Understanding Medication Tolerance


Tolerance develops when an individual no longer responds to a medication in the same manner as when they initially began taking the medication. As a result, a higher dosage of the medication is needed to achieve the same result as the original dosage.

Medications that can lead to tolerance include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Opioid pain medications
  • Stimulants
  • Antidepressants
  • Sedatives
  • Hypnotics
  • Steroids
  • Anticonvulsant medications
  • Benzodiazepines
  • Central nervous system depressants

Tolerance is not the same as addiction. While tolerance occurs when the initial dose loses its effectiveness, addiction causes emotional and behavioral responses. Drug addiction involves the compulsive use of drugs despite the harm they cause. In cases of both tolerance and addiction, physical dependence on a medication often occurs as well as physical withdrawal if the medication is suddenly stopped. It is important to discuss any concerns about tolerance to any medication(s) with a health care provider.