influence may worry about the dangers of their drinking habits, including the risk of causing deadly accidents. Secondly, individuals with drug dependence typically experience significant cognitive, behavioral and psychomotor slowdowns in their everyday lives.

In contrast, those who abuse drugs might not show clear signs of these impairments, managing to maintain their job performance, vehicle operation and family relationships relatively normally. Finally, withdrawal symptoms are specific to drug dependence. Those who abuse drugs tend to use substances episodically with varying consumption levels, meaning they can often avoid the severe cognitive and physical effects associated with sudden cessation, experiencing mild or no withdrawal symptoms.

Substance dependence or drug dependence, is a biopsychological condition where an individual relies on the continual consumption of a psychoactive substance to function normally, due to an adaptive state from ongoing use causing withdrawal symptoms without it. This is distinct from drug addiction, which is compulsive drug use despite negative consequences. Substance dependence involves the development of tolerance, requiring more of the substance for the same ‘high’ and leading to potential overdose risks. Historically, substances like alcohol and opium have been used and abused with the understanding and treatment of dependence evolving over time.

What Are The Most Common Drugs That Cause Dependence?

Among the substances commonly used, there are distinct categories based on their effects on the human body. Depressants, such as alcohol and certain medications like benzodiazepines (including Valium, Xanax and Ativan), barbiturates, chloral hydrate and paraldehyde, primarily serve to lower anxiety levels and induce sleep. In contrast, stimulants like cocaine, amphetamines and specific medications prescribed for ADHD (e.g., Ritalin) activate the central nervous system, enhancing alertness and energy. Hallucinogens, including LSD, psilocybin (also known as magic mushrooms), mescaline and PCP (or angel dust), are known for causing profound changes in perception, leading to visual and auditory hallucinations. Opiates and narcotics, which range from heroin and opium to prescription painkillers such as Vicodin and morphine, act as potent pain relievers while also inducing drowsiness and feelings of euphoria. Lastly, marijuana is recognised for its ability to induce relaxation, happiness and a general sense of well-being, distinguishing itself as another commonly used substance.

What is Prescription Drug Dependence?

Can range from using medication prescribed for someone else to alleviate personal pain, to altering pills for recreational use through snorting or injection. Such dependence can evolve into a persistent and uncontrollable habit, despite the negative outcomes it may lead to. Prescription drug dependence is an escalating issue affecting various age groups, including teenagers. The medications most commonly associated with dependence include opioid analgesics, anti-anxiety drugs, sedatives and stimulants. Early recognition and intervention of prescription drug misuse are crucial in preventing it from developing into an addiction. The substances most frequently misused due to their psychoactive properties include opioids like oxycodone and hydrocodone, anti-anxiety medications and sedatives such as alprazolam, diazepam and zolpidem, alongside stimulants prescribed for ADHD and certain sleep disorders, such as methylphenidate and dextroamphetamine.

Previously termed “addiction,” the current term “substance dependence” was adopted in the DSM-IV to focus on diagnostic criteria rather than labeling individuals. Signs of substance dependence include increased tolerance, withdrawal symptoms, significant time spent in obtaining and recovering from the drug, withdrawal from social activities and continued use despite awareness of harmful consequences. Common substances associated with this disorder include alcohol, marijuana, prescription medicines, methamphetamine, cocaine, opiates, hallucinogens and inhalants. Substance use disorder is influenced by a complex interplay of genetic, environmental, societal, personality and psychiatric factors with the primary influence varying from person to person.

Rehabs in other cities of South Africa.

What is Substance Dependence? Get Addiction Help Now

Substance dependence is characterised by measurable tolerance and withdrawal phases, unlike abuse, which may only lead to these conditions. Get help from qualified counsellors.

  • Covered by Medical Aid
  • Select, Private Clinics & Rehabs
  • Exclusive Facilities, Tailored Treatment Plan


    Founded in 2008, WeDoRecover has evolved from an advisory service for addiction treatment into a comprehensive provider of care, following its 2019 merger with Changes Addiction Rehab in Johannesburg. Specialising in connecting patients to top-tier addiction treatment centers in the UK, South Africa and Thailand, WeDoRecover supports individuals globally, including those from the United Arab Emirates and Europe. Accepting both South African medical aid and international health insurance our organisation facilitates access to high-quality treatment for substance and alcohol use disorders, offering individualised care that addresses the physical, mental and social needs of patients.

    Our team, led by Gareth Carter, offers empathetic and professional support, guiding you through every step of the treatment process. Whether you're in South Africa or abroad, our acceptance of various insurance plans makes quality care accessible, providing a platform for lasting recovery and a healthier future.

    Inpatient Rehab

    Rehab care is a good option if you are at risk of experiencing strong withdrawal symptoms when you try stop a substance. This option would also be recommended if you have experienced recurrent relapses or if you have tried a less-intensive treatment without success.


    If you're committed to your sobriety but cannot take a break from your daily duties for an inpatient program. Outpatient rehab treatment might suit you well if you are looking for a less restricted format for addiction treatment or simply need help with mental health.


    Therapy can be good step towards healing and self-discovery. If you need support without disrupting your routine, therapy offers a flexible solution for anyone wishing to enhance their mental well-being or work through personal issues in a supportive, confidential environment.

    Mental Health

    Are you having persistent feelings of being swamped, sad or have sudden surges of anger or intense emotional outbursts? These are warning signs of unresolved trauma mental health. A simple assesment by a mental health expert could provide valuable insights into your recovery.

    Finding the right rehab close to you is simple with WeDoRecover. Our network includes the finest rehab centers, ensuring personalised, quality care for your recovery needs. Let Gareth Carter and our empathetic team help guide you to a center that feels right for you, offering expert care and support. Start your healing today by choosing a rehab that's not just close to you, but also that truly cares about your loved ones recovery.

    Scroll to top
    Call Us Now