Mental health articles

OF mental health care and mentally ill

Dependence syndrome

The dependence syndrome is a cluster of symptoms, not all of which need be present for a diagnosis of dependence to be made. The key feature is a compulsion to use drugs, which results in overwhelming priority being given to drug-seeking behaviour.

Other features are tolerance (need to increase drug dose to achieve desired effect), withdrawal (both physical and psychological symptoms on stopping use) and use of drug to relieve or avoid withdrawal symptoms. An addict’s increasing focus on drug-seeking behaviour leads to progressive loss of other interests, neglect of self-care and social relationships, and disregard for harmful consequences. The term ‘addiction’ implies that the drug has a strong propensity to produce dependence. Highly addictive drugs tend to have the ability to produce intensely pleasurable effects.

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