Addiction Glossary of Terms and Phrases – Definitions

Article Summary Print
  • Abstinence: Refraining from further drug use
  • Acetaminophens: Pain relievers (e.g. Tylenol) used to treat headaches, muscle aches, headaches, etc.
  • ACOA: A support group for adult children of alcoholics
  • Addict: A stigmatizing slang term for 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: Aims to reduce addiction
  • Addiction: A repeated activity that continuously causes harm to oneself or others (e.g. a substance’s continuous presence in the bloodstream).
  • Addictive Personality: A trait/traits that develops in response to drug use
  • Adverse Reaction: A detrimental reaction to a drug (not the desired reaction)
  • Affinity: The strength a drug has that allows it to bind to its receptor
  • Age at Onset: The age at which one’s addictive behavior began; an important factor in addiction assessment
  • 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; also known as pep pills
  • Analgesic: Medication designed to treat pain
  • Antagonist: A substance that can nullify another’s effects (a drug that does not elicit a response)
  • AOD: Stands for (Alcohol and Other Drugs)
  • AODA: Stands for (Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse)
  • Aspirin: An anti-inflammatory agent used for pain relief
  • Barbiturate AddictionBarbiturate: A class of sedative-hypnotic compounds that are chemically related through a six-membered ring structure
  • 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 partial agonist opioid derived from the baine; used for pain relief (e.g. Buprenex)
  • 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 antecedent conditions that lead to individual chemical dependency problems (e.g. conditioning, environment, genetics, etc.)
  • Ceiling Effect: Occurs when the dosage of buprenorphine is increased beyond maximum levels and no differences result
  • Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (CSAT): Promotes community-based substance abuse treatment services
  • Central Nervous System (CNS): The brain and spinal cord
  • 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 in order to try to quit long-term
  • Compulsion: A physical behavior one repeats involuntarily that can be harmful (e.g., addiction)
  • Conditioning: A behavioral change that results from an association between events
  • Craving: A powerful and strong desire/urge for a substance; a symptom of the abnormal brain adaptions that result from addiction
  • Crisis Intervention: The action taken when one’s usual coping resources pose 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 one’s tolerance for one drug results in their lessened response to another
  • 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 can cause
  • Depressants: Sedatives that act on the CNS (e.g. to treat anxiety, high blood pressure, tension, etc.)
  • Depression: One of the most frequent types of distress resulting from addiction; an ongoing state of sadness involving the inability to concentrate, inactivity, etc.
  • Detoxification (Detox): The process of removing a toxic substance (e.g. a drug) from the body
  • Disease Model: A theory of alcoholism that considers the 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 when there are more practical alternatives; when drug use puts a user or others in danger
  • Drug Tolerance: A progressive state of decreased responsiveness to a drug
  • DSM-IV: The handbook most often used for diagnosing mental disorders
  • Dual-Diagnosis: Mental patients ‘ condition when they are also addicted to any mind-altering drug
  • DUI: Stands for (driving under influence) (of alcohol or another illicit substance that impairs one’s ability to drive)
  • DWI: Stands for (driving while intoxicated)
  • Dysphoria: The opposite of euphoria
  • Dysynergy: An addiction’s tendency to cause another (e.g. gateway drugs); an addicted person’s tendency to combine substances
  • Enabling: Helping an addicted person do things they can or should be doing for themselves; causes disease progression
  • Endogenous Opioid: The opioids that the body naturally produces in order to help us tolerate pain
  • Endorphins: Opium-like substances produced by the brain; natural painkillers
  • Ethanol: The beverage type (ethyl) of alcohol
  • Euphoria: A pleasurable state of altered consciousness; one reason for the preference of one addictive behavior or substance over another
  • Evidence-based Treatment: Scientifically validated treatment approaches
  • Excipient: An inactive substance added to a drug to help bind the active ingredient
  • 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, for example, the safety and effectiveness of drugs
  • Habit: An outdated 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 first developed as a cough medication
  • Addiction Illegal/Illicit Drugs: Drugs that are illegal to produce, use, and sell
  • Induction: Beginning phase of buprenorphine treatment
  • Inflation: An addiction behavior’s tendency to slowly but surely increase in frequency
  • Intoxication: A state of being drugged or poisoned; results from abuse of alcohol, barbiturates, toxic drugs, etc.
  • Intrinsic Activity: The extent to which a drug activates a receptor
  • Legal Drugs: Everyday drugs not for medical use (e.g. alcohol, caffeine, carbohydrates, nicotine, etc.)
  • Maintenance: Stabilization of a patient who is indefinitely on a drug’s lowest effective dose
  • Medical Model: An addiction theory that considers addiction a medical rather than social issue
  • Metabolism (of drugs): The chemical and physical reactions carried out by the body to prepare for a drug’s execution
  • Methadone: A long-acting opiate (synthetically produced)
  • Monotherapy: Therapy using one drug
  • Morphine: A major sedative/pain reliever found in opium
  • Mu Agonist: A drug that stimulates physiologic activity on mu opioid cell receptors
  • Mu Opioid Receptor: Nerve cell receptor that mediates opioid addiction and tolerance through drug-induced activity
  • Naloxone: An opioid antagonist that blocks the effects of opioid agonists
  • 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 (causes negative CNS stimulation)
  • Nonopioid: A drug that doesn ‘t activate opioid receptors
  • Obsession: A mental behavior one repeats involuntarily that can be harmful (e.g., (needing) an alcoholic drink)
  • 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: Legal non-prescription drugs
  • Oxycodone: A medicine used for relief of moderate to high pain
  • Painkillers: Analgesic substances (opioids and nonopioids)
  • 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
  • Polysubstance 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: Only 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
  • 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) (e.g. drug use)
  • 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 believes and behaviors that result in lifestyle dysfunction
  • 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
  • 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. AA)
  • 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:
  • Synergism: The greater effect that results when one takes more than one drug simultaneously
  • Synthetic: Not natural occurring
  • Talc Granulomatosis:
  • 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 can help relieve the symptoms of severe psychosis
  • Trigger: Anything that results in psychological and then physical relapse
  • 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; can be suppressed by willpower
  • User: Outdated term used to describe one who misuses alcohol or drugs
  • Withdrawal Symptoms: Severe and excruciating physical and emotional symptoms that generally occur between 4 to 72 hours after opiate withdrawal (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
Find a Addiction Glossary of Terms and Phrases – Definitions Program Today
Call us toll free
Sponsored by Leading Treatment Centers
Or click the button below to request a free assessment
Free Assesment
Useful Resources

Here are some Useful Resources for Drug and Alcohol Addiction Treatment.

Alcohol Alert: National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism

Overview of the cost and consequences of alcohol and addiction

Alcoholism: University of Maryland Medical Center

Overview of alcoholism

FAQs for the General Public: National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism

Overview of alcohol addiction

Alcohol Use: Centers for Disease Control

Statistics on alcohol use

Prescription and Over-the-Counter Medications: National Institute on Drug Abuse

Overview of over-the-counter drugs and abuse

Treatment Approaches for Drug Addiction: National Institute on Drug Abuse

Addiction overview

Trends in Prescription Drug Abuse: National Institute on Drug Abuse

Data on prescription drug abuse

Information About NA: Narcotics Anonymous

Overview of Narcotics Anonymous

Drug Dependence: MedlinePlus

Overview of drug dependence

Narcotics: Drug Enforcement Administration

Overview on narcotics

Commonly Abused Drugs Chart: National Institute on Drug Abuse

Overview of commonly abused drugs

Call Today.