Substance Use

Substance Use Disorder Glossary

Library shelves of books

Get Help Now

check insurance
Check your insurance by using our Online Form
call us
Talk to someone now.
Call (855) 430-9439

This glossary provides definitions for select terms used when talking about substance use disorder (SUD) on the Zinnia Health website.

12-Step Program: A set of guiding principles outlining a course of action for recovery from addiction, compulsion, or other behavioral problems.

Abstinence: Complete avoidance of the use of drugs or alcohol.

Addiction: A chronic, relapsing disorder characterized by compulsive drug seeking, continued use despite harmful consequences, and long-lasting changes in the brain.

Addiction Treatment: The process of medical or psychotherapeutic treatment for dependency on psychoactive substances.

Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD): A chronic relapsing brain disease characterized by an impaired ability to stop or control alcohol use despite adverse social, occupational, or health consequences.

Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome: A set of symptoms that can occur following a reduction in alcohol use after a period of excessive drinking.

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA): A 12-step fellowship program for individuals recovering from alcohol addiction.

Alcoholism: A severe form of alcohol abuse that involves the inability to manage drinking habits.

Antabuse (Disulfiram): A drug used in the treatment of alcoholism that produces unpleasant side effects when alcohol is consumed.

Benzodiazepines: A class of drugs primarily used for treating anxiety, but they also are effective in treating several other conditions.

Binge Drinking: Drinking alcohol with the primary intention of becoming intoxicated by heavy consumption of alcohol over a short period.

Bioavailability: The proportion of a drug or other substance which enters the circulation when introduced into the body and so is able to have an active effect.

Blackout: A phenomenon caused by the intake of any substance or medication in which long term memory creation is impaired or there is a complete inability to recall the past.

Brain Reward System: A group of neural structures responsible for incentive salience (i.e., motivation and “wanting”, desire, or craving for a reward), associative learning, and positive emotions.

Cannabis: A psychoactive drug from the Cannabis plant used for medical or recreational purposes.

Cirrhosis: A late stage of scarring (fibrosis) of the liver caused by many forms of liver diseases and conditions, such as hepatitis and chronic alcoholism.

Clean Time: The period during which a person in recovery has managed to stay off drugs or alcohol.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): A form of psychotherapy that treats problems and boosts happiness by modifying dysfunctional emotions, behaviors, and thoughts.

Codependency: A behavioral condition in a relationship where one person enables another person’s addiction, poor mental health, immaturity, irresponsibility, or under-achievement.

Co-occurring Disorders: When a person has both a substance use disorder and a mental health disorder.

Controlled Substances: Drugs that are restricted by law and categorized into schedules based on their potential for abuse and addiction, and their medical uses.

Counseling: Professional guidance in resolving personal conflicts and emotional problems, often used as part of addiction treatment.

Crack Cocaine: A free base form of cocaine that can be smoked.

Craving: A powerful, often uncontrollable desire for drugs or alcohol.

Cross Addiction: The substitution of one addiction for another after cessation of the substance or behavior the person is originally addicted to.

Cross-tolerance: The phenomenon where tolerance or resistance to a drug develops as a result of continued use of another drug with similar pharmacological effects. In other words, the body’s tolerance to one substance can extend to another substance that acts on the same receptors or systems in the body.

Cold Turkey: Sudden and complete cessation of drug use, often associated with withdrawal symptoms.

Counseling: Professional guidance in resolving personal conflicts and emotional problems, often used as part of addiction treatment.

Depressants: A class of drugs that reduce the activity of the central nervous system.

Designer Drugs: Synthetic versions of illegal drugs that have been chemically altered to evade a country’s drug laws.

Detoxification (Detox): The process of allowing the body to rid itself of a drug while managing the symptoms of withdrawal.

Dopamine: A type of neurotransmitter associated with pleasure and reward.

Drug Abuse: The habitual taking of addictive or illegal drugs.

Drug Court: A specialized court system where cases involving substance abuse are managed.

Drug Diversion: The transfer of any legally prescribed controlled substance from the individual for whom it was prescribed to another person for any illicit use.

Drug Interaction: A situation in which a substance affects the activity of a drug when both are administered together.

Drug Metabolism: The process by which the body breaks down and converts medication into active chemical substances.

Drug Misuse: The use of a substance for purposes not consistent with legal or medical guidelines, as in the non-medical use of prescription medications.

Drug Paraphernalia: Any equipment, product or material that is modified for making, using, or concealing drugs, typically for recreational purposes.

Drug Rehabilitation: The process of medical or psychotherapeutic treatment for dependency on psychoactive substances such as alcohol, prescription drugs, and street drugs.

Drug Scheduling: The classification of drugs into five distinct categories or schedules depending upon the drug’s acceptable medical use and the drug’s abuse or dependency potential.

Drug Trafficking: The illegal trade involving the cultivation, manufacture, distribution, and sale of substances which are subject to drug prohibition laws.

Dual Diagnosis: The condition of suffering from a mental illness and a comorbid substance use disorder.

Ecstasy (MDMA): A synthetic drug that alters mood and perception.

Enabling: Actions that protect people from the consequences of their behavior, often perpetuating the problem.

Family Therapy: A type of psychological counseling that can help family members improve communication and resolve conflicts, often used in addiction treatment.

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome: A condition in a child that results from alcohol exposure during the mother’s pregnancy.

Gateway Drug: A habit-forming drug that, while not itself addictive, may lead to the use of other addictive drugs.

Half-Life: The time required for a quantity to reduce to half of its initial value, often used in the context of drug metabolism.

Hallucinogens: A class of drugs that cause profound distortions in a person’s perceptions of reality.

Harm Reduction: A set of practical strategies and ideas aimed at reducing negative consequences associated with drug use.

Hepatitis: Inflammation of the liver, commonly caused by a viral infection or prolonged, heavy alcohol use.

Heroin: An opioid drug made from morphine, a natural substance taken from the seed pod of various opium poppy plants.

High-Functioning Addict: An individual who maintains their career, relationships, and other responsibilities while battling a substance use disorder.

Impaired Control: A symptom of substance use disorders characterized by a person using more of a substance or using the substance for longer than they intended.

Inhalants: Various products easily bought and found in the home or workplace—such as spray paints, markers, glues, and cleaning fluids—that contain volatile substances that have psychoactive (mind-altering) properties when inhaled.

Inpatient Treatment: A residential treatment program in which a patient stays in a hospital or clinic for the duration of the treatment.

Intervention: A professionally directed, education process resulting in a face-to-face meeting of family members, friends and/or employer with the person in trouble with alcohol or drugs.

Intoxication: The state of being intoxicated, especially by alcohol.

Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT): The use of medications, in combination with counseling and behavioral therapies, to provide a “whole-patient” approach to the treatment of substance use disorders.

Methadone: A medication used in medication-assisted treatment to help people reduce or quit their use of heroin or other opiates.

Methamphetamine (Meth): A powerful, highly addictive stimulant that affects the central nervous system.

Motivational Interviewing: A counseling method that helps people resolve ambivalent feelings and insecurities to find the internal motivation they need to change their behavior.

Naloxone: A medication designed to rapidly reverse opioid overdose.

Narcotics: Drugs that have pain relieving and sleep-inducing properties, often associated with addiction.

Narcotics Anonymous (NA): A 12-step program designed to help people who are addicted to narcotic drugs to stop using and recover.

Neuroadaptation: The process by which the brain and body adapt to the presence of drugs or alcohol.

Neurotransmitter: A substance that transmits nerve impulses across a synapse.

Opiate: A drug derived from or related to opium. Examples include morphine and heroin.

Opioid Receptors: A group of inhibitory G protein-coupled receptors with opioids as ligands.

Opioid Replacement Therapy (ORT): The use of prescribed opioids to manage opioid dependence and reduce harm.

Opioids: A class of drugs that include the illegal drug heroin, synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, and pain relievers available legally by prescription.

Outpatient Treatment: A program in which the patient receives treatment through therapy sessions but does not stay overnight at the facility.

Overdose: The ingestion or application of a drug or other substance in quantities greater than are recommended or generally practiced.

Peer Pressure: Influence from members of one’s peer group.

Physical Dependence: A physiological state of adaptation to a substance, the absence of which produces symptoms of withdrawal.

Polydrug Use: The concurrent use of multiple drugs.

Prescription Drug Misuse: The use of prescription medication in a way not intended by the prescribing doctor.

Psychoactive Substance: A chemical substance that changes brain function and results in alterations in perception, mood, consciousness, cognition, or behavior.

Psychotherapy: The use of psychological methods, particularly when based on regular personal interaction, to help a person change behavior and overcome problems in desired ways.

Receptor: A region of tissue, or a molecule in a cell membrane, which responds specifically to a particular neurotransmitter, hormone, antigen, or other substance.

Recreational Drug Use: The use of a psychoactive drug to induce an altered state of consciousness for pleasure, by modifying the perceptions, feelings, and emotions of the user.

Recovery: A process of change through which individuals improve their health and wellness, live a self-directed life, and strive to reach their full potential.

Recovery Model: A holistic, person-centered approach to mental health care.

Rehabilitation (Rehab): A program that helps people to stop using drugs or alcohol and to recover from the damage the substance has done to their lives.

Relapse: A return to drug use after an attempt to stop.

Relapse Prevention: A cognitive-behavioral approach to relapse with the goal of identifying and preventing high-risk situations.

Residential Treatment Centers: A live-in health care facility providing therapy for substance abuse, mental illness, or other behavioral problems.

Risk Factors: Characteristics at the biological, psychological, family, community, or cultural level that precede and are associated with a higher likelihood of negative outcomes.

Self-Medication: The use of drugs or alcohol to manage symptoms of physical or mental health problems.

Sober Living Homes: Residences that provide a substance-free environment for individuals recovering from substance use.

Sobriety: The state of living life free from alcohol and drugs.

Sponsor: In the context of recovery programs, a person who has recovered from the same addiction and who offers guidance and support to a recovering addict.

Stimulants: A class of drugs that increase the activity of the central nervous system.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA): The agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that leads public health efforts to advance the behavioral health of the nation.

Substance Dependence: A biopsychological condition in which an individual’s functioning becomes reliant on the regular consumption of a psychoactive substance due to the development of an adaptive state within them. This adaptive state leads to the experience of withdrawal symptoms, compelling the individual to seek re-consumption of the drug to alleviate those symptoms.

Substance-Induced Disorders: Disorders, like psychosis, that can be traced back to the direct physiological effects of a substance, whether it is a drug of abuse, a medication, or a toxin.

Substance Misuse: The utilization of any substance in a manner, situation, amount, or frequency that has the potential to inflict harm upon the users themselves or those in their vicinity. In certain cases involving specific substances or individuals, even the slightest use can be classified as misuse, such as under-age drinking or injection drug use.

Substance Use Disorder (SUD): A medical condition characterized by an uncontrolled use of a substance despite harmful consequences.

Tapering: Gradually reducing a dose of a drug over time to avoid withdrawal symptoms.

Therapeutic Alliance: The relationship between a healthcare professional and a patient.

Therapeutic Community (TC): A type of long-term residential treatment for substance use disorders with a focus on the “resocialization” of the individual.

Tolerance: The body’s diminished response to a drug which occurs after repeated use.

Treatment Plan: A detailed plan with information about a patient’s disease, the goal of treatment, the treatment options for the disease and possible side effects, and the expected length of treatment.

Trigger: A stimulus or situation that can lead to cravings or drug-seeking behavior in individuals with substance use disorders.

Withdrawal: Symptoms that occur after chronic use of a drug is reduced or stopped.