What is substance dependency?

What is substance dependency?


Let’s learn about what is substance dependency, also known as drug dependence or addiction. Dependency develops from repeated or habitual drug use or abuse over time. Stopping the drug using “cold turkey” often results in withdrawal, but rehabilitation centres specialise in this specific treatment and can help you through. 


If you find yourself not being able to control your drug use, experiencing negative consequences from your drug use, and feel like your life is spinning out of control, then seeking help from a rehab centre is your first step in a positive direction. Rehabs have different approaches and treatment regimens for substance dependency. Most important is finding the one that will work for you.


Rehabilitation centres cape town - chain and ball


Do you have a substance dependence disorder?


Yes, No, Maybe? Can’t decide? Best to get expert advice from Rustenburg Addiction Care.


It is often difficult for a person to admit and accept the fact that they are suffering from the disease of addiction or substance dependence disorder. The first step is understanding what is substance dependency. Consequently, rehab centres may use an evaluation tool to diagnose you with a substance dependence disorder. 


Take a minute to answer these few questions. But REMEMBER that being honest is important!


1) Do you often use larger amounts of drugs or alcohol for longer than you intended?


2) Have you had a persistent desire or failed efforts to control or reduce your drug use?


3) Do you spend a great deal of time obtaining, using or recovering from using or



4) Have stopped or reduced important social, occupational or recreational activities as a result of using?


5) Has your drug use continued, despite your knowledge of a physical or psychological

problem that has been caused or made worse by your use?


6) Have you found that you need to take more drugs to achieve the same effect?


7) Have you experienced:

  • Withdrawal symptoms after stopping a specific substance?
  • The need to take more substances to avoid withdrawal symptoms?


If you have answered “yes” to 3 or more of the above questions, within the last twelve months, then it is likely that you are suffering from an addiction. A good rehab centre may just be the answer.


Understanding why you become dependent


There are five basic models of addiction: Where do you feel you fit in?


  • The moral model: Addiction does not exist. Some people just make bad choices and do not know how to behave.
  • The neurobiological model: Addiction is a brain disease. Some people are vulnerable and others are not.
  • Psychological understanding: Addiction is a way of dealing / coping with a disturbed psyche.
  • Sociocultural model: Addiction is a response to unfortunate circumstances or an adverse environment.
  • Spiritual model: Addiction is the function of a sick soul.



Rehab centres approach substance dependency as a combination of the above bullet points. Above all, we understand that the reasons behind addiction are layered and complex. Therefore, a good rehabilitation centre should have a multi-faceted therapeutic professional team to meet your multi-faceted addiction. Working through the different layers of addiction gives you a holistic treatment approach. 


Rehabilitation Centres - Understanding your dependancy


What is substance dependency doing to your brain?


Rehab will teach you that most drugs affect the brain’s “reward circuit”. They flood your brain with the chemical messenger dopamine, causing a feeling of euphoria. The function of dopamine is being responsible for your pleasure feelings, reward system and motivation. As a result, a properly functioning reward system motivates a person to repeat behaviours needed to get ahead and live well, such as eating and spending time with loved ones.


High intensity intervals of dopamine in the reward circuit causes the reinforcement of pleasurable but unhealthy behaviours like using drugs, resulting in repeating the behaviour again and again. This is why rehabs include certain practical activities to their treatment programmes, like “activities of daily living”. These activities encourage and motivate you to be productive, and find satisfaction and pleasure in healthy behaviours.


As you continue to use drugs, the brain adapts by reducing the reward response. Consequently, this reduces the high or euphoric feeling you feel compared to the high you felt when first ever using the drug. This is known as tolerance. As a result, you may find that you need to take more drugs to achieve that same euphoria you once felt before.


Rehabilitation centres Cape Town - brain and drugs  


What is loss of control?


There is a part of the brain that is responsible for self-control and decision making. When this part of the brain is impaired, an addict may not be able to stop themselves from using a drug once they’ve started, or they may not be able to say no to a drug, even if it’s been a while since they last used. Rehabilitation centres work with you to help you identify your loss of control, and to achieve future control of your life.


How do you know if you’ve lost control?


1. Using more of the substance than you intended


Once you start using your substance of choice, you may find it difficult to stop. Have you ever noticed that once you start using you become oblivious to time and the obligations you have. Perhaps you have missed an appointment recently as a result of your using, or stood up a family member or friend.


Does this sound familiar? Your roommate says he’s just going to have one or two beers over at a friend’s place. You drop by about an hour later and find that he’s finished a six pack and is heading into a new one. Can you possibly relate to this scenario?


Rehabilitation centres help you in identifying these specific scenarios and events in your life and point out specifically where you lost control and the negative effects it had for you.


2. Using the substance longer than the intended time


You may find it difficult to stop once you have started dipping your toes or your nose into your substance of choice.

Can you think of a time where you told your spouse or partner or family member you are only going out for a quick drink with the boys or sundowner with the girls? However the outing doesn’t quite end as quickly as you had intended or thought it would. Next thing you know it past midnight and you are stumbling through the front door.

Times like the above mentioned can leave your loved ones angry and resentful. Rehab centres work with you and your loved ones, giving you knowledge and understanding about addiction, and guidance through a substance dependence programme.


3. Not being able to keep track of how much of the substance you have used


It is likely that you are underestimating the amount you are using because you may not be keeping track in the first place. Perhaps your substance use has gone beyond social occasions and you find that you need it just to get through a normal day.


Believe it or not, if you are asked by a therapist how much you use and your answer is “I don’t know”, it is probably the most accurate and honest answer. You might try downplaying the amount you use by giving low amounts, but that would only be to make you feel better. In fact, when taking a look at your bank balance and calculating the amount you have spent on your substance of choice, you will come to realise that it is probably quite a bit more than you would like to admit.


Have you had to beg, steal or borrow to support your substance dependence disorder? Have you chosen to spend your money on your substance of choice instead of purchasing food? Admitting yourself for treatment at a reputable rehab centre can guide you in making better choices with regards to fundamental needs to live a healthy lifestyle.


Unmanageability, a symptom of addiction


Unmanageability is when an addict suffers consequence after consequence of their substance abuse, and still cannot stop. The addict is going to drink or take drugs no matter what. This can be more than a symptom of addiction; it could be the reason why a person uses substances and/or alcohol in the first place. If you can relate to the below then seeking help from a rehab centre could be the answer to finding manageability in your life.


  1. Social Life:

    Public drunkenness, public aggression, not being included in party invitations, loss of friends, turning down social invitations, insulting behaviour. Rehabilitation centres will tease out incidents where unmanageability in your social life has occurred. These incidents could be permanently damaging to long standing relationships with friends and loved ones. Rehabilitation centres can also work therapeutically with your friends and loved ones in hopes to repair your broken relationship.


  1. Personal Life:

    Loss of weight, weight gain, neglect of personal hygiene and appearance, sloppiness, unwanted pregnancy, abortions, high risk sexual behavior, domestic accidents, homelessness, loss of interest in hobbies, overdosing. Participating in healthy behaviours does not only pertain to your thoughts and substance use when searching for treatment. Rehabilitation centres will give you the guidance you need to take back your self-care: physically, psychologically and spiritually.


  1. Ethical and Legal:

    Drinking & driving, violence, stealing, fraud, lying, cheating, criminality, damage to property, deviant sexual acts, misuse of prescribed drugs, professional misconduct, marital infidelity, etc. Being convicted of a crime carries a stigma but also has lasting effects on your life. Seeking treatment at a rehab centre cannot reverse those incidents or remove the damage done. It can, however, make you understand why you allowed your substance dependency to cause such damage.


  1. Financial:

    Overspending, debts, loss of business, loss of contracts, loss of property, demotions, using money for alcohol or drugs instead of family. We all need money to survive. The amount of money we need depends on our lifestyle and buying choices. As you are reading this, would you rather spend your savings on treatment in a rehab centre in Cape Town, or would you consider spending your savings on your substances of choice as the “better buy”.


  1. Family and relationships:

    Domestic violence, emotional/verbal/sexual abuse, family arguments, broken promises, divorce, lying, neglect of children, putting family at risk, family break-ups, embarrassing family members, threatening suicide, emotional blackmail. Rehabilitation centres and expert recovery programmes can do phenomenal work with you and your family. Offering your family support and guidance should be of priority to the rehab centre.


  1. Work/Academic:

    Endangering others, letting colleagues down, avoiding responsibility, high absenteeism rate, late arrival and early departures, silly mistakes, shifting responsibility, letting clients down, failing exams, dropping out. This is quite self-explanatory. Whether you thought you could maintain your high academic results or continue your career seamlessly, I am sure you have realised that you have let yourself down in those departments. By seeking treatment at a reputable rehab centre, you give yourself the opportunity to rectify and continue your aspiring career by ensuring you are clear headed and productive.


  1. Health:

    Physical/ Mental and Emotional Nutritional deficiencies, heart problems, liver damage, broken bones, insomnia, depression, paranoia, hallucinations, psychosis, anxiety. Our health should always be a priority. Your body is your vessel and without good functioning organs your quality of life won’t be that great. Rehab centres will have trained medical professionals to ensure all you medical needs are seen to and that you are well looked after.


Next Steps


Are you worried that you or a loved one is suffering from substance dependency? Or that life is becoming completely unmanageable? Rustenburg Addiction Care is a reputable rehabilitation centre, providing professional care to both addicts and their loved ones. Learn more about our world-class treatment programme

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