Learning The Language Of Addiction

As addictions contiune to grown in the music industry culture, it is important that we learn more about how to offer help and hope to everyone who is affected, both directly and indirectly. One of the most  simple yet powerful, ways people can help is by carefully choosing words around the subject of addiction that display a non-judgmental interpretation.


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 the effects of another substance (a drug that does not elicit a response)

AOD: Stands for (Alcohol and Other Drugs)

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 person’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 health condition accompanied by addiction 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 addiction (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 behaviour

Heroin: A full opioid agonist

Hydrocodone: An effective narcotic analgesic first developed as a cough medication


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 used for medical reasons (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 also known as a 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 or alcohol

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

Synergism: The greater effect that results when one takes more than one drug simultaneously

Synthetic: Not naturally occurring


Talc: Dangerous substance used in manufacturing pharmaceuticals

Therapeutic Community: A setting where people with similar issues can meet to support each other in 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