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Drugs Tolerance


Drugs tolerance can develop when a drug dependence or drug addiction, more properly known as substance abuse disorder is present. There is confusion regarding terms like tolerance, dependency or addiction. They are sometimes used interchangeably, however their definitions differ. We will examine the meanings. Tolerance is normal and can occur if you are constantly exposed to pharmacological products or illicit drugs.

The fact that the body is tolerating certain medicines indicates that their effectiveness is decreased. It can be that you have become accustomed to the medication, but you may not have as good results as before. You may have to alter, increase or decrease dosage or prescribe another drug, taking care withdrawal symptoms do not occur.

Common Misconceptions About Drug Tolerance

For several reasons, tolerance is often used improperly and causes confusion and ambiguity. Many have no idea how drug tolerance exists or that it involves pharmacological sciences. The term tolerance often refers to an individual's ability to use high doses of drugs while maintaining the appearance of normal functioning. It is not completely correct for this instance, and the definition fails to provide clinical contexts that make the term relevant for persons with substance use disorders.

Drug Tolerance Definition


What is meant by drug tolerance? Medication tolerance, also known as drug tolerance, is when a person becomes familiar with medications so they need more or a different medication, in varying amounts. Tolerance is developed over time, either acutely or permanently, over the course of a few weeks or months.

As a result of tolerance, medication needs to be increased after repeated uses at particular doses, but is also seen in severe substance use disorder so the individual can achieve a greater high or stave off withdrawal symptoms. This reaction is often induced through an adaptive process when drugs are ingested and the body seeks balance and homeostasis, after repeated exposure. Using such mechanisms, physiological processes can become unstable in a constantly evolving environment.

In general tolerance can be different between a person taking the drug based on underlying medical conditions, body type or genetic factors. In addition, different drugs develop tolerance at different rates for various reasons. In the case of opioids, a person's tolerance is more likely a result when the body affected by the drug begins to respond less, over time, to repeated stimulation caused by that substance.

Tolerance is defined as a reduced reaction to a drug or alcohol over the course of repeated exposures.

Within minutes of a drinking episode, an acute tolerance may form. On the other hand, chronic tolerance develops after extended periods of repeated exposure to alcohol. Alcohol tolerance is linked to several processes including cellular / molecular / behavioral. These effects are often interlinked and difficult to separate. Chronic tolerance occurs after a long time, usually following days or weeks

within a single drinking session, typically within minutes, whereas chronic tolerance occurs after a longer time, usually following days of continuous or intermittent alcohol exposure.

Drug Dependence


It's necessary that, before moving into a deeper meaning, it is clear what tolerance means. For clarity, what we mean by tolerance: physical and psychological cravings develop and eventually emerge into its own disease, complete with predictable symptoms and quite frequently, distinguishable stages.

After long periods of using a medication, tolerance occurs across all spectrums because sedatives, stimulant drugs or painkillers all can cause this affect, cross tolerance can also happen after prolonged use of several different medicines. Often times, withdrawal symptoms can be much more severe if detoxing from multiple drugs at the same time.

There's a difference in drug dependence, physically and emotionally. Understanding the tolerance definition psychologists use can help us understand them. Psychological dependence generally differs from physical dependence and appears from compulsive drug use, but a particular frequency and pattern may be different.

It can also be argued that drug interactions can suppress physical dependence caused by other drugs and help maintain their physical dependence. The codependent relationship is partially based on the class of the substance. A drug can show cross-relationship with other drugs and dependence. Usually, sedatives have high cross-relative dependency between them and alcohol.

Drug Addiction


Drug addiction, also called substance use disorder, is a disease that affects a person's brain and behavior and leads to an inability to control the use of a legal or illegal drug or medication resulting in drug abuse. Substances such as alcohol, marijuana and nicotine, for example also are considered drugs. When you're addicted, you may continue using the drug despite the harm it causes to your health.

Drug addiction can start with experimental use of a recreational drug in social situations, and, for some people, the drug use becomes more frequent after repeated use. For others, particularly with opioids, drug addiction begins with exposure to prescribed medicine, or involves receiving medications from a friend or relative who has been prescribed the medication.

As time passes, you may need larger doses of the drug to get a similar effect of the high. Soon you may need the drug just to feel good as you become dependent. You might discover that it gets harder to abstain as your drug use increases. When trying to stop using drugs, you might experience strong cravings and physical sickness (withdrawal symptoms).

The concept that addiction only affects certain classes or races of people is false! The term addiction is often associated with the stigma of substance use disorder, although anyone can become addicted, as the body can become tolerant of a certain medications with repeated use. The danger and rate of addiction development associated with each drug are different. Some drugs, like opioid painkillers, have a higher danger and faster rate of addiction than others.

You may need help from your doctor, family, friends, support groups or an organized treatment program to overcome your drug addiction and stay drug-free.

Tolerance and Substances of Misuse

If one consumes an alcohol substance for a long time before using another drug, the consequences will increase, as will their dependence on drugs. One addiction will turn into several and cross tolerance will occur. When taking a medication repeatedly, a person must seek to take more for the desired effect and this creates a cycle of abuse, dependency and withdrawal. The phenomenon causing resistance to one drug, or more, that requires taking more of a drug for the desired effects is referred to as tolerance. The amount needed and how the drug affects individuals depends on several mechanisms including genetic factors, as well as others.

Withdrawal from alcohol alone, may be life threatening. Please talk to a health care professional for treatment with detoxing.


Tolerance can lead to dangers because it can cause serious health problems. When tolerance occurs to different types of stimuli, resistance develops in different proportions with different consequences, and potentially fatal overdoses are possible.

This is tragically problematic as opiates develop tolerance faster due to its euphoric effects on the brain than their respiratory depressive effect. Switching between various types is also likely to cause complications. As noted, cross-tolerance is possible, but if someone switches from heroin or morphine to another drug, they will likely need a higher "dose".

Repeated administration of a substance as seen in compulsive drug taking, causes a decreased response with higher doses needed when seeking the drug's effects . Overdose becomes increasingly likely after relapse. If a person is to relapse ,their tolerance and dependence to a particular drug is much lower than when they were using regularly. However, tragically many do not realize this and take the same amount as before causing a fatal overdose.

Fueled by the opioid crisis, drug overdoses reached over a staggering 100,000 in the United States in 2021 alone.

The same effect can be seen with benzodiazepines which affect GABAA receptors and work to suppress the central nervous system. Similarly to opioids, benzodiazepines cause tolerance to happen in the brain faster than within the respiratory system. Requiring higher and higher doses to achieve the desired affect in the brain, overdose can happen through respiratory failure. Mixing other sedatives, such as alcohol, greatly increases this tragic outcome.

Other examples include, when tolerance occurs at a cellular level. Cancer cells. become resistant to a specific drug in chemotherapy, and no longer produce an acute response to treatment. If this occurs doctors may need to change the dose or choose a different for of treatment.

You Can Make A Difference

Over 100,000 people died in 2021 from drug overdoses in the United States.

Symptoms of Drug Tolerance

In drug tolerance, symptoms are identified in varying forms. Often more commonly known characteristics of tolerance include: The affects of the drug decreases requiring more to achieve the required result. Adding further to the complexity of the situation, is that tolerance doesn't exist uniformly, thereby relying on the individual more than the drug taken. For example, a user taking morphines for pain management can develop tolerance and dependence pretty quickly without considering their intent or intentions.

The use of several psychoactive substances can result in behavioral tolerance, whereby a person becomes tolerant to the drug's intoxicating behavioral effects over time, such as the increased motor activity brought on by methamphetamine.

Populations at High Risk

Tell me the likelihood of someone developing tolerance? Those taking pain medications by prescription, sometimes do NOT become addicted and have no tolerance for them. This can change if a client has an addiction, mental health conditions, or this has happened in the past. When the patient takes an opioid pain medication, they face a tough time. People who have been addicted to medications for years are more likely to become addicted if they use larger amounts, alcohol or narcotic drugs.

It is important to note the federal government strictly regulates the prescription of all prescribed drugs. These are especially true of pain relievers, including OxyContin or Demerol. The government introduced a scheduling system that essentially rates drugs based on their abuse potential. Schedule IV medications that contain drugs such as insulin are very unlikely to cause excessive usage. The schedule is divided in five stages, with Schedule I being the most addictive.

Management and Treatment

How can you prevent drug tolerance? How to overcome tolerance depends largely on the drug's intended use and alternative treatment available. The dose increases can sometimes result in a new dose being used, but this can also cause heightened tolerance at such a dose. Although the national institute of internal medicine does not fully understand it's development, prevention includes, stopping for a period of time, which is called the drug holiday.

Depending what illegal drug use happens when you stop taking the prescribed drug, it's possible that you can start taking the prescription drug again for several months with zero or no tolerance (although tolerance will develop later in the course).

A drug holiday is a planned period of time that a patient stops taking a medication for anywhere from a few days, months, or more to help control tolerances diminishing effect due to repeated exposure. A doctor may recommend a drug holiday to help the patient maintain sensitivity to the drug at a molecular basis, to see how the body functions without it or to reduce possible side effects. During this time it is important that patients refrain from drug self administration, this also the reduces risks of overdose.

Multiple Paths of Development

What causes tolerance to a drug? As mentioned earlier tolerance can occur in a variety of ways and can develop regardless of whether an individual injects or smokes his/her drug. Complicators are physiological tolerance and the psychological dependence which invariably develop as an alternative to the physiological tolerance which sometimes manifest as mental disorders. Depression and anxiety are often seen. In addition, there are often other mental health problems that occur. The doctors diagnose patients if there are cooccurrences.

A drug's metabolism typically speeds up as a result of increased liver enzyme activity involved in drug metabolism as well as an increase in the number of sites (cell receptors) that the drug binds to or the intensity of the bond (affinity) between both the receptor and drug.Tolerance Develops

Drug tolerance is the ability in the body to adapt and respond differently depending on family history, genes and adaptation. The adaptation process occurs when multiple exposures have been experienced to certain drugs. In general this causes an insensitivity decrease in the patient's tolerance.

Evidence shows reduced reaction to the substances, indicates tolerability. Professionals describe tolerance for drugs as a progressive decrease in responsiveness to a drug. Therefore it must be used at a higher level to avoid resistance, and produce maximum effectiveness.

What should I do if I'm concerned?

When a person abuses toxic substances they must contact a doctor to get help. Substance abuse and dependence, no matter how mild, are dangerous for people and their lives. It is advisable that you take care of yourself by visiting a professional and supportive organization that specializes in drug treatment if possible. Failure to follow what the doctor recommends may result in developing a more severe problem of abuse or addiction.


The results have been published of several research laboratories peer reviewed studies. A new model reveals that multidimensional, multi-cellular molecular pathways are a key factor in different types of addiction to alcohol. Molecular pharmacology plays a key role in understanding molecular switch, and how it affects the degree of resistance to which people are dependent or develop a disorder. Science is always evolving and is a practice. As we learn more about the human body, how certain medicines affect it, and new pharmaceuticals are introduced, we will greater learn how to avoid tolerance in treatments.

Remember you are not alone and recovery is possible!


Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

National Institute of Mental Health

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse

National Institute on Drug Abuse