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NIDA

The Neurobiology of Drug Addiction

8: Definition of dependence

Definition of dependence

With repeated use of heroin, dependence also occurs. Dependence develops when the neurons adapt to the repeated drug exposure and only function normally in the presence of the drug. When the drug is withdrawn, several physiologic reactions occur. These can be mild (e.g., for caffeine) or even life threatening (e.g., for alcohol). This is known as the withdrawal syndrome. In the case of heroin, withdrawal can be very serious and the abuser will use the drug again to avoid the withdrawal syndrome.

This page was last updated January 2007

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