Understanding how to talk about Addiction
Addictions come in all shapes and sizes, and can often be an isolating experience.
With 45% of Australians experiencing a common mental health-related condition in their lifetime, including depression, anxiety or a substance use disorder or addiction, it’s important we understand the terms used in conversations. (1)
There is a high chance that someone close to you is experiencing an addiction. The Banyans Medical Director Dr. Christian Rowan has put together a glossary of addiction terms – designed to help us understand how to talk about addiction.
Glossary of addiction terms
- Addiction: A compulsive use of a substance even though the substance causes harm. Addiction is not defined by physical dependence or tolerance. Traits of addiction are loss of control, cravings, and adverse consequences resulting from use of a substance.
- Agonist: A drug or medication that attaches to and activates specific receptors to stimulate drug actions or effects.
- Antagonist: A drug or medication that attaches to, but does not activate, specific receptors to stimulate drug actions or effects and can block other like-drugs/medications from binding to a receptor (eg. an opioid receptor). Antagonists can also displace other drugs or medications. When an antagonist displaces an opioid, precipitate withdrawal can occur. Examples of opioid antagonists include naltrexone and naloxone.
- Behavioural counselling: Focuses on changing unwanted behaviours through rewards, reinforcement, and increased awareness.
- Compulsive: Behaviour that is overpowering, repeated, and often irrational.
- Cravings: The intense desire for a substance, also known as “psychological dependence”.
- Dependence: As a general term, the state of needing or depending on something or someone for support or to function or survive. As applied to alcohol and other drugs, the term implies a need for repeated doses of the drug to feel good or to avoid feeling bad.Feeling compelled to keep using a drug – even when you realise that you have a physicalor psychological problem that is probably caused or made worse by the drug.
- Enabling: Intentionally or unintentionally putting someone in a situation that might trigger the person to abuse drugs.
- Full Opioid Agonist: A drug or medication that stimulates activity at opioid receptors in the central nervous system that are normally stimulated by naturally occurring opioids. Examples of full opioid agonists include morphine, methadone, oxycodone, hydrocodone, heroin, codeine, meperidine, propoxyphene, and fentanyl.
- Induction: The first phase of medication-assisted treatment (ie. buprenorphine), when medication is given to ease a person’s withdrawal symptoms. Induction usually lasts one to two days.
- Maintenance: The phase of treatment when the person is taking a stable dose and working with a physician or counsellor to address other issues affecting his or her dependence and ability to rebuild his or her life.
- Methadone: A full opioid agonist that is used for pain and opioid-dependence treatment. When used for opioid-dependence treatment it is more stringently regulated by opioid treatment programs.
- Opiate: A drug created directly from opium or a naturally occurring substance, such as a hormone, that has sedative or narcotic effects similar to those of opium. Morphine and codeine are examples of opiates.
- Opioid: A drug with opium-like qualities, which means it reduces pain, causes relaxation or sleepiness, and carries an addictive potential. Opioids can be derived from opiates or can be chemically related to opiates or opium, and include some prescription painkillers, such as oxycodone and hydrocodone. Buprenorphine, methadone, and heroin are opioids.
- Opioid Dependence: A chronic brain disease that involves a physical, psychological, and behavioural need for an opioid drug.
- Opioid Receptors: Specific places in the brain (Central Nervous System) or peripheral nervous system where molecules of opioid drugs or medications attach and start to exert their effect.
- Overdose: When a chemical substance is taken in quantities or concentrations that are large enough to overwhelm the body, causing life-threatening illness or death.
- Partial Opioid Agonist: A drug or medication that stimulates activity at opioid receptors that does not produce the same maximal effects as a full opioid agonist. Like full opioid agonists, this activity occurs at receptors that are normally stimulated by naturally occurring opioids. Under appropriate conditions, partial agonists can produce effects similar to either agonists or antagonists. Buprenorphine is a partial opioid agonist.
- Physical Dependence: A state resulting from a habitual use of a drug where negative physical withdrawal symptoms result from abrupt discontinuation.
- Precipitated Withdrawal: Withdrawal symptoms that result when one drug displaces another drug from the receptor, and the drug has no or less effect than the drug it displaced. When Suboxone is given before the patient is in mild-to-moderate withdrawal from the opioid he or she has already taken, it can cause withdrawal to occur more rapidly and intensely.
- Relapsing: The recurrence of symptoms and behaviours of substance-use disorders following a period of remission. A term that is preferred, because it aligns more with the nature of chronic illness, is “recurrence”.
- Tolerance: A decrease in response to a drug dose that occurs with continued use. Individuals who have become tolerant require more drugs or alcohol to achieve the same effects originally produced by lower doses.
- Triggers: Activities, sounds, places, people, images, events, or other things that may cause a dependent person to want to use drugs or alcohol again. Triggers can bring on cravings.
- Withdrawal: The uncomfortable symptoms (such as pain, cramps, vomiting, diarrhoea, anxiety, sleep problems, cravings) that develop when a person stops taking a drug or medication on which he or she has become dependent. (2)
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