Glossary Guide to Addiction Treatment Terms 

Please note: This is a quick reference to frequently used addiction terms and NOT intended for any diagnostic criteria.

Addiction

Compulsive, repetitive engagements in a harmful, ongoing activity that provides temporary value to the user. The user finds it extremely difficult to stop or reduce the engagements. With so many myths surrounding addiction it would be worth seeing this video for a more comprehensive and modern definition of addiction.

Abuse

Excessive usage that causes some form of harm to a person or another person. A broader concept than addiction, it occurs whenever a person over-indulges, but the abuser may, or may not, be addicted to the substance or activity. Persistent abuse is often a precursor to, or indicative of, addiction however can also take the format of emotional neglect, abandonment, toxic relationships, self harm, emotional neglect, sexual abuse and a range of other other self-destructive behaviours.

Adrenaline

A natural stimulant normally produced by the body during emotions like fear, excitement, anger, but can also be produced artificially. Production by the body can also be catalysed by drugs. It places the body on alert and promotes extra effort and performance commonly referred to as a fight or flight reflex to imminent danger. Learning to cope with adrenaline features as a constant factor in treating Post Traumatic Stress Disorders and it’s many adverse emotional reactions and side effects.

Adult children

Adolescents and adults who grow up in dysfunctional families (where the parenting skills are weakened by abuse, neglect, traumatic childhood experiences etc) now as adults have developed adverse responses to day to day relationship and other stressors as a result of their experiences as children. Read more about adult children of alcoholics here and follow our blog for frequent articles on ACE adverse childhood experiences.

Aftercare

An optional service hosted by treatment centres to assist patients with ongoing advice and support on a voluntary-patient basis after they had completed a rehabilitation program. Aftercare can include personal care provided at home by someone close to the a person that has been through a treatment programme. Please browse our aftercare here for more information on outpatient aftercare.

Alcohol

Alcohol is a substances which can be addictive and/or exceptionally harmful to patients psychological wellbeing. The and other common drugs are explained in more detail on other pages of this site in dealing with substance abuse.

Amphetamines

Blood poisoning

Blood poisoning also known as sepsis or septicemia may include any critical infection of the blood stream. The term “poisoning” is frequently misused in the diagnostic, as it is usually a bacterial, fungal, or viral infection in the blood stream that causes the critical harm to the person affected.

Prompt MEDICAL diagnosis and treatment are vital for treating blood poisoning cases. Hospital emergency rooms admissions treat blood poisoning in intensive care units with dialysis, antibiotics and a range of treatments depending on the nature of the infection. Hospitals perform blood tests for culture, oxygen, counts, clotting e.t.c to determine the most appropriate treatment.

Infections may lead to a range of potentially fatal medical circumstances that cannot be treated in an addiction recovery centre.

Full septic shock has around a 50% mortality rate according to Mayo Clinic. Even if successfully treated the long-term effects can cause permanent damage to the immune system and organ functions.

Substance users typically have weakened immune systems due to their usage, which makes them more susceptible to this form of infection than healthy people. However anyone that has a weakened immune system or has had open wound contact with an infected source can contract blood poisoning.

These conditions can be acquired through the use of needles during injection of intravenous substances trigger the initial infection of the bloodstream. Blood poisoning can also be caused by damage done to the skin or wounds inflicted during self-harming behaviours.

Barbiturates

Benzodiazepines

Read more here about treating benzodiazepine addictions here.

Blood Alcohol Level

Caregiver

Anybody closely associated with an patient and who assists them by providing food, medication, mobility or help in other forms of personal or emotional assistance or support in their recovery. Care givers play a crucial role in treatment and long-term recovery of people dealing with addiction or use disorders. “Care” and support is a crucial component in enabling the individual to establish their own footholds and to start the process of moving forward in their lives.

Codependency

Persons that are directly or indirectly affected by the consequences of an abusive behaviour yet permit the behaviour to continue, are considered to be codependents. Whilst the abuser is directly dependent on an addictive activity, a codependent is not directly dependent on it, but is indirectly controlled or affected by it and is not able to establish the boundaries to stop the abusive process. A codependent lacks the will or resources to stop the abuse and continues to live with it, even to the extent of unwillingly serving or protecting the abuser, despite being adversely affected. Read more about codependent relationships here.

Cold turkey

A slang term for detoxification without medication or medical assistance. The substance user goes through the withdrawal phase that follows when they stop taking a drug/substance, without taking medication to alleviate the unpleasant withdrawals. A difficult process in the case of some substances can be life threatening, but in many cases possible. Cold turkey detoxes the body but does not emotionally prepare the person for long term process of accepting sobriety as with the tools received in a recovery programme. Cold turkey is not something recommended without professional medical advice or support upfront or on hand. Speak to a doctor or medical professional before undergoing any form of home detox or cold turkey attempts, particularly with drugs like alcohol.

Comedown

The phase that follows immediately after the exhilaration (or “high”) has faded. It is the opposite of the “reward” felt during intoxication. This slump often tempts an user to repeat the process again, so they can return to feeling “high”.

Contagious disease

Serious contagious diseases are picked up through sharing injection needles with others. Random sex sought by sex addicts or reckless sex during intoxication also transmits many contagious diseases.

Conversation mapping

A practical conversation that gives the addict and therapist opportunity to get to know one another, to inform and exchange views. After the conversation a therapeutic process can be formulated, based on an analysis of the knowledge gained from the conversation. Addicts can start with a partly mapped introductory course while a trusting relationship and more insight develops to enable fine-tuning of the therapy.

Dehydration

Results when the body loses more fluid than it takes in. Some drugs are diuretics (they stimulate fluid expulsion). Many drugs cause vomiting and diarrhea as side effects, which also drain fluid from the body. Drugs that energise, cause excessive perspiration. Dehydration can lead to coma and death.

Delirium

A state of mental confusion with hallucinations and physical turmoil. Best known is delirium tremens, a severe drug withdrawal symptom.

Dependence

Dependency differs from addiction. Some people must take prescription drugs for illness – they depend on it to treat the illness, but are not necessarily addicted to it. Some people acquire dependency as a forerunner of addiction. It is difficult to distinguish between abuse, dependency and addiction, as they overlap and so the words are used interchangeably.

Drug-free

Complete abstinence from the use of harmful addictive substances. A former addict, who has forsaken all harmful drug usage, will be described as “drug-free”.

Drugs

A common name for substances that affect the brain and central nervous system. Alcohol, many medicines, tobacco, caffeine, are all drugs, just like marijuana and other illicit drugs. In street talk, the word drugs often indicates only illicit drugs, but on this site it refers to all drugs which are commonly abused and cause severely harmful addiction. Please browse this site for more about the various types of addictive drugs.

Ecstasy & MDMA

A powerful mood and perception-altering drug that is similar to many other hallucinogens and stimulant based drugs. Read more about addiction complications with ecstacy over here.

Foetal Alcohol Syndrome

Women who drink alcohol during pregnancy can give birth to babies with foetal alcohol spectrum disorders. These birth defects and abnormalities in babies of alcohol abusing mothers are also known as FAS.

Foetal Drug Syndrome

Birth defects abnormalities with babies of drug using mothers. Many drugs are toxic to the placenta and consequentially to developing foetus.

Gram

The same metric measurement of one gram only used in the quantification of substances being sold.

Harm Reduction

A harm reduction approach to addiction treatment from the idea that many people with addiction issues will never reach complete abstinence. In these especially hard to treat cases such as opioid addiction harm reduction such as providing services, such as clean needle distribution, safe places to use drugs, overdose prevention and in some cases supply chemically stable replacement drugs.

Hallucination

Perception of something that does not exist outside the mind. Seeing, hearing, smelling or feeling things that are figments of the imagination, but seem real. (Includes illusions of overly vivid sounds, sights, feeling, taste, smell and harmony.)

Heroin

Hash

Injection

When drugs are forced into the body tissue with a syringe or needle. Can be into the skin (intradermal), underneath the skin (subcutaneous), into a muscle (intramuscular) or into a vein (intravenously).

Intervention

A meeting usually initiated by the family of the addict / alcoholic living in denial to try help them in a crisis to seek third party help from a professional. More about interventions here.

Intoxication

Ingest

Inhalant

Joint

Kilo

Legal Drugs

Often the common terms for over the counter or prescription medication.

Lifestyle conversation

A conversation where the focus is on gaining knowledge and understanding about a person’s environment, habits, motivation, interests and activities, with the aim of determining the influence it has on them and possible adjustments to their lifestyle to improve their quality of life.

LSD

Lysergic acid diethylamide is a common hallucinogenic drug found in street and club drug cultures in South Africa.

Long Term Treatment

The term long term treatment refers to the quality of the long-term programme, whereby counsellors and a support network is key to establishing the right foundations to sustain long term recovery after treatment.

Motivational conversation

A short initial interview which aims to motivate a person to regain positivity about themselves and to attend treatment. The focus is on the restoration of personal values and understanding the importance of self-preservation.

Outpatient treatment

Treatment for patients who are not resident in a rehabilitation facility, but travel to and from the facility to attend therapy sessions in accordance with an agreed schedule. The treatment schedule can be adapted to suit an individual patient’s circumstances and resources.

Overdose

Overdosing is the taking of too much of one drug (or a combination of drugs) in one dosage, or more than one dosage within a short time period. It overpowers the body and mind and causes serious, life threatening conditions.

Prevention

Large scale prevention of addiction is controlled by two basic principles: First, by preventing availability and, secondly, dampening the demand by providing information about it. The only remaining option, for individuals, is to help victims to recover and to empower them to prevent relapses.

Structured relapse prevention

A type of therapy that teaches addicts the coping skills to identify and deal effectively with daily incidents and risk situations that trigger emotional responses that can lead to relapses.

Substance purity

The proportion of the active substance in relation to the rest of the material which forms the physical mass of a drug. (Also called substance concentration.) Drugs are contaminated with bulking materials and other drugs. It is difficult for a layman to determine the purity of a drug bought on the street..

Tolerance

The body and mind builds up a “resistance” against the immediate, rewarding effects of addictive drugs and activities. This tolerance develops over a period of time. The level of tolerance increases progressively. Addicts must take more and more of the drug to get the same euphoric effect that they had felt on previous occasions. Addictive behaviour (without substance abuse) also promotes a mental “need” for more intense or more frequent engagement in the activity.

Treatment

There are two main types of recovery treatment: Firstly, medical treatment for detoxification, including medication for overcoming withdrawals and rebuilding the body’s reserves, plus treatment for physical defects (if any). Secondly, therapeutic treatment employing modern procedures, designed to heal the underlying emotional defects and to instil defensive skills for more effective and lasting results.

Withdrawal

The physical and psychological discomfort that occurs when an addict stops taking a drug or stops practising an addictive act. Common physical symptoms are; nausea, tremors, diarrhea, rapid pulse, tight chest, etc. Common psychological withdrawals are anxiety, depression, insomnia, mood swings, etc.

A

Addiction

Compulsive, repetitive engagements in a harmful, ongoing activity that provides temporary value to the user. The user finds it extremely difficult to stop or reduce the engagements. With so many myths surrounding addiction it would be worth seeing this video for a more comprehensive and modern definition of addiction.

Abuse

Excessive usage that causes some form of harm to a person or another person. A broader concept than addiction, it occurs whenever a person over-indulges, but the abuser may, or may not, be addicted to the substance or activity. Persistent abuse is often a precursor to, or indicative of, addiction however can also take the format of emotional neglect, abandonment, toxic relationships, self harm, emotional neglect, sexual abuse and a range of other other self-destructive behaviours.

Adrenaline

A natural stimulant normally produced by the body during emotions like fear, excitement, anger, but can also be produced artificially. Production by the body can also be catalysed by drugs. It places the body on alert and promotes extra effort and performance commonly referred to as a fight or flight reflex to imminent danger. Learning to cope with adrenaline features as a constant factor in treating Post Traumatic Stress Disorders and it’s many adverse emotional reactions and side effects.

Adult children

Adolescents and adults who grow up in dysfunctional families (where the parenting skills are weakened by abuse, neglect, traumatic childhood experiences etc) now as adults have developed adverse responses to day to day relationship and other stressors as a result of their experiences as children. Read more about adult children of alcoholics here and follow our blog for frequent articles on ACE adverse childhood experiences.

Aftercare

An optional service hosted by treatment centres to assist patients with ongoing advice and support on a voluntary-patient basis after they had completed a rehabilitation program. Aftercare can include personal care provided at home by someone close to the a person that has been through a treatment programme. Please browse our aftercare here for more information on outpatient aftercare.

Alcohol

Alcohol is a substances which can be addictive and/or exceptionally harmful to patients psychological wellbeing. The and other common drugs are explained in more detail on other pages of this site in dealing with substance abuse.

Amphetamines

B

Blood poisoning

Blood poisoning also known as sepsis or septicemia may include any critical infection of the blood stream. The term “poisoning” is frequently misused in the diagnostic, as it is usually a bacterial, fungal, or viral infection in the blood stream that causes the critical harm to the person affected.

Prompt MEDICAL diagnosis and treatment are vital for treating blood poisoning cases. Hospital emergency rooms admissions treat blood poisoning in intensive care units with dialysis, antibiotics and a range of treatments depending on the nature of the infection. Hospitals perform blood tests for culture, oxygen, counts, clotting e.t.c to determine the most appropriate treatment.

Infections may lead to a range of potentially fatal medical circumstances that cannot be treated in an addiction recovery centre.

Full septic shock has around a 50% mortality rate according to Mayo Clinic. Even if successfully treated the long-term effects can cause permanent damage to the immune system and organ functions.

Substance users typically have weakened immune systems due to their usage, which makes them more susceptible to this form of infection than healthy people. However anyone that has a weakened immune system or has had open wound contact with an infected source can contract blood poisoning.

These conditions can be acquired through the use of needles during injection of intravenous substances trigger the initial infection of the bloodstream. Blood poisoning can also be caused by damage done to the skin or wounds inflicted during self-harming behaviours.

Barbiturates

Benzodiazepines

Read more here about treating benzodiazepine addictions here.

Blood Alcohol Level

C

Caregiver

Anybody closely associated with an patient and who assists them by providing food, medication, mobility or help in other forms of personal or emotional assistance or support in their recovery. Care givers play a crucial role in treatment and long-term recovery of people dealing with addiction or use disorders. “Care” and support is a crucial component in enabling the individual to establish their own footholds and to start the process of moving forward in their lives.

Codependency

Persons that are directly or indirectly affected by the consequences of an abusive behaviour yet permit the behaviour to continue, are considered to be codependents. Whilst the abuser is directly dependent on an addictive activity, a codependent is not directly dependent on it, but is indirectly controlled or affected by it and is not able to establish the boundaries to stop the abusive process. A codependent lacks the will or resources to stop the abuse and continues to live with it, even to the extent of unwillingly serving or protecting the abuser, despite being adversely affected. Read more about codependent relationships here.

Cold turkey

A slang term for detoxification without medication or medical assistance. The substance user goes through the withdrawal phase that follows when they stop taking a drug/substance, without taking medication to alleviate the unpleasant withdrawals. A difficult process in the case of some substances can be life threatening, but in many cases possible. Cold turkey detoxes the body but does not emotionally prepare the person for long term process of accepting sobriety as with the tools received in a recovery programme. Cold turkey is not something recommended without professional medical advice or support upfront or on hand. Speak to a doctor or medical professional before undergoing any form of home detox or cold turkey attempts, particularly with drugs like alcohol.

Comedown

The phase that follows immediately after the exhilaration (or “high”) has faded. It is the opposite of the “reward” felt during intoxication. This slump often tempts an user to repeat the process again, so they can return to feeling “high”.

Contagious disease

Serious contagious diseases are picked up through sharing injection needles with others. Random sex sought by sex addicts or reckless sex during intoxication also transmits many contagious diseases.

Conversation mapping

A practical conversation that gives the addict and therapist opportunity to get to know one another, to inform and exchange views. After the conversation a therapeutic process can be formulated, based on an analysis of the knowledge gained from the conversation. Addicts can start with a partly mapped introductory course while a trusting relationship and more insight develops to enable fine-tuning of the therapy.

D

Dehydration

Results when the body loses more fluid than it takes in. Some drugs are diuretics (they stimulate fluid expulsion). Many drugs cause vomiting and diarrhea as side effects, which also drain fluid from the body. Drugs that energise, cause excessive perspiration. Dehydration can lead to coma and death.

Delirium

A state of mental confusion with hallucinations and physical turmoil. Best known is delirium tremens, a severe drug withdrawal symptom.

Dependence

Dependency differs from addiction. Some people must take prescription drugs for illness – they depend on it to treat the illness, but are not necessarily addicted to it. Some people acquire dependency as a forerunner of addiction. It is difficult to distinguish between abuse, dependency and addiction, as they overlap and so the words are used interchangeably.

Drug-free

Complete abstinence from the use of harmful addictive substances. A former addict, who has forsaken all harmful drug usage, will be described as “drug-free”.

Drugs

A common name for substances that affect the brain and central nervous system. Alcohol, many medicines, tobacco, caffeine, are all drugs, just like marijuana and other illicit drugs. In street talk, the word drugs often indicates only illicit drugs, but on this site it refers to all drugs which are commonly abused and cause severely harmful addiction. Please browse this site for more about the various types of addictive drugs.

E

Ecstasy & MDMA

A powerful mood and perception-altering drug that is similar to many other hallucinogens and stimulant based drugs. Read more about addiction complications with ecstacy over here.

F

Foetal Alcohol Syndrome

Women who drink alcohol during pregnancy can give birth to babies with foetal alcohol spectrum disorders. These birth defects and abnormalities in babies of alcohol abusing mothers are also known as FAS.

Foetal Drug Syndrome

Birth defects abnormalities with babies of drug using mothers. Many drugs are toxic to the placenta and consequentially to developing foetus.

G

Gram

The same metric measurement of one gram only used in the quantification of substances being sold.

H

Harm Reduction

A harm reduction approach to addiction treatment from the idea that many people with addiction issues will never reach complete abstinence. In these especially hard to treat cases such as opioid addiction harm reduction such as providing services, such as clean needle distribution, safe places to use drugs, overdose prevention and in some cases supply chemically stable replacement drugs.

Hallucination

Perception of something that does not exist outside the mind. Seeing, hearing, smelling or feeling things that are figments of the imagination, but seem real. (Includes illusions of overly vivid sounds, sights, feeling, taste, smell and harmony.)

Heroin

Hash

I

Injection

When drugs are forced into the body tissue with a syringe or needle. Can be into the skin (intradermal), underneath the skin (subcutaneous), into a muscle (intramuscular) or into a vein (intravenously).

Intervention

A meeting usually initiated by the family of the addict / alcoholic living in denial to try help them in a crisis to seek third party help from a professional. More about interventions here.

Intoxication

Ingest

Inhalant

J

Joint

K

Kilo

L

Legal Drugs

Often the common terms for over the counter or prescription medication.

Lifestyle conversation

A conversation where the focus is on gaining knowledge and understanding about a person’s environment, habits, motivation, interests and activities, with the aim of determining the influence it has on them and possible adjustments to their lifestyle to improve their quality of life.

LSD

Lysergic acid diethylamide is a common hallucinogenic drug found in street and club drug cultures in South Africa.

Long Term Treatment

The term long term treatment refers to the quality of the long-term programme, whereby counsellors and a support network is key to establishing the right foundations to sustain long term recovery after treatment.

M

Motivational conversation

A short initial interview which aims to motivate a person to regain positivity about themselves and to attend treatment. The focus is on the restoration of personal values and understanding the importance of self-preservation.

O - Z

Outpatient treatment

Treatment for patients who are not resident in a rehabilitation facility, but travel to and from the facility to attend therapy sessions in accordance with an agreed schedule. The treatment schedule can be adapted to suit an individual patient’s circumstances and resources.

Overdose

Overdosing is the taking of too much of one drug (or a combination of drugs) in one dosage, or more than one dosage within a short time period. It overpowers the body and mind and causes serious, life threatening conditions.

Prevention

Large scale prevention of addiction is controlled by two basic principles: First, by preventing availability and, secondly, dampening the demand by providing information about it. The only remaining option, for individuals, is to help victims to recover and to empower them to prevent relapses.

Structured relapse prevention

A type of therapy that teaches addicts the coping skills to identify and deal effectively with daily incidents and risk situations that trigger emotional responses that can lead to relapses.

Substance purity

The proportion of the active substance in relation to the rest of the material which forms the physical mass of a drug. (Also called substance concentration.) Drugs are contaminated with bulking materials and other drugs. It is difficult for a layman to determine the purity of a drug bought on the street..

Tolerance

The body and mind builds up a “resistance” against the immediate, rewarding effects of addictive drugs and activities. This tolerance develops over a period of time. The level of tolerance increases progressively. Addicts must take more and more of the drug to get the same euphoric effect that they had felt on previous occasions. Addictive behaviour (without substance abuse) also promotes a mental “need” for more intense or more frequent engagement in the activity.

Treatment

There are two main types of recovery treatment: Firstly, medical treatment for detoxification, including medication for overcoming withdrawals and rebuilding the body’s reserves, plus treatment for physical defects (if any). Secondly, therapeutic treatment employing modern procedures, designed to heal the underlying emotional defects and to instil defensive skills for more effective and lasting results.

Withdrawal

The physical and psychological discomfort that occurs when an addict stops taking a drug or stops practising an addictive act. Common physical symptoms are; nausea, tremors, diarrhea, rapid pulse, tight chest, etc. Common psychological withdrawals are anxiety, depression, insomnia, mood swings, etc.