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Chemical dependency is the result when a substance is misused. The dependency on one substance can also lead to the development of dependency on other substances. Although the exact cause of chemical dependency is unknown, many factors have been found to contribute to its development. Let’s take a closer look at chemical dependency and how drug and alcohol rehab can be a solution.


Dependency vs. Addiction

Many use the terms “dependency” and “addiction” interchangeably. However, the two are quite different. Dependency indicates the physical need for a substance, and it can include withdrawals. However, dependency can exist without one becoming addicted to that substance.

Addiction is the escalation of chemical dependency into a type of fixation. When one is addicted to a substance, they not only experience the physical need for it but also make substance misuse the main priority, without regard for the harm caused to themselves or others. Being unable to stop taking a substance is also a characteristic of addiction—one which requires treatment at drug and alcohol rehab centers.

Factors That Contribute to Chemical Dependency

Many factors from a wide range of sources have been strongly linked with chemical dependency:

Substance Availability

Availability is a very common contributor to chemical dependency, especially on college campuses. Another factor is the affordability of substances. The more available and affordable a substance is, the higher the risk of dependency.

Social Learning

Social learning is another factor. A person may have witnessed substance misuse in their family or have been exposed to it via advertising or other media. The social nature of college life can be a significant contributor, as can peer pressure to use a substance.


Another factor that can contribute to chemical dependency is genetics. A person who is genetically predisposed to dependency may be more sensitive to a substance and, therefore, more vulnerable to developing dependency. Environmental influences can also increase vulnerability.

Chemical Composition

Substances themselves can make a person more likely to develop a chemical dependence when they produce intense effects. Substances can also produce intensely unpleasant withdrawal symptoms, which can also contribute to dependency. In this scenario, an individual may keep taking a substance or take more of it in order to avoid the pain and discomfort of withdrawal.


What Happens During Chemical Dependency

When chemical dependency has occurred, the body and mind have become conditioned to respond when a substance is or isn’t ingested. These responses are known as triggers and, when activated, cause chemical changes to occur in the brain that increase the desire to use a substance. Triggers can also be physical, emotional, mental, or psychological.

Common triggers can include feeling nervous or anxious, tightness in the stomach, or an intense need or desire to use a substance.

After Chemical Dependency Has Developed

Once a dependency on one chemical has occurred, other substances may be taken either to enhance the effect of the primary substance or to experience a new feeling. When dependence has occurred, the body or mind has become reliant on the substance and builds up a tolerance to it.

Once tolerance to a substance has been built, a person may need higher doses of that substance to achieve a satisfying high. This is also the reason that a person can become dependent on other substances and use them together for a stronger effect.

Physical Effects

The physical effects of chemical dependency can include any number of symptoms and health conditions, depending on the substance being misused, how frequently it is taken, and the length of time since it was taken last. General physical effects of chemical dependency can include:

  • Abnormal blood pressure or heart rate that is unexpected
  • Problems sleeping
  • Contracting illnesses like hepatitis or HIV
  • Breathing problems or respiratory diseases
  • Weight loss
  • Constant fatigue

In addition to the physical effects of chemical dependency, there is also a range of mental and emotional effects.

Psychological Effects

The psychological effects of chemical dependency will differ from person to person and also depend on the type of substance. In the beginning, a person may use a substance to relieve pain, stress, or another negative emotion. However, as dependency develops, a substance will be used whenever these negative instances are experienced. The psychological effects of dependency include:

  • A belief that one cannot live a normal life without a substance
  • A desire to do more of a substance over time (psychological tolerance)
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Hallucinations
  • Severe mood swings

Lifestyle Changes

In addition to the physical and psychological effects of chemical dependency, a person can also experience changes in their lifestyle. They may:

  • Stop participating in hobbies or social activities they used to enjoy
  • Spend more time alone and away from loved ones
  • Spend the bulk of their time obtaining, using, and recovering from substances
  • Experience increased absences from work or school

Substance misuse and chemical dependency also have far-reaching effects on a person’s relationships.

Effects of Chemical Dependency on Relationships

Chemical dependency can have lasting and typically devastating effects on relationships. A household may experience high amounts of stress due to a member becoming chemically dependent on a substance. The desire to hide misuse can lead to lying and mistrust between friends or household members.

Those with chemical dependencies may become defensive when asked about their whereabouts or activities. An increase in household arguments can be the result.

The financial consequences of misuse can result in one being unable to meet their share of financial responsibilities in terms of rent, food, and other expenses, which can place a significant strain on relationships. In not being able to meet obligations at school, relationships with professors and classmates may also become strained.


The repercussions of substance misuse and chemical dependency can be many and varied. Damage to relationships can be irreparable, and regaining trust may take months or years to occur. Financial problems may lead to mounting debt, which can also take years to pay.

The inability to meet school obligations can result in even more time needed to obtain a degree. Some can lose their employment due to substance misuse and may face challenges with obtaining future work, even following the successful completion of substance abuse rehab.

Recovery from illnesses as the result of chemical dependency can require possible months to achieve, and long-term medical care may be needed.

Are You Struggling with Chemical Dependency?

You may have tried to stop taking a substance several times before but were not able to. Or, you may have experienced withdrawal symptoms like depression or flu-like illness when you stopped taking a substance. You may have experienced blackouts or have found you needed more of a substance than you used to. All of these are signs of chemical dependency, and all are treatable.

At BriteLife Recovery, we offer substance abuse treatment for adult men and women in our residential recovery facility in South Carolina. We believe that in order to fully recover from dependency and addiction, treatment must occur for the entire person.

Our detox program assists those with chemical dependency to eliminate the substance from their body with medical supervision to ensure safety.  Our inpatient treatment program occurs in our residential facility in South Carolina, where you stay and receive dedicated treatment.

We not only provide 1-on-1 counseling but also group sessions to address the mental and emotional aspects of dependency and addiction. Residential treatment can provide needed assistance for those who have not been able to stop substance misuse on their own.

If you believe you have become or are becoming chemically dependent on a substance, it’s important to seek treatment as soon as possible. When you’re ready to begin your healing journey, call BriteLife Recovery at 888-224-7424.

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