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Addiction Terminology

Below are the 100 most common addiction terms:

A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z

Abstain or Abstinence:   To not use alcohol, drugs or any mood-altering substances.  The term is also used in reference to non-engagement in other addictive or compulsive behaviors.

ACA/ACOA:   Adult Child(ren) of Alcoholics/Addicts; First and foremost, they are just that: individuals who grew up with an addicted parent(s). As such, they also may be the spouse or former spouse of an alcoholic/addict, they may be addicted themselves, or they could be any combination of the three.

Activities Therapy:   This particular type of therapy includes recreational and occupational therapy (such as planning a picnic, menu planning, food preparation and playing softball) and has been part of inpatient psychiatric treatment for a long time.

Addiction:   A chronic, relapsing disease, characterized by compulsive drug-seeking and use, continued use despite negative consequences, and by neurochemical and molecular changes in the brain.

Adrenal glands:   Glands located above each kidney that secrete hormones, e.g., adrenaline.

Agonist:   A chemical compound that mimics the action of a natural neuro-transmitter.

Al-Anon:   A 12-Step program designed specifically for affected friends or family members of alcoholics, including Adult Children of Alcoholics

Alateen:   A 12 Step program designed specifically for affected children and teenagers with an alcoholic or chemically dependent parent(s) since their problems are different from those of the partner of the alcoholic.

Alcoholism:   is a primary, chronic disease with genetic, psychosocial, and environmental factors influencing its development and manifestation.  The disease is often progressive and fatal.  It is characterized by continuous or periodic: impaired control over drinking, preoccupation with the drug alcohol, use of alcohol despite adverse consequences, and distortions in thinking, most notably denial.

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA):   A 12 Step organization, founded in 1935.  A fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength, and hope with each other, that they may solve their common problem and help others to recover from alcoholism.

Analog:   A chemical compound that is similar to another drug in its effects but differs slightly in its chemical structure.

Anesthetic:   An agent that causes insensitivity to pain.

Anonymity:   The Twelfth Tradition in the 12 Step programs reads as follows: "Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all our traditions ever reminding us to place principles before personalities." In practice, anonymity takes the form of first names only during the meeting, not identifying oneself through the media as a member of AA and being wary not to reveal anyone else's attendance at meetings.

Antagonist:   A drug that counteracts or blocks the effects of another drug.

Antidepressants:   A group of drugs used in treating depressive disorders.

Assessment:   Refers to the process of gathering information and evaluating something (e.g., a condition)


Behavioral therapy:   A specific field of psychology that developed in the early 1950's.  Its goal is to eliminate maladaptive behaviors, replacing them with new and more effective behavioral patterns.

Benzodiazepines:   Drugs that relieve anxiety or are prescribed as sedatives; among the most widely prescribed medications, including valium and Librium.

Binge eating:   Rapid consumption of large amounts of food during a short period of time. A binge is usually defined as the consumption of 2,000 calories or more within one or two hours.

Blending:   Mixing different drugs.

Bolt:   Street name for butyl nitrite which is packaged in small bottles.

Bulking up:   Increasing muscle mass through steroids.

Bullet:   Street name for butyl nitrite which is packaged in small bottles.

Buprenorphine:   A mixed agonist/antagonist medication being studied for the treatment of heroin addiction.


Central Nervous System (CNS):   the brain and spinal cord.

Chemical Dependency:   Another term for alcohol or other drug addiction.

Climax:   Street name for butyl nitrite which is packaged in small bottles.

Coca:   The plant, Erythroxylon, from which cocaine is derived. Also refers to the leaves of this plant.

Cognitive Behavioral therapy:   A specific field of psychology that focuses on looking at ways in which the patient can change their thoughts, perceptions and behavior.

Compulsion:   An overwhelming urge to take a certain action despite possible bad consequences.

Core addictive issues:   Problems resulting from the period of addictive use that cause problems in recovery.  These include the inability to separate from friends who use, and a lack of acceptance of the need to abstain.

Core psychological issues:   Problems resulting from beliefs formed in childhood that continue even though they are no longer true.  These beliefs cause a person to act in a self-defeating manner.

Counseling:   The process of helping a person understand his or her patterns of thinking, feeling, and acting, and helping that person to make conscious choices to change.

Covert:   Hidden, indirect, not obvious.

Crack:   Slang term for a smokable form of cocaine.

Craving:   A powerful, often uncontrollable desire for drugs.  A powerful physical desire that demands satisfaction.

Cycling:   Taking multiple doses of steroids over a specified period of time, stopping for a time and then starting again.


Delusion:   Believing something even though facts state otherwise. A persistent false psychotic belief regarding the self or persons or objects outside the self.

Denial:   The self-deception that prevents addicts from admitting to themselves or to others the destructive nature of their drug use.  The inability to recognize a situation or reality for what it really is.  "A narrowing of perceptions"

Designer drug:   An analog of a restricted drug that has psychoactive properties.

Detoxification:   A process of allowing the body to rid itself of a drug(s) and it's effects while managing the physical and psychological symptoms of withdrawal.

Disease:   Disease means an involuntary disability.

Dissociation:   A process of separating the psychological self from the body. This is often a defense/coping mechanism that survivors of abuse use.

Disulfiram (Antabuse):   Antabuse is the trade name for disulfiram and has been widely used in alcoholism treatment. Disulfiram interferes with the metabolism of alcohol, causing unpleasant reactions or physical side effects when alcohol is ingested.

Dopamine:   A neurotransmitter present in regions of the brain that regulate movement, emotion, motivation, and the feeling of pleasure.

Diuretics:   Can be a specific type of drug or can also be found in common substances like coffee and tea that help remove water from the body by stimulating the flow of urine. Diuretic drugs interfere with normal kidney action by changing the amount of water, potassium, sodium and waste products removed from the bloodstream. Diuretics are dangerous drugs that are often abused and used as a way to quickly loose weight.

Doping:   Using drugs and other nonfood substances to improve athletic performance and prowess.

Dysfunctional:   Unable to function in a normal manner.


Enabling:   to assist, accommodate, aide, befriend, encourage, support, help take care of an alcoholic, substance abuser or other addict by taking responsibility for the addict's actions or shielding the addict from the consequences of his or her behavior.

Enabler:   someone who takes responsibility for an addict's behavior, to assist or support the addict; the result of the attempt(s) to assist the addict in this manner generally enable the addiction to persist. Anyone in the addict's life can be an enabler.

Emphysema:   A lung disease in which tissue deterioration results in increased air retention and reduced exchange of gases. The result is difficult breathing and shortness of breath. It is often caused by smoking.

Employment Assistance Programs (EAP's):   Programs that are developed by larger companies to deal with problems adversely affecting the work of employees (such as child care, elder care, single parenting, financial problems). However, smaller employers sometimes sign up with a group program that services several firms. The programs are clearly not limited to substance abuse. In most cases, people can utilize insurance benefits for their alcoholism or addiction only if they go through the EAP. The EAP also helps the person in recovery arrange their work schedule to enhance their recovery.

Enabler:   A person close to an addict who unknowingly enables the addictive behavior by rescuing, protecting, or taking over the responsibilities of the user thus leaving the addict with little incentive to get well.  Enabling behavior includes covering up, making excuses for, giving money to, or otherwise "helping" the person.

Enabling:   Any behavior, direct or indirect, regardless of the intention, that allows the addict to continue using.

Ergogenic drugs:   Performance enhancing substances.

Euphoric Recall:   The memories of using drugs that are associated with pleasant experiences, even if these happened a long time.


Families Anonymous:   A 12 Step program for friends and family members of addicts.

Fentanyl:   A medically useful opioid analog that is 50 times more potent than heroin.

Fire Breathing:   Igniting exhaled volatile gas, such as propane or butane.


Injunction:   A mistaken belief in the form of a negative statement to oneself.  Injunctions are often not conscious.  Example: I can't let myself cry or show my feelings because men don't cry.

Intervention:   Literally means to go between. A carefully planned meeting in which an addict is confronted by family members, friends, and professionals in an effort to break through denial and start the user and the participating friends and family on the road to recovery.


Levo-alpha-acetyl-methadl (LAAM):   An FDA approved medication for heroin addiction that patients need to take only three to four times a week.

Locker Room:   Street name for butyl nitrite which is packaged in small bottles.


Megadosing:   Taking massive amounts of steroids by injection or pill.

Meperidine:   A medically approved opioid available under various band names (e.g., Demerol).

Methadone:   A long-acting synthetic medication shown to be effective in treating heroin addiction.

Minimization:   Diminishing or making something (an experience) seem less serious and important.

Mistaken belief:   An incorrect belief learned in childhood or because of a particular situation that a person continues to believe even though it is not true. This causes the person to feel and act in a way that is inappropriate to the current situation.


Narcotics Anonymous (NA):   A 12 Step organization founded in 1953.  A fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength, and hope with each other, that they may solve their common problem and help others to recover from addiction.

NarAnon:   A 12 Step program for friends and family members of addicts.

Neuron:   A nerve cell in the brain.

Nicotine:   An alkaloid derived from the tobacco plant that is responsible for smoking's psychoactive and addictive effects; it is toxic at high doses but can be safe and effective as medicine at lower doses.


Obsession:   A thought that a person has over and over again despite efforts to stop it.

Overt:   Obvious, out in the open.


Pharmacokinetics:   The pattern of absorption, distribution and excretion of a drug over time.

Physical dependence:   An adaptive physiological state that occurs with regular drug use and results in a withdrawal syndrome when dug use is stopped.

Plateauing:   When a drug becomes ineffective at a certain level.

Poly-drug user:   An individual who uses more than one drug.

Poppers:   Street name for ampules of amyl nitrite.

Psychosis:   A mental disorder characterized by symptoms such as delusions or hallucinations that indicate an impaired conception of reality.

Purging:   A term used to cover the forced expulsion of ingested foods. Purging is often considered a purification rite for bulimics and a means of overcoming self-loathing by gaining self-control. Forced vomiting is the most common method, however, other methods of purging include laxative abuse and diuretic abuse.


Recovery:   The process of rehabilitation that begins with abstinence and continues with changing thoughts, feelings, and actions, which results in major lifestyle and value changes.  The state of being where the person has entered a healing and actively pursues a healthy life style. A process or state that happens over time and not all at once so that the individual becomes better able to manage his or her life.

Relapse:   All chronic diseases are subject to relapse.  A series of internal and external events (after starting a recovery program) that cause a person to collapse physically and/or mentally, and return to the use of alcohol or drugs or other addictive behavior. 

Relapse prevention:   The counseling process that helps a person to identify and change thoughts, feelings and actions that could lead him or her back to active addiction.

Repression:   An automatic and unconscious process of forgetting memories or experiences that are too painful to remember.

Reverse Tolerance:   Rather than being able to drink more, heavy, chronic drinkers often experience a sharp drop in tolerance and often become intoxicated after one or two drinks.

Roid rages:   Uncontrolled outbursts of anger, frustration or a combativeness that may result from anabolic steroids.

Rumination Disorder:   A less common eating disorder that is typically found in young children, mentally retarded children and some bulimics. The voluntary regurgitation of partially digested food into the mouth, where it is rechewed and reswallowed. This syndrome is named after a digestive process carried out by ruminant animals like cattle and sheep.

Rush:   A surge of pleasure that rapidly follows administration of some drugs.


Self-control therapy:   A psychological treatment method in which clinicians help patients control their own behavior without the aid of drugs or other outside controls.

Self-defeating behavior:   A behavior that a person uses that causes him or her to be worse off than before.  Even though the person doesn't like the result, he or she continues the behavior.

Self-help groups:   Groups that rely on their members to supply one another with support.

Serotonin:   A neurotransmitter that has been implicated in states of consciousness, mood, depression, and anxiety.

Shotgunning:   Taking steroids on a hit-or-miss basis.

Snappers:   Street name for ampules of amyl nitrite.

Sniffing:   Term for inhaling substance(s).

Snorting:   Term for inhaling substance(s).

Sponsor:   An individual in a Twelve Step program who serves as a mentor to another group member, guiding him or her through the Steps and application of the principles of the program.

Stacking:   Using a combination of anabolic steroids, often in combination with other drugs.

Substance Dependency/Substance Dependence Disorder:   Another term for alcohol or other drug addiction.

Sudden Sniffing Deaths:   Death, usually due to heart failure, within minutes of using an inhalant.

Suppression:   Consciously choosing to forget things that are too painful to remember.


Tapering:   Slowly decreasing steroid intake.

Texas Shoe Shine:   Spray paint containing toluene.

Tobacco:   A plant widely cultivated for its leaves, which are used primarily smoking; the tabacum species is the major source of tobacco products.

Tolerance:   A condition in which higher doses of a drug are required to produce the same effect as experienced initially; often leads to physical dependence.

Torch:   Igniting exhaled volatile gas, such as propane or butane.

Toxic:   Temporary or permanent drug effects that are detrimental to the functioning of an organ or group of organs.

Treatment:   There are many different components and ways to offer treatment or to help someone achieve recovery. We define treatment in terms of the various ways for a person to heal and repair their lives whether it's through individual counseling, family therapy, family education, client education, group therapy, medical care, 12 Step groups, vocational counseling, activities therapy, or alternative counseling.

Twelve Steps or 12 Steps:   The Twelve Steps function as the therapeutic framework of Alcoholics Anonymous and all other 12 Step fellowships. The 12 Steps of AA grew out of the practical experience of the earliest members, based on what they had done to gain sobriety.


Vertigo:   The sensation of dizziness.


Whippits:   Balloons or plastic bags filled with nitrous oxide.

Withdrawal:   A variety of symptoms that occur after use of an addictive drug is reduced or stopped.  Withdrawal symptoms for any drug are generally the reverse of the effects induced by the drug itself.

Working the program:   Following the twelve step program, including attending meetings, sponsorship and living the twelve steps.

Call now to make an appointment: (928) 231-0114