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Physical Dependence

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Encyclopedia of Psychopharmacology


Abstinence syndrome; Physiological dependence; Withdrawal syndrome


Physical dependence results when certain drugs are administered or self-administered regularly for extended periods of time and is revealed when drug administration is discontinued and a typical withdrawal syndrome appears. The time to onset for the withdrawal effects depends upon how rapidly the drug is eliminated from the body. For example, in alcohol physical dependence, the withdrawal signs and symptoms emerge within 12–24 h of discontinued use whereas for benzodiazepinephysical dependence, the withdrawal syndrome may not emerge for several days corresponding to the slow elimination of active metabolites from the body. The extent or magnitude of the withdrawal signs and symptoms is related to the amount and duration of drug exposure preceding withdrawal. Each class of drugs has a typical withdrawal syndrome. Laboratory studies of physical dependence often employ antagonist drugs, which will...

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© 2010 Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg

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Balster, R.L., Walsh, S. (2010). Physical Dependence. In: Stolerman, I.P. (eds) Encyclopedia of Psychopharmacology. Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg.

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