Glossary of addiction terms
Glossary of addiction terms
A process by which addiction treatment facilities and programs are approved as meeting certain standards of care and a commitment to continuous quality improvement by a national organization that reviews facilities for compliance.
Accreditation is considered a higher standard of oversight than licensing, which focuses on minimum standards. Five organizations accredit addiction treatment programs and facilities in the U.S.: the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF), the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (Joint Commission), the Council on Accreditation (COA), the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) and the National Commission on Correctional Health Care (NCCHC).
A complex brain disease, often chronic in nature, involving continued, compulsive use of 1 or more substances and/or compulsive behaviors (e.g., gambling, and possibly those relating to sex, eating, Internet use, etc.) despite serious health and social consequences. Addiction disrupts circuits in the brain that are responsible for reward, motivation, learning, judgment and memory.
A type of addiction treatment provider. These providers may have different titles and required levels of education and training depending on where they practice. For example, across different states these providers may be known as substance abuse counselors (SACs), credentialed alcoholism and substance abuse counselors (CASACs) or alcohol and drug counselors (ADCs). They typically provide some type of group and individual support services, but are not medical professionals and are not trained to provide the full range of behavioral and pharmaceutical therapies needed to treat addiction and other health conditions.
A doctor who is board-certified as a psychiatrist and who has specialized training in addiction diagnosis, treatment and management.
A doctor who is board-certified in some specialty (e.g., family medicine, pediatrics, neurology) and who has specialized training in addiction diagnosis, treatment and management.
A doctor with specialized training in addiction diagnosis, treatment and management. This includes addiction psychiatrists and addiction medicine physicians.
A comprehensive determination of a person’s medical, psychological and substance use history and current health status, present symptoms of addiction, potential withdrawal syndrome and related substance use and health behaviors and conditions. This determination follows a diagnostic evaluation and is needed in order to formulate a treatment plan. It should be performed by a qualified physician.
The term "behavioral health" is often used in place of the term "mental health" to distinguish mental health and addiction from other health conditions. Because there are not yet biomarkers, such as blood or urine tests, for addiction and most mental illnesses, these diseases must be diagnosed by an individual’s behavior. A new research effort underway at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Research Domain Criteria (RDoC) project, may develop more objective ways to measure these diseases, including genetics, imaging and cognitive science.
Brief interventions are provided by trained health care providers to individuals who screen positive for risky use of addictive substances, but do not meet clinical criteria for addiction. They help patients reduce their risky use of substances by providing feedback about the extent and effects of their substance use, enhancing motivation to change their behavior, and offering recommendations for how they might do so. Brief interventions can be conducted face-to-face, over the phone or through computerized feedback to the individual.
Connecting individuals with addiction to support services and resources (including mutual support, family and peer support and other needed services such as housing, employment, child care, etc.) to facilitate disease management.
A term sometimes used to include addiction involving alcohol, illegal and controlled prescription drugs or in reference to treatment centers or state agencies that regulate addiction treatment involving these substances. Dependence literally refers to the changes that happen in the body after extended use of alcohol or other drugs that produce tolerance and withdrawal symptoms when use is reduced or stopped. Because addiction involves compulsive behaviors including the use of tobacco as well as other drugs, and because people who are not addicted can experience dependence and withdrawal, the term addiction is preferred when referring to the disease.
Certification demonstrates additional expertise within a specific area of one’s profession (i.e., a specialty). Certification is a voluntary process administered by non-governmental organizations, typically professional associations.
Commonly misused prescription drugs include barbiturates, benzodiazepines and sleep medications, opioid and morphine-based pain relievers, amphetamines, ADHD medications and DXM found in cough syrups. This list provides examples of their commercial and street names, how they are administered, their effects, health risks and other information. View full list.
For a list of commonly used alcohol, nicotine and tobacco products, please click here.
A set of actions that an individual engages in repeatedly in an unhealthy way, for example, substance use, gambling, sex, eating and the use of technological devices such as video games, television and the Internet. There is evidence that the same brain circuits that are involved in addiction involving substances also may be involved in other compulsive behaviors.
This is a determination made by a trained medical professional of the presence, stage and severity of the disease of addiction involving nicotine, alcohol and other drugs. It is performed using diagnostic tools such as the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) or the International Classification of Diseases. Diagnostic tools also exist to determine the presence of addiction involving gambling.
A diagnostic tool used by clinicians to determine whether a patient meets clinical criteria for addiction or a mental illness (or both). The definition of addiction has been revised over successive versions of this manual. For example, the DSM-IV distinguished between “abuse” and “dependence” and the DSM 5 now views this as a continuum of “substance use disorders.”
A process whereby persons with long-term chronic health conditions work with health care providers to maintain their health and functioning. It may include medications and/or therapies to ensure that patients remain symptom free and that other health conditions and the patient’s nutrition and exercise requirements are addressed. Disease management can improve an individual’s ability to function, suppress symptoms, prevent the development of additional health conditions and reduce relapse.
An addiction treatment venue that requires overnight stays in a hospital setting. Sometimes the term "inpatient addiction treatment" is used incorrectly to include non-hospital residential treatment where patients live away from home, typically for several weeks or months, in a facility that provides addiction treatment but not hospital care.
An international diagnostic classification system for mental diseases and addiction developed by the World Health Organization (WHO).
A mandatory approval process required by state law through which addiction treatment facilities and individual treatment providers are approved to provide services. For individual providers, licensing standards are designed to ensure minimum competency required to practice one’s profession. For facilities, licensing establishes minimum standards for protecting public health, safety and welfare. Licensing requirements vary by state. Not all addiction treatment facilities and addiction counselors are required to be licensed in every state.
One or more additional years of training after medical school and residency training for the purpose of developing more specialized knowledge and skills in a particular field of medicine, such as in addiction psychiatry or addiction medicine.
Methadone is a synthetic opioid that is used as medication to reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms of addiction involving opioids. In maintenance treatment, patients initially come to an outpatient clinic daily to receive their medication. Take home medications may be available for patients who are able to stop use of alcohol and other drugs and demonstrate improved stability in their lives.
An addiction treatment venue where the patient does not have to stay overnight. The services are offered in an office or clinic setting. Intensive outpatient addiction treatment services are offered more frequently—typically, on a daily basis—than traditional outpatient services and are designed for patients who need more regular contact with health care providers.
The use of medications to treat addiction that work in one of these ways:
- Reducing cravings and withdrawal symptoms
- Creating an aversion (negative response) to the addictive substance
- Reducing the rewarding effects
- Providing a less dangerous or less addicting version of the substance
Pharmaceutical therapies are offered by a physician, or other health professional under the supervision of a physician, as part of a treatment plan established and managed by a person’s physician.
Psychosocial therapy includes specific types of both individual and group therapies that have been shown to help individuals enhance their coping skills, navigate high-risk situations, avoid triggers to use substances, control cravings, cope with lapses, enhance their motivation to change behavior, or alter their environment to reduce pressures to use. Psychosocial therapies are provided by highly trained clinical professionals as part of a treatment plan established and managed by a physician.
A term used in reference to changing behaviors of individuals with the disease of addiction to achieve abstinence and encourage other socially acceptable behaviors. There is no standard definition for rehabilitation, and what is offered as rehabilitation services may not reflect evidence-based addiction treatment.
A multi-year research initiative underway at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) that is designed to develop more objective biological markers of addiction and mental illnesses (e.g., using genetics, imaging and cognitive science) to replace current diagnostic criteria, which rely only on reported behavioral symptoms.
An addiction treatment venue where patients live away from home, typically for several weeks or months, in a facility that provides treatment but not hospital care.
An additional 3 to 7 years of training after medical school to specialize in a particular field of medicine, such as family medicine, surgery or pediatrics.
A biological, psychological or environmental influence that can increase one’s chance of having a disease such as addiction. Examples include inheriting genes associated with addiction or a family history of addiction, exposure to physical or sexual abuse or other trauma, and co-occurring mental health conditions, such as anxiety and depression.
The use of tobacco, alcohol or other drugs in ways that threaten the health and safety of the user and/or others but do not meet the clinical diagnostic criteria for addiction. Risky use includes any substance use by minors, drinking in excess of dietary guidelines, any use of tobacco/nicotine, misuse of controlled prescription drugs and any illegal drug use by adults who do not meet clinical criteria for addiction.
The process of safely removing addictive substances from the body. Medically-assisted stabilization, also called detoxification, aims to reduce discomfort and potential physical harm for individuals who are experiencing withdrawal. The stabilization process often requires the assistance of medical professionals and may involve the use of pharmaceutical therapies to guide people safely through withdrawal. Stabilization is an important and often necessary prerequisite to effective acute addiction treatment, but it does not itself constitute treatment.
This is a term often used to refer to addiction and risky substance use. It is imprecise and potentially insulting because it implies that the person is intentionally and purposefully committing a socially unacceptable act. When used in a clinical context, it means that someone had been diagnosed with “substance abuse” according to criteria outlined in the 4th edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV). Use of this term should be avoided, and it has been removed as a clinical diagnosis from the DSM-5 (the latest version).
When used in a clinical context, it means that someone had been diagnosed with “substance dependence” according to criteria outlined in the 4th edition of Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV). It can also refer to physical dependence on an addictive substance, where an individual experiences tolerance and withdrawal symptoms, with or without the psychological and behavioral symptoms associated with the disease of addiction. Because of its imprecision and multiple meanings, use of this term should be avoided, and it has been removed as a clinical diagnosis from the DSM-5 (the latest version).
This is a term often used interchangeably with addiction. The term collectively refers to the clinical diagnoses of “substance abuse” and “substance dependence” as defined by the 4th edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV). In the DSM-5, which is the latest version, these two categories are combined into one category of “substance use disorders” with three levels of severity. This term assumes that people who use different substances have different disorders, rather than one disease of addiction with different expressions, such as addiction involving nicotine, addiction involving alcohol, addiction involving gambling, etc., or addiction involving multiple substances or behaviors. Use of the term "addiction" is preferred.
This term is used to include three categories of services:
- Mutual support programs that help individuals manage their health and avoid the recurrence of disease symptoms (e.g., Alcoholics Anonymous, LifeRing Secular Recovery, Narcotics Anonymous, Secular Organizations for Sobriety, SMART Recovery, Women for Sobriety)
- Nutrition and exercise support to help maintain health
- Other needed services to address legal, educational, employment, housing, parenting and child-care issues that may impede disease management
While not considered treatment, these services may be helpful in promoting and supporting healthy outcomes when used alongside clinical treatment and disease management. These meetings constitute free worldwide networks offering advice and support.
A general term used to mean psychosocial therapy, excluding pharmaceutical therapy. (See Psychosocial Therapy)
Psychosocial (i.e., types of counseling) and pharmaceutical (medication) therapies that have been shown to be effective in treating and helping to manage addiction.