Tolerance, Dependence, and Addiction

Tolerance is when a person needs a higher dose of the drug in order to feel the desired effects (1). This is why many people will begin to use more and more of a drug. This is extremely dangerous and can lead to an higher risk of overdose.

Dependence means that if a person stopped using a drug, their body would begin to go through withdrawal. This can happen even if the drug is taken as directed by a doctor (1).

Addiction, however, is when an individual becomes physically unable to stop taking a drug even though that drug use is causing negative consequences (1). It is important to note that opioid addiction is not a moral failing, but a chronic disease. Just as you would do for a heart condition or cancer, finding the right mix of treatment options and wrap-around services is crucial.

Dependence will always happen before addiction, but not everyone who is dependent on a drug will develop an addiction. People can also have a high tolerance to a drug without developing an addiction. The National Institute on Drug Abuse’s website has much more detail on this topic.


  1. NIDA. (2017, January 12). Tolerance, Dependence, Addiction: What’s the Difference?. Retrieved from on 2021, December 6