Our staff gets questions about addiction and physiology on a daily basis. We know that entering the world of opiate addiction, ambulatory detox, and addiction treatment means learning a new vocabulary in order to get the answers you seek. What follows is a list of the most common terms you’ll encounter as you gather information about this new world. Please know that our staff is available to answer your questions and fill in whatever blanks you may encounter along your path. If you discover a term that is not on this list, but you feel would be helpful for others, please email our staff at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Abstinence: Refraining from further drug or alcohol use.
Acetaminophens: Pain relievers (e.g. Tylenol) used to treat headaches, muscle aches, headaches, etc.
ACOA (Adult Children of Alcoholics): A support group for adult children of alcoholics.
Addict: Term used to describe an individual with an addictive disorder.
Addiction Assessment: A way to determine the prevalence of chemical dependency in a client or the extent of one’s addiction (considers sociological, psychological, physical, and family factors, etc.).
Addiction Treatment: A program or series of techniques aimed to reduce addiction.
Addiction: A repeated activity that has been proven to continuously cause harm to oneself or others.
Addictive Personality: A genetic or personality characteristic or trait/traits that may be present in an individual which may contribute to the development of addiction.
Adverse Reaction: A detrimental reaction to a drug.
Affinity: The strength a drug has that enables it to bind to its neurological receptor.
Age at Onset: The age at which one’s addictive behavior begins.
Agonist: A drug that activates a receptor in the brain.
Alcoholics Anonymous (AA): A voluntary program concerned with helping alcoholics with recovery and continued sobriety.
Alkaloids: Plant-produced organic compounds that are the active ingredients in many drugs.
Amphetamine: A behavioral stimulant (e.g., methamphetamines).
Analgesic: Medications designed to treat pain symptoms.
Antagonist: A substance which nullifies or reverses another’s effects.
AOD: Alcohol and Other Drugs
AODA: Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse
Aspirin: An anti-inflammatory agent used for pain relief.
– B –
Barbiturate: Drugs that act as central nervous system depressants, and can therefore produce a wide spectrum of effects, from mild sedation to total anesthesia.
Benzodiazepine: A group of depressants used to induce sleep, prevent seizures, produce sedation, relieve anxiety and muscle spasms, etc.
Bioavailability: A drug’s ability to enter the body
Biofeedback: Signal use to control physiological processes that are normally involuntary
Blood Alcohol Level/Concentration: The concentration level of alcohol in the bloodstream expressed as a percentage by weight.
Buprenorphine: A semi-synthetic opioid that is used to treat opioid addiction in higher, to control moderate acute pain in non-opioid-tolerant individuals in lower dosages, and to control moderate chronic pain (e.g., Subutex, Suboxone).
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Caffeine: An alkaloid that acts as a diuretic and a stimulant (found in coffee, tea, etc.).
Carcinogen: A cancer-causing chemical agent.
Causal Factors: Various precursors that lead to individual chemical dependency problems (e.g. conditioning, environment, genetics, etc.).
Ceiling Effect: Occurs when the dosage is increased beyond maximum levels with no measurable differences in effects.
Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (CSAT): Promotes community-based substance abuse treatment services.
Central Nervous System (CNS): The brain and spinal cord system.
Certified Chemical Dependency Counselor (CCDC): Manages clients in chemical dependency programs to help with addiction recovery.
Cirrhosis: Chronic liver disease
Clinical Opiate Withdrawal Scale (COWS): Used to determine the severity of opioid withdrawal.
Codeine: The pain-relieving sedative agent contained in opium.
Codependence: A family member’s or friend’s suffering that is the result of the side effects of one’s addiction; it occurs when one takes responsibility for another’s actions and helps that person avoid facing his or her problems directly to maintain the relationship.
Cold Turkey: Abruptly quitting a drug by choice.
Compulsion: A physical behavior one repeats involuntarily that can be harmful (e.g., addiction).
Conditioning: A behavioral change that results from an association of events.
Craving: A powerful and strong urge to use a substance; a symptom brain adaptions that result in addiction.
Crisis Intervention: The action taken by an individual, family or group when one’s drug addiction poses a threat to individual or family functioning.
Cross-Dependence: The ability of one drug to prevent the withdrawal symptoms of one’s physical dependence on another.
Cross-Tolerance: Occurs when tolerance for one drug results in a lessened response to another.
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D.O.C.: This stands for drug of choice.
Denial: One’s failure to either admit or realize his or her addiction or to recognize and accept the harm it is causing.
Depressants: A drug or endogenous compound that lowers arousal levels and reduces anxiety. Depressants are also occasionally referred to as “downers” as they lower the level of arousal when taken (e.g., alcohol, barbituates, benzodiazapenes, opoids, marijuana).
Depression: An ongoing state of sadness involving the inability to concentrate, inactivity, etc.
Detoxification (Detox): The process of removing a toxic substance from the body.
Disease Model: A theory that considers addiction a disease rather than a social or psychological issue.
Disease: A condition featuring medically significant symptoms that often have a known cause
Doctor Shopping: Occurs when a patient requests care simultaneously from multiple physicians without their knowledge in order to receive higher amounts of medications.
Dopamine: A chemical produced naturally by the body; functions in the brain as a neurotransmitter to provide feelings of well-being.
Downers: Another name for depressants; these drugs can cause low moods (e.g. alcohol, barbiturates, tranquilizers, etc.)
Drug Misuse: One’s use of a drug not specifically recommended or prescribed.
Drug Tolerance: A progressive state of decreased responsiveness to a drug.
Dual-Diagnosis: A diagnosis or mental illness in a patient who is also addicted to a mind-altering drug.
DUI: Driving under influence, operating a motor vehicle while also under the influence of any mind altering substance.
DWI: Driving while intoxicated.
Dysphoria: The opposite of euphoria.
Dysynergy: An addiction’s tendency to cause an additional or further addiction to another mind altering substance (e.g. gateway drugs).
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Enabling: Providing avenues, or preventing placement of obstacles for an addicted person do obtain access or continue behaviors which lead to or further addiction.
Endogenous Opioid: The opioids that the body naturally produces in order to help us tolerate pain.
Endorphins: Opium-like substances produced by the brain creating natural chemical responses to pain.
Ethanol: The active ingredient in alcohol.
Euphoria: A pleasurable state of altered consciousness.
Evidence-based Treatment: Scientifically validated treatment approaches.
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Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS): Birth defects/abnormalities in babies of alcoholic and alcohol abusing mothers.
Fetal Drug Syndrome (FDS): Birth defects/abnormalities in babies of drug abusing mothers.
Food and Drug Administration (FDA): Administers federal laws regarding the safety and effectiveness of drugs.
– H –
Habit: Term for addiction/physical dependence.
Hallucinogen: Chemical substance that distorts perceptions, sometimes resulting in delusions or hallucinations.
Harm Reduction: Often the first stage of addiction treatment; reducing therapy instead of stopping the target behavior.
Heroin: A full opioid agonist.
Hydrocodone: An effective narcotic analgesic used for the treatment of pain or discomfort.
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Addiction Illegal/Illicit Drugs: Drugs that are illegal to produce, use, and sell.
Induction: Beginning phase of drug treatment.
Inflation: An addiction behavior’s tendency to slowly but surely increase in frequency.
Intoxication: A state of inebriation.
Intrinsic Activity: The extent to which a drug activates a receptor.
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Legal Drugs: Routinely used drugs, not requiring prescription for use which can result in addiction or abuse. (e.g. alcohol, caffeine, carbohydrates, nicotine, etc.).
– M –
Maintenance: Medication taken to stabilize an illness or symptoms of illness, typically utilizing the drug’s lowest effective dosage.
Medical Model: An addiction theory that considers addiction a medical issue.
Metabolism (of drugs): The chemical and physical reactions utilized by the body to process drugs.
Methadone: A synthetically produced drug, derived from opiates, typically used for long term heroin addiction.
Monotherapy: Therapy utilizing one drug.
Morphine: A major sedative/pain reliever found in opium, typically used to control pain in a surgical environment.
– N –
Naloxone: Naloxone is a drug used to counter the effects of opiate overdose, for example heroin or morphine overdose (e.g., Narcan, Neltrexone, Suboxone).
Naltrexone: A narcotic antagonist that blocks the effects of opioids.
Narcotic: A drug that produces sleep/drowsiness and that also relieves pain while being potentially dependence producing.
National Board of Addiction Examiners (NBAE): Provides certification for individuals in the addiction field.
Negative Reinforcement: Repetitive behavior to avoid something unpleasant.
Neurotransmitter: The natural chemical a neuron releases to communicate with or influence another.
Nicotine: Tobacco’s extremely toxic main active ingredient (e.g., cigarettes).
Non-opioid: A drug that doesn’t activate opioid receptors.
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Obsession: A mental behavior one repeats involuntarily that can be harmful.
Off-Label Use: Physician-approved use of a drug for uses other than those stated on its label.
Opiate: The poppy’s natural ingredients and their derivatives (opium, morphine, codeine, and heroin).
Opioids: Opium’s synthetic form.
Opium: One of the most popular drugs; contained in muscle-relaxers, sleeping pills, and tranquilizers.
Over-the-Counter Drugs (OTC): Legal non-prescription drugs.
Oxycodone: A narcotic medicine used for relief of moderate to severe pain.
– P –
Painkillers: Analgesic substances (opioids and non-opioids).
Partial Agonists: Bind to and activate receptors to a lesser degree than full agonists.
Pharmacology: Scientific branch dealing with the study of drugs and their actions.
Physical Dependence: The body’s physiologic adaptation to a substance.
Placebo: A substance with no pharmacological elements that may elicit a reaction because of a patient’s mindset.
Poly-substance Abuse: Concurrent abuse of more than one substance.
Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS): Withdrawal symptoms after initial acute withdrawal.
Precipitated Withdrawal Syndrome: Can occur when a patient on full-agonist opioids takes an antagonist.
Prescription Drugs: Available by a physician’s order.
Psychedelic Drugs: Produce an intensely pleasurable mental state.
Psychoactive Drug: A mind- and behavior-altering substance.
Psychological Dependence: One’s compulsion to use a psychologically based drug for pleasure; may lead to drug misuse.
Psychopharmacology: The study of how drugs affect consciousness, mood, sensation, etc.
Psychotropic Drug: Any drug that acts on one’s psychic experience or mood behavior (stimulants, depressants, hallucingenics).
– R –
Rapid Detox: Anesthesia-assisted detoxification (injection of high doses of an opiate antagonist, followed by an infusion of naloxone).
Receptor: Protein on a target cell’s membrane or cytoplasm with which a drug interacts.
Recidivism: One’s return to a negative behavior (relapse).
Recovery Rates: The percentage of addicted persons undergoing treatment who partake in abstinence in their first year.
Recovery: Reducing or ceasing substance abuse; often followed by one’s personal life being turned around by way of a supportive environment.
Relapse Prevention: A therapeutic process that interrupts behaviors that result in a return to an addictive state.
Relapse: Symptom recurrence after a period of sobriety or drug use cessation.
Remission: A symptom-free period.
Reversed Tolerance: When a lower dose of a drug produces the same desired or observed effect that previously resulted only with higher dosages.
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Screening: Measurement tool for the extent of one’s addiction (e.g., self-completion questionnaire/life-history assessment).
Self-Help Group: Group of individuals dealing with similar issues that meets to support each other and share helpful information (e.g. Alcoholics Anonymous).
Side Effects: Secondary effects of a drug; these are usually undesirable.
Societal Denial: Society’s denial of the historical value of drug-induced pleasure and euphoria.
Steroids: A group of cyclic, solid unsaturated alcohols (e.g. cholesterol).
Stimulant: Drugs that act on the CNS, resulting in alertness, excitation, and wakefulness.
Straight-Edge: A term for people who don’t use drugs.
Sublingual: Drugs that enter the blood through the membranes under the tongue.
Substance Abuse (Chemical Dependence): A maladaptive pattern of recurrent substance use that leads to impairment or distress that is clinically significant.
Substance Dependence: A psychological and/or physical state of the mind or body’s dependence on a substance.
Synergism: The greater effect that results when one takes more than one drug simultaneously.
Synthetic: Laboratory produced from natural substances.
– T –
Talc: Dangerous substance used in manufacturing pharmaceuticals.
Therapeutic Community: A setting where people with similar issues can meet to support each other’s recovery.
Therapeutic Dependence: Patients ‘ tendency to demonstrate drug-seeking behaviors because they fear withdrawal symptoms.
Titration: The gradual adjustment of the amount of a drug.
Tolerance: Condition in which one must increase their use of a drug for it to have the same effect.
Toxicity: A degree of poisonousness.
Tranquilizers: A type of drug that typically used to relieve the symptoms of severe psychosis.
Trigger: Anything that results in psychological and then physical relapse.
– U –
Ups or Uppers: Drugs that produce a euphoric effect (e.g. stimulants, amphetamines).
Urge-Peak Cycle: Ongoing urge-peaks, usually followed by relapse.
Urge-Peak: A sudden, unpredictable increase in addiction cravings; they usually involve temporary mental unawareness (e.g. not realizing the amount of drinks one has had).
Urges: Less powerful desires than cravings; some which can be suppressed by willpower.
User: Term used to describe one who misuses alcohol or drugs.
– W –
Withdrawal Symptoms: Moderate to severe and physical and emotional symptoms that generally occur immediately following the abatement of substance use (e.g., watery eyes, yawning, loss of appetite, panic, insomnia, vomiting, shaking, irritability, jitters, etc.).
Withdrawal Syndrome: Combined reactions or behaviors that result from the abrupt cessation of a drug one is dependent on.
Withdrawal: The abrupt decrease in or removal of one’s regular dosage of a psychoactive substance.