Drug Addiction and Alcoholism Glossary


This list of addiction terms is concise, but it can provide you with an introduction to the most common terms related to using drugs and alcohol.

A

Abstinence
To refrain from the use of chemicals (drugs or alcohol) or a particular behavior.

Abuse
When a person continues to use drugs and alcohol despite negative consequences. Abuse is distinct from dependence because the person has not yet developed a tolerance for or withdrawal symptoms from the drugs or alcohol.

Acetaminophen
Also known to be the pain relieving component known as a analgesics and antipyretic. The drug helps alleviate pain and fever. It is found in combination with opioids such as Percocet, oxycodone or in over the counter medications such as Tylenol or Ibuprof

Addiction
Repeated behavior (drugs/alcohol/sex/gambling/shopping/work/food) that interferes with normal, healthy life activities. Addiction affects a person’s physical and psychological well being. It can have negative financial consequences as well.

Addictionologist
A physician certified in the field of addiction medicine, usually specializing in the areas of drug and alcohol abuse and other dependence.

Addictionology
The study of addictions; usually focused on drug and alcohol dependence.

Alcohol
An addictive substance capable of altering one’s mood and brain neurotransmitter activity that is widely available, and legal in most jurisdictions. Types of alcohol include wine, beer, and hard liquor.

Alcohol poisoning
The consumption of large quantities of alcohol in a short period of time can lead to alcohol poisoning. Alcohol poisoning impacts the normal functioning of the body’s organs including the heart, the lungs and the brain. Alcohol poisoning can result in d

Alcoholics Anonymous
The basis for AA is a voluntary, anonymous, self-help group that shares a common problem with alcohol. (Other 12 Step programs exist that address issues of drugs abuse, cocaine, codependency etc.)

Alcoholism
The habitual intake of alcoholic beverages. At this stage, the level of alcohol intake has altered the body’s brain function, consumption becomes routine and unavoidable. Continued use occurs despite negative consequences for the person and the pers

Amphetamine
A substance which stimulates the central nervous system. Known to increase energy and diminish appetite. These drugs are extremely addictive and have serious side effects.

Aspirin
Used to treat pain, reduce fever, reduce the risk of blood clots that has anti-swelling(inflammatory) qualities. It is an anti-inflammatory, nonsteroidal, analygesic, non narcotic medication (NSAID).

B

Benzodiazepines

A class of drugs known as central nervous system depressants. There are three types of benzodiazepines: high dosage act as hypnotics, moderate doses act as anxiolytics (to relieve anxiety and tension), and low doses that act as sedatives. Drugs such as di

Binge Drinking

Periodically drinking large quantities of alcohol is called binge drinking. Often times, people will repeat this pattern regularly. It is also characterized by the intent to get intoxicated.

C

Cardiomyopathy

A dysfunction of the heart muscle which interferes with normal heart function. The heart does not pump the blood effectively. While there are numerous causes for this disease, alcohol consumption is one of them.

Central Nervous System

The body is comprised of different systems. The central nervous system(CNS) is composed of the brain and the spinal cord. The central nervous system sends messages to the entire body and helps regulate bodily functions. The CNS is responsible for thoughts

Chronic relapse

A process by which a person continually returns to the self- destructive behavior of using drugs and/or alcohol after periods of sobriety. This term also identifies those who frequently relapse into behaviors such as gambling etc.

Cirrhosis

The liver is a vital organ that produces proteins for the blood, including clotting proteins, and helps remove toxic substances from the body. Though a number of illnesses can cause liver disease, the regular consumption of alcohol is a known factor. The

Club Drugs

According to the NIDA, club drugs are a heterogeneous group of psychoactive drugs abused by teens and young adults in bars, nightclubs, concerts, parties, raves, trances etc. that tend to have a sedative and dissociative effect upon the user alterin

Cocaine

A highly psychologically addictive drug that is snorted, smoked or injected. It increases the level of dopamine in the brain (a chemical neurotransmitter) associated with pleasure. Pure cocaine is extracted from the leaf of the coca bush. Cocaine sold on

Codependency

Codependency was originally defined as behaviors exhibited by a person or persons dealing with another’s addiction. The use of the term now incorporates other intra-relationship dynamics. Codependent behavior, in any context, seeks to control the behavi

Compulsive Drug Seeking

It is not just the act of using drugs that defines this behavior. It is the obsessive seeking and taking drugs compulsively that characterizes the addiction. Compulsive behavior is always irrational.

Crack cocaine

A “rock form” of cocaine that is smoked and is highly addictive.

Cravings

A desire to use drugs or drink alcohol is called a craving. In part, these feelings are the body’s request for the drug or alcohol. They are the psychological response to a trigger: a person, place or thing that is consciously or unconsciously associate

D

Dependence

With the continued consumption of drugs or alcohol, a person develops a physical and psychological dependence or need. Once a person reaches a level of dependence, he or she must continue to use and/or drink to avoid withdrawal symptoms.

Depressant

All drugs have an impact on the brain whether it is to stimulate or depress certain bodily functions and brain responses. Depressants act on the brain to block pain receptors, sedate the central nervous system, reduce anxiety, or induce sleep. Alcohol, be

Dopamine

This a naturally occurring chemical compound found in the brain that is involved in the normal functioning of the central nervous system. It helps transmit mood, regulate blood flow, and helps to prevent shock. It is inextricably intertwined with the plea

E

Endorphin

This is a natural morphine like chemical produced by the body (in the pituitary and hypothalamus) that is released in the brain. It binds to the brain’s receptors altering the body’s responses to certain physical and emotional states such as pain, and

Euphoria

An exaggerated feeling of well being or elation induced by drugs or a mental health disorder.

F

Family Disease

When a member of a family becomes addicted to drugs or alcohol, the addiction affects everyone. Research indicates that everyone in the family unit has a response to the addiction. That response can cause depression, anxiety, anger, etc. The family genera

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

(FAS) Is a congenital condition caused by the consumption of alcohol during pregnancy. It affects the facial structure, brain development and function, and structure of the central nervous system in the developing fetus.

H

Hallucinogen

A hallucinogen is a drug derived either from a man made substance or from plants such as certain cacti or mushrooms. Hallucinogens alter the brain changing the way a person perceives reality: time and space. Drugs such as LSD, PCP, Peyote/Mescaline, Psilo

I

Ibuprofen

A non-steroid, anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) used to reduce pain, fever, inflammation.

Intoxication

Being under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Generally, intoxication is the point where the central nervous system is depressed so that mood and physical abilities are altered.

N

Narcotic

Narcotics can be understood in two ways: medical and legal. In terms of medical: drugs from the opioid family used to control pain or induce sleep such as morphine, heroin, methadone and codeine. Legally, narcotics are all those drugs regulated by the Dep

Nodding Off

Certain drugs induce a sleep like state known as nodding off. This sleep state can last for seconds or minutes followed by snapping back to wakefulness, though not alertness. It is not a planned state of sleep, nor is it controllable.

O

Opiates

Natural, semi-synthetic, synthetic derivatives of morphine such as heroin and methadone act upon the brain receptors, spinal cord, and gastrointestinal track. This class of drug induces a sense of pleasure to combat pain but it also depresses many of the

Overdose

Consuming drugs or alcohol beyond the recommended dosage could result in an overdose. The results of an overdose may be life threatening as the body has a toxic reaction to the substance.

P

Predatory Drugs

Drugs used to incapacitate a victim with the intent to perpetrate a crime such as slipping a roofie into someone’s drink to render them unconscious. These drugs include GHB, Ketamine, Rohypnol.

Prescription Drugs

Prescription drugs are drugs that are regulated by the government and require a physician prescription to obtain.

R

Recovery

Healing the mind, the body, and the spirit after addiction. It requires abstinence, self-reflection, support, a change of lifestyle, confronting personal shortcomings and more.

Rehab or Rehabilitation

Drug or alcohol rehabilitation is the process through which an individual moves to ceases using drugs and/or alcohol for extended period of times or a life time. Therapy, relapse prevention, 12 Step programs are some elements of the rehab process.

Relapse

The act of using drugs or drinking alcohol after a person has abstained from drinking or drugging for a period of time. Relapse also signifies a return to certain behaviors such as binge, purge activities or other behaviors such as gambling.

S

Sedative

A drug that alters the signals within the central nervous system easing anxiety and allowing sleep to occur. Sedatives have a tranquilizing effect, soothing or calming.

Stimulant

These drugs work on the brains receptors and can induce feelings of alertness. They increase activity levels and promote feelings of euphoria. They are highly addictive.

T

Track Marks

People who repeatedly inject drugs into their bodies by using needles develop track marks . The places where the needles repeatedly enter one’s body leaves marks. After a while, these marks begin to scar.

W

Withdrawal

When a person stops taking or decreases too rapidly drugs or alcohol, the body has an immediate and continued physical response. The symptoms of withdrawal can vary from mild discomfort, intense psychological response (anxiety, depression, paranoia)