Glossary of Terms related to addiction and support. Click on the word to get its definition.

Below is a “Glossary of Terms” compiled to help you better understand addiction. These terms may describe the addicted person and their behaviors, and can apply to you as well. Some of the terms in the Glossary describe actions, situations, and relationships. The Glossary also mentions resources and tactics to aid both your recovery and the addict’s.

  • Addictionologist
  • After Care Support
  • Alcoholism
  • Alcoholic
  • AA (Alcoholics Anonymous)
  • Binge drinking
  • Boundaries
  • Codependence
  • Craving
  • Denial
  • Detoxification
  • Dopamine
  • Dual Diagnosis
  • Drug Court
  • Enabling

Addictionologists are addiction medicine physicians and addiction psychiatrists who hold either subspecialty board certification in addiction medicine from the American Board of Preventive Medicine (ABPM), subspecialty board certification in addiction psychiatry from the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology (ABPN), board certification in addiction medicine from the American Board of Addiction Medicine (ABAM), or a Certificate of Added Qualification in Addiction Medicine conferred by the American Osteopathic Association (AOA), They demonstrate by education, experience, and examination the requisite knowledge and skills to provide prevention, screening, intervention, and treatment for substance use and addiction. In addition, addiction specialists can recognize and treat the psychiatric and physical complications of addiction.

After Care Support

Once an individual has been stabilized and leaves a drug or alcohol rehabilitation center, he or she must continue working on their recovery through aftercare or continuing care, which is designed to prevent relapse. The majority of people who complete a treatment program will relapse within the first year, so finding a suitable aftercare program is of the utmost importance. Continuing care usually includes participation in a support group or 12-step program such as Alcoholics Anonymous, as well as appointing a sponsor. The continued support from and participation of family members is crucial to aftercare and long-term recovery. A good after care plan that includes a combination of psychotherapy, community support (AA) and medical will raise the probability of sobriety for your loved one.


A condition widely recognized as a disease characterized by compulsive drinking, which can be stopped, but not cured. It is a progressive illness, which will only get worse so long as the person continues to drink. Total abstinence from drinking is the only way to arrest the disease. Alcoholism affects the entire family; indeed, everyone who has contact with the alcoholic is affected. Unfortunately, the only person who can curb the drinking is the one who drinks.


Someone who as the result of their alcohol consumption, either habitual or excessive, suffers or has suffered physical, psychological, emotional, social or occupational harm.

AA (Alcoholics Anonymous)

A voluntary self-help organization comprised of individuals who have recognized their chemical dependence and are committed to living a life of abstinence. Abstinence is achieved by working a 12-Step Program, and members of AA support each other by sharing their own struggles, experiences and hopes. The support group is open to the public and the organization respects the privacy of those who attend meetings.

Binge drinking

Defined by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) as “consuming 4 or more alcoholic beverages per occasion for women or 5 or more drinks per occasion for men”.


The physical, emotional and mental limits established to protect ourselves from being manipulated, used, or violated by others. They allow us to separate who we are, and what we think and feel, from the thoughts and feelings of others. An example of setting “boundaries” is telling your addicted loved one that if they choose to use drugs or alcohol then they will not be allowed in the home.


A state of being overly concerned or obsessed with the problems of another, to the detriment of one’s own wants and needs. Losing one’s self in another person’s behavior, and thus having happiness be determined by the actions or inactions of the other person.


A powerful physical desire for something that cannot be ignored. A substantial desire for a substance. Overpowering urges that people are ill equipped to control through their own will.


The state of an individual who refuses to acknowledge that an event has occurred. When a person is “in denial” they simply act as if nothing has happened, even though it has. It is a subconscious and usually passive act. Sufferers may be unaware of the behavior of people around them, or blatantly refuse to accept the truth.


The physiological or medicinal removal of toxic substances from a living organism, including the human body, which is mainly carried out by the liver. (Also referred to as “detox” for short).


A neurotransmitter that helps control the brain’s reward and pleasure centers. Helps regulate movement and emotional responses. Enables us not only to see rewards, but to take action to move towards them.

Dual Diagnosis

The presence of a substance abuse problem or chemical dependency diagnosis with a coexisting psychiatric disorder. Occurs when a person suffers from addiction and mental illness (depression, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder, borderline personality, schizophrenia, etc.) concurrently. When treating a dual diagnosis is important to recognize and acknowledge both disorders as part of the treatment plan for sustainable recovery. (Also known as “Co-occurring Disorder”).

Drug Court

Drug courts are judicially supervised court dockets that provide a sentencing alternative of treatment combined with supervision for people living with serious substance use and mental health disorders. Drug courts are problem-solving courts that take a public health approach using a specialized model in which the judiciary, prosecution, defense bar, probation, law enforcement, mental health, social service, and treatment communities work together to help addicted offenders into long-term recovery.


The act of doing for something for an addict, in an attempt to help, that they could or should be doing for themselves. “Enabling” actually makes it easier for the addict to continue in the progression of their disease. (Defined as it applies to the disease of addiction).

  • Higher Power
  • Intervention
  • IOP
  • Meditation
  • Perfectionism
  • Resentments
  • Recovery
  • Relapse
  • Slogans
  • Sobriety
  • 3 C’s – Three C’s
  • Tolerance
  • Twelve Step Programs
  • Withdrawal
Higher Power

A term coined in the 1930s by Alcoholics Anonymous. It is sometimes referred to as a “power greater than ourselves.” The term is used by other 12 Step Programs, and is self-defined by the individual “working the steps”.


An event whereat a person or a group of people who has/have been affected by the behavior of an addict collectively and unilaterally confront that addict about their behavior. The purpose of holding an intervention is to get the addict to accept help and go into treatment. Before staging the intervention, the participants have premeditated arrangements for the addict’s treatment program, transportation, etc.


An intensive outpatient program (IOP) is a kind of treatment service and support program used primarily to treat eating disorders, depression, self harm and chemical dependency that does not rely on detoxification.


A technique designed to promote relaxation, build internal energy or life force (qi, ki, prana, etc.) and develop compassion, love, patience, generosity, and forgiveness. May be employed through a wide variety of practices. A particularly ambitious form of meditation aims at effortlessly sustained single-pointed concentration that is meant to enable the practitioner to enjoy an indestructible sense of wellbeing while engaging in any life activity.


A personality trait characterized by a person’s incessant strive for flawlessness/setting high performance standards, accompanied by critical self-evaluations and concerns for about how others evaluate them. Psychologists agree there are both positive and negative dimensions to “being a perfectionist”. In the more harmful form, it drives people to attempt to achieve an unattainable ideal. On the other hand, it can be a source of motivation for goal achievement. The outcome of efforts can lead to deriving pleasure or conversely falling into a depression.


The subsequent feelings that arise after an act or decision were executed in effort to please someone else. When an action was only taken to satisfy another person, and not independently, regrets surface that are held (usually in secret) against the person that the actions aimed to please.


Restoration to sobriety induced by changing attitudes and behaviors regarding a life free of chemicals. Not a singular event, but a process including measures to be taken over time. It is ongoing, and those who avoid their source of addiction are considered “in recovery.” The term “recovery” embraces the idea that life is taken one day at a time, and each day someone maintains abstinence is a blessing.


Reinstatement of drug-seeking behavior. A pathological return to drug use after a period of abstinence. (Defined as it applies in the context of drug use).


Slogans are quotes used in recovery circles. One way to use them is to write your favorite slogans on separate pieces of paper. Put them all in a small box and take one out every morning. Whatever the slogan is that you pick up, try to practice that slogan to the best of your ability for that day.


The state of a person whose life is free of alcohol, chemical, or behavioral dependency.

3 C’s – Three C’s

It’s no secret that watching a loved one struggle with addiction can be extremely difficult, stressful, and heartbreaking. However, there are three guiding principles, also known as the three C’s to addiction recovery, that can help addicts and their loved ones better understand the disease, as well as its recovery.

The three C’s to addiction recovery are:

  • I didn’t cause it
  • I can’t cure it
  • I can’t control it

A diminished physical response to a drug, occurring after repeated use. When the body has become dependent on a continued presence of the drug, while the drug’s euphoric or pain relieving sensation has lessened or disappeared due to chronic administration. More of the drug will be required to achieve the same effect in the future. Any organism is capable of building up a resistance against the effects of some drugs.

Twelve Step Programs

The philosophical basis of Alcoholics Anonymous and all Anonymous self-help groups. The step series provides a means by which one can get into recovery and achieve a sober life. The first step is to acknowledge one’s powerlessness over the substance and that one’s life has become unmanageable.


The onset of uncomfortable symptoms occurring after the abrupt discontinuation or decrease in intake of medications or recreational drugs.

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