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Addiction is characterized by inability to consistently abstain, impairment in behavioral control, craving, diminished recognition of significant problems with one’s behaviors and interpersonal relationships, and a dysfunctional emotional response. Like other chronic diseases, addiction often involves cycles of relapse and remission. Without treatment or engagement in recovery activities, addiction is progressive and can result in disability or premature death.

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ABSTINENCE: Non-use of drugs or alcohol, often after a period of dependence on them. Abstinence may trigger withdrawal symptoms.

ADDICTION: A primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry. Dysfunction in these circuits leads to characteristic biological, psychological, social and spiritual manifestations. This is reflected in an individual pathologically pursuing reward and/or relief by substance use and other behaviours.

ALCOHOL: A drug that depresses the central nervous system and slows the activity of the brain and spinal cord.

ALIENATION: Withdrawal or separation of people or their affection from an object or position of former attachment.

AMOTIVATIONAL SYNDROME: Feeling of a lack of ability to focus or concentrate and lack of motivation to carry out the day to day tasks (at work and/or school). Probably a consequence of the active ingredients of marijuana remaining in the body for many days after intoxication.

AMPHETAMINE: A stimulant drug that produces increased alertness and activity, e.g., diet pills and pep pills, like Dexedrine and Benzedrine.

AOD: Alcohol and Other Drugs.


BATH SALTS: The informal “street name” for a family of designer drugs often containing substituted cathinones, which have effects similar to amphetamine and cocaine.

BENZODIAZEPINES: Type of brain depressants that cause a high and have a pattern of problems similar to alcohol.

BLACK TAR: A form of heroin that is becoming increasingly available. It is sticky like roofing tar and its colour may range from dark brown to black. It is most frequently dissolved, diluted and injected.

BLACKOUT: Forgetting all or a part of what occurred during a period of intoxication when the individual was awake and alert.


CHIPPERS: Occasional users who abuse narcotics recreationally, often off and on for months or years.

CO-DEPENDENCE: When friends or family members try to protect the dependent person from the consequences of his/her addiction by taking responsibility for the person. Typical behavior includes making explanations, or smoothing out embarrassing situations.

COCAINE: In its pure form it is a white crystalline powder extracted from the leaves of the South American cocoa plant.

CRACK: A crystallized form of cocaine in smokeable form that is highly addictive and dangerous. This drug is often readily and economically available.

CRAVING: A consuming desire; longing; yearning.

CSA: Controlled Substance Act, Title II of the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act in 1970. This is the legal foundation of the Government’s fight against abuse of drugs and other substances.


DENIAL: A defense mechanism that prevents individuals from acknowledging that a chemical substance is interfering in their functioning. For treatment to be successful, this defense mechanism needs to be altered.

DEPENDENCE: A state in which the mind or body grows accustomed to using a drug and doesn’t feel normal without it. Dependence may be physical or psychological, or both.

DEPRESSANTS: Drugs that depress the central nervous system, causing relaxation, sedation and producing sleep.

DESIGNER DRUGS: A “designer drug” is a drug which is created in a lab – generally an illegal lab, such as in a home – which is man-made or “designed”. Generally designer drugs are created by chemically changing the properties of drugs that come from plants – like cocaine, morphine or marijuana – creating a new drug which has a different effect on the body. Well-known examples of designer drugs are: Ecstacy, GHB, Rohypnol, LSD, and Methamphetamine. However, new drugs are becoming available all the time. Some of the newer designer drugs – which are proving deadly – are: 2 C-B, K-2 (or synthetic marijuana), and bath salts.

DESPAIR: Feeling a loss of all hope and confidence.

DETOXIFICATION: A process that uses supervised withdrawal to free the body of a particular drug or drugs. It is often the first step in promoting recovery.

DISEASE: A definite morbid process having a characteristic train of symptoms, which may affect the whole body or any of its parts and its etiology, pathology, and the prognosis may be known or unknown.

DOCTOR SHOPPING: A pattern of narcotic dependence that is initiated within the context of medical treatment then escalates by going from doctor to doctor to increase frequency and amounts of dosage.

DOPAMINE: This neurotransmitter discovered in 1958 has been linked to addiction through its role as a pleasure chemical and enhancing learning and appears to be the common neurotransmitter affected by all addictive substances.

DRUG: Any chemical substance that produces physical, mental, emotional or behavioral changes in the user.

DRUG ABUSE: The use of a chemical substance in such a fashion that it impacts or impairs an individual in a physical, psychological, behavioural or social manner.

DUAL ADDICTION: The phenomenon of being addicted to two or more chemicals or drugs. Often, users are dependent on a secondary drug that may lessen the impact of the withdrawal or crash of the primary substance.

DUAL DIAGNOSIS: A term used when an individual has both a chemical dependence and a specific mental health disorder that is independent of the chemical dependency problem.


ENABLE: To allow, empower, or provide the means to someone to do something. In the chemical dependency field the term is often used to describe behaviours of the person in the dependent individual’s life who takes primary responsibility in covering up and caring for the problems created by the person’s addiction.

EUPHORIA: Bodily comfort, well being, absence of pain or distress; in psychiatry, abnormal or exaggerated sense of well being.


FLASHBACK: An unwanted recurrence of a drug high that is experienced hours or even days after the drug was taken and the individual has recovered from the intoxication.


HALLUCINOGENS: A mind altering drug that affects perception, sensation, thinking, self-awareness and emotion, e.g., LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide, the slang term is “acid”) or PCP (phencyclidine, the slang term is “angel dust”).

HEROIN: A narcotic drug derived from morphine. It is usually injected and is highly addictive.


INHALANTS: The deliberate inhalation of a volatile substance for the purpose of getting “high”. Commonly inhaled substances include: glue and other adhesives, paints and lacquers, household cleaners and solvents, fuels and fuel exhaust, hair spray and other chemicals in cans with propellants.

INTERVENTION: Any attempt by a professional to help a chemically dependent person make a change in his/her behaviour away from the chemical use and toward treatment and recovery.

INTRAVENOUS: Some drugs are injected in the vein, or intravenously. This is often referred to as IV drug use.


JOINT: Slang term for a marijuana cigarette.


KICKING THE HABIT: The term originates from the muscle spasms and kicking movements that occur shortly before the time of the next scheduled dose.


LOOK-ALIKES: Nonprescription tablets and capsules that resemble the size, shape and colour of substances that are sold legally by prescription or illegally on the street. Look-alikes are dangerous for drug abusers and can cause withdrawal and even death.


MAINLINING: Intravenous injection.

MARIJUANA: A derivative of the hemp plant, Cannabis sativa. The dried leaves from this plant are used as a drug.

METHADONE: Originated in Germany during World War II because of a shortage of morphine. Today it is primarily used as treatment of narcotic addiction.

MOLLY: Molly is a drug slang term used to describe the purest form of MDMA (3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine, commonly known as ecstasy).

MORPHINE: The principal constituent of opium.


NARCOTICS: Comes from the Greek word for “stupor” and originally referred to a variety of substances that relieve pain and often produce a sense of well-being and sedative effect.

NEUROTRANSMITTERS: Chemicals in the brain and in other parts of the nervous system that are released by one nerve cell to subsequently attach to receptors on a nearby nerve cell in order to stimulate the second cell.

NICOTINE: A poisonous chemical substance found in tobacco. It is a mild stimulant and is addictive.


OPANA: A narcotic pain medicine used to treat moderate to severe pain.

OPIOID: A term used to designate all drugs (natural semi-synthetic, synthetic, and agonist antagonist) with morphine-like actions.

OVER-THE-COUNTER DRUGS: Drugs you can buy without a prescription, e.g., aspirin, cold pills and allergy pills.

OVERDOSE: The state produced when taking more of a drug than the body can tolerate. Symptoms may include loss of consciousness, coma or even death.

OXYMORPHONE: An opioid pain reliever, similar to morphine.


PARAPHERNALIA: Equipment used in the preparation or consumption of illicit drugs.

PHYSICAL DEPENDENCE: An alteration of normal body functions that necessitates the continued presence of a drug in order to prevent withdrawal or abstinence syndrome.

PHYSIOLOGICAL: In accordance with, or a characteristic of, the normal functioning of a living organism.

POLYDRUG ABUSE: The use of two or more chemicals simultaneously or consecutively. Most drug abusers are polydrug users.

PROGRESSION: Ongoing use that creates an increasing number of social, psychological, legal and physical problems. As an individual continues use, chemical dependency advances to a more serious state.

PSYCHOLOGICAL: Capable of influencing the mind or emotions.


RECEPTORS: Structures that exist on the outside of nerve cells and respond to stimulation caused by the neurotransmitters. The result is stimulation of the cell to which the receptor is attached.

RELAPSE: A return to any drinking and/or drug-using behavior following a period of abstinence. The length of relapse varies, as does the frequency. Often referred to as “falling off the wagon.”

RISK: The statistical probability that a problem, i.e. chemical dependency, may occur.

ROOFIES: Rohypnol. It is sold legally in Mexico and Europe, and known as the date rape drug. It causes loss of consciousness, muscle control and anterograde amnesia.


SEROTONIN: The transmitter of a discrete group of neurons that all have cell bodies located in the raphe nuclei of the brain stem. Changes in the activity of serotonin neurons are related to changes in mood, appetite, sleep and sexual function.

SIMSEMILLA: Without seeds; a form of marijuana derived from the unpollinated female cannabis plant, preferred for its high THC content.

SOCIOLOGICAL: Pertaining to the social behavior of individuals.

SPICE: Refers to a wide variety of herbal mixtures that produce experiences similar to marijuana (cannabis) and that are marketed as “safe,” legal alternatives to that drug.

STIMULANTS: A class of drugs that stimulate the central nervous system and produce an increase in alertness and activity.

SUBSTANCE ABUSE: The taking into the body of any chemical substance that causes physical, mental, emotional or social harm to the individual.


TELESCOPING: The phenomenon of addiction developing more rapidly in adolescents than in adults.

TOBACCO: A plant of genus Nicotiana that contains nicotine, a mild stimulant. It is used in smoking, chewing or inhaling, e.g. cigarettes, cigars, chewing tobacco, snuff.

TOLERANCE: With regular use of the drug, more and more of the drug becomes required to produce the same effects. Non-addictive drugs do not possess this property.

TRIGGER: An event that precipitates others; a stimulus; to initiate; activate; set off.


WITHDRAWAL: A clearly defined, measurable set of physical reactions that occur as a result of cessation or a decrease in alcohol and drug use.

WITHDRAWAL SYMPTOMS: May include body aches, vomiting, muscle tremors, insomnia, perspiration, hot flashes, diarrhea, cramps, dehydration, dizziness, visual distortion or a sudden drop in blood pressure.

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