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Common Addiction Terms You Should Know and Understand

Whether you struggle with addiction or know someone who does, one of the best things you can do is to educate yourself as much as possible. The “world of addiction” can feel completely foreign at times. That’s why it’s important to familiarize yourself with common terms, slang words, and expressions that are used when talking about various addictions and habits.

Whether you’re familiar with some of these terms or not, addiction should never be taken lightly. If you or someone you know needs drug and alcohol treatment, be sure to get help as soon as possible.

With that in mind, let’s look at some of the most common addiction terms that are important to understand for anyone dealing with substance abuse in their lives.


Abstinence is the complete avoidance of any kind of substance. It’s a method of staying clean by avoiding drugs and alcohol, altogether—or “abstaining” from them so the risk of getting addicted is lower.


When the word abuse is used in association with drugs or alcohol, it refers to someone who is using those substances more than they were ever intended. Someone who abuses alcohol, for example, might drink excessively every night.


In terms of substance abuse, an addiction is an actual physiological and/or psychological need for a particular mind- or mood-altering substance that can cause the mind and body to go through withdrawals if that need is not met.


Someone who has been an addict for a while may need to go through a detoxification process to begin a treatment program. This is a carefully monitored period of time during which the remaining substances in one’s body are released.


External triggers are factors in a person’s world that can cause them to crave a particular substance. These could include certain relationships, locations, or actions.

Internal triggers are thoughts and feelings that cause those same cravings.


Narcotics are drugs or other substances (often related to opioids in terms of addiction) with psychoactive properties. They can also induce sleep.


Outpatient recovery programs can be a great way for those with an addiction to get the treatment they need without having to be admitted to a medical or inpatient facility for weeks at a time. Typically outpatient programs are part-time during the day, allowing participants to continue their activities of daily living.


When someone is going through treatment for addiction, or when they have already completed treatment, they are in recovery. An addict is technically in “recovery” their whole life, due to the potential for relapse.

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A relapse is when someone in treatment or recovery who has been abstaining from using drugs or alcohol chooses to use a mind-altering substance again.

Sober Living

Sober Living facilities are houses where those in recovery live and abstain from using drugs together. Typically, those who go to inpatient rehab facilities graduate to sober living facilities, but there are those who simply choose to live in a sober living facility that did not go to treatment. Generally it is a requirement of a sober living facility that the residents test negative for substances.


Addiction is nearly impossible to face and beat on your own. Treatment ranges from outpatient services to therapy to residential inpatient programs and, sometimes, even hospitalization.

The More You Know About Addiction …

There are so many additional words and phrases that are often attached to addiction, and none of them are easy to hear. Alcohol treatment and drug treatment are often necessary for those who are struggling with substance abuse and addiction.

If you’re dealing with addiction in your life, you don’t have to go through it alone. Drug and alcohol treatment centers like Yellowstone Recovery are here to help. Feel free to contact us right away to learn more about the drug treatment programs we offer and how they can help you on your road to a clean, healthy, and happy life.

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