Definitions in Addiction Medicine
Developed 1999 October 14 through a workshop entitled
Play with a Full Deck
52 Definitions in Addiction Medicine
52 definitions Reviewed

1. Addiction
A primary, chronic disease, characterised by impaired control over the use of a psychoactive
substance and/or behaviour. Clinically, the manifestations occur along biological, psychological,
sociological and spiritual dimensions. Common features are change in mood, relief from negative
emotions, provision of pleasure, pre-occupation with the use of substance(s) or ritualistic
behaviour(s); and continued use of the substance(s) and/orm engagement in behaviour(s) despite
adverse physical, psychological and/or social consequences.
Like other chronic diseases, it can be progressive, relapsing and fatal.
Consider adding qualifiers such as full, partial remission, etc. based on DSM IV.

2. Agonist
A substance that acts at a neuronal receptor to produce effects similar to those of a
reference psychoactive substance, e.g. methadone is an agonist at the opioid receptors.

3. Antagonist
A substance that counteracts the effects of a reference psychoactive substance by inhibiting or
reversing its effects at a neuronal receptor site, e.g. naltrexone acts as an antagonist
at the opioid receptor.

4. Concurrent Disorders
The presence of one or more primary, physical and/or psychiatric disorders that have an
interactive effect on the course of Substance Dependence and require specific diagnosis
and treatment in order to achieve stabilization and/or recovery.

5. Craving
A bio-psychological arousal and urge to return to addictive behaviour, characterized by
a strong desire, pre-occupation and possible impulsivity.

6. Harm Reduction
Health promotion, prevention, assessment and intervention options that aim to decrease
the health and socio-economic consequences of drug use and addictive behaviour,
without necessarily requiring abstinence. Abstinence-based strategies are an integral
component of comprehensive harm reduction.

7. Mutual-help program
A non-professional approach that utilizes individual and group support to aid in the process
of recovery from Addiction, eg. Twelve-step groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous and
Narcotics Anonymous, Rational Recovery, Secular Organization for Sobriety (SOS),
Women for Sobriety (WFS) etc.

8. Abuse liability
The propensity of a particular psychoactive substance to result in the development
of Substance Use Disorders.

9. Addict
Someone who has the disease of Addiction

10. Addictionist
A physician who has specialized expertise and experience in Addiction Medicine.
Sometimes also referred to as an Addictionologist.

11. Addiction Medicine
A field of Medicine that is focused on the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of
Substance-Related Disorders and Addiction.

12. Blackout
A period of memory loss, resulting from the use of alcohol and/or other psychoactive
substances, not associated with loss of consciousness.

13. Dependence potential
The propensity of a particular psychoactive substance to result in the development
of Substance Dependence.

14. Flashbacks
A spontaneous recurrence of previously experienced physical symptoms, perceptual distortions,
intense emotions and/or loss of ego boundaries.

15. Intoxication
A physiological condition that follows the administration of psychoactive substances and results
in disturbances in perception, cognition, affect, level of consciousness, judgment, behaviour or
other psychophysiological functions and responses. The condition varies due to individual
biophysiological factors, tolerance, substances used, setting and personal expectations about
the effects of psychoactive substance(s).

16. Maintenance Therapy
Treatment of Substance Dependence by a prescription drug, to prevent withdrawal and reduce
the harm associated with a particular method of administration, attendant dangers to health and/or
social consequences, e.g. methadone for Opioid Dependence or nicotine replacement therapy
(NRT) for tobacco.

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