misunderstood words about addiction

The Most Misunderstood Words in Addiction Treatment

And what they mean….

Drug addiction can be incredibly powerful, dictating an individual’s every thought and action in life.  Where drugs initially were used to suppress a problem in the individual’s life, drugs become the main problem that all others stem from.  Drug addicts often live a reduced quality of life, and usually suffer from a lack of steady work, few true relationships with others and poor physical and mental health.  While it’s true that most drug addicts are unaware of the full damaging effects drug use has had on their life, many drug addicts yet know that drugs are affecting their life.  Unfortunately, many addicts assume that it may be too difficult, or even impossible, to fight their addiction.

Understanding Addiction & Addiction Treatment

The following are the ten most misunderstood words in addiction, and what they mean:

1. Dual diagnosis

Dual diagnosis usually means that an individual has a psychiatric diagnosis for a mental health disorder as well as a diagnosis as a substance abuser of drugs or alcohol or both.  Sometimes a dual diagnosis is used to indicate that the individual is experiencing mental health issues as a result of their substance abuse, but this is not always the case.  In most cases, the two illnesses interact with and exacerbate each other, the individual suffering from both chemical dependency and emotional or mental illness.

2. Behavioral therapy

Behavioral therapy is based on the idea that individuals learn from their environment and that new behaviors learned can replace old behaviors.  Behavioral therapists seeks to reinforce those behaviors considered desirable, and thereby eliminate those behaviors that are considered harmful or unwanted.  Unlike counseling-type therapy, behavioral therapy is action-based, with behavioral therapists seeking to reward or teach new behaviors and reduce or eliminate problem behaviors.

3. Poly drug use

Poly drug use is the action of using or abusing more than one substance at the same time.  For example, an individual who is binge-drinking alcohol while smoking pot or shooting up heroin is participating in poly drug use.

4. Buprenorphine/naloxone

Buprenorphine/naloxone is a drug that is used by some rehabilitation treatment centers and doctors to treat opioid addiction.  Buprenorphine is an opioid itself, and works to prevent severe opioid withdrawal symptoms.  However, individuals are warned not to stop buprenorphine use without medical supervision because it can also cause withdrawal symptoms to occur.

5. Agonist drugs

Any drug that activates brain receptors is called an agonist drug.  Agonists enter the bloodstream, make their way to the brain and bind themselves to receptors, which is what causes an effect in the individual.  Morphine, heroin, methadone and oxycodone are examples of agonist drugs.

6. Analgesic drugs

Any medication that is used to treat pain is an analgesic drug.  Tylenol and aspirin are analgesic drugs.

7. Biopsychosocial abuse factors

When one looks at how an individual’s biological, psychological and social concerns influence their drug use, this falls under biopsychosocial abuse factors.  The effects of their drug use on their physical, mental or social health can also be discussed as biopsychosocial abuse factors.

8. Cross-tolerance

Cross-tolerance occurs when an individual becomes resistant or tolerant to a drug that they have never used, but that is pharmacologically similar to a drug that they have used.


The handbook published by the American Psychiatric Association and that is used to diagnose mental disorders in patients.  DSM-IV stands for the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – fifth revision.

10. Evidence based treatment

Any healthcare initiative that has been validated scientifically to ensure that the best treatment is available for and provided to patients.

Addiction treatment can be and has been successful for many individuals.  Knowing the various words associated with addiction is an important step, and can help an individual select a treatment program that will work for them.






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