We can help you understand the terms used when discussing treatment of addiction.

AA (Alcoholics Anonymous)

Alcoholics Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and hope with each other that they may solve their common problem and help others to recover from alcoholism. The AA program, known as “The Twelve Steps” provides a framework for self-examination and a road to recovery, free of alcohol.


Addiction is a disease. It cannot be cured, but it can be treated with medication, counseling, and support from family and friends. Addiction is NOT a sign of weakness. It is NOT TRUE that all anybody needs to kick addiction is to “be strong.”  Recovery is possible. But it takes work. After treatment is finished, everything is NOT automatically fine again. Recovery takes commitment every day, through treatment and beyond.

Aftercare Programs

Programs that offer structured support (generally one to two hours per week) for people who have completed treatment and want additional help to prevent relapse.


A fellowship for friends and family members of alcoholics with its own group meetings. The purpose is to provide a supportive outlet for those suffering because of an alcoholic loved one’s behavior, as well as to equip people with the skills to be helpful and understanding along the way.


An acronym which means "Alcohol and Other Drugs".

Case Management 

Case Management services are designed to assist individuals or groups in gaining access to medical, social and/or educational support services. A case manager may interact with other service providers, the legal system, family members, or other individuals important to those in treatment.

Cognitive/Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

A type of behavioral therapy that seeks to modify negative or self-defeating thoughts and behaviors. Sessions with a psychotherapist or therapist focus on the development of coping mechanisms that allow people to respond and act differently to various sources of stress.


Counselors can work individually or in group sessions to identify potential solutions to emotional problems. The goal is to collaborate to improve communication in a way that promotes behavioral change and improves overall mental health.

Certified Substance Abuse Counselor (CSAC)

This is a counselor who specializes in overseeing the drug/alcohol addiction treatment and recovery process. This person may conduct assessments, manage cases, set treatment goals, plan aftercare, as well as communicate with medical professionals and families. The CSAC may also lead therapy sessions to help people to develop healthy coping mechanisms and/or introduce the 12-step system for additional support.

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)

A form of psychotherapy designed to help people suffering from a variety of mental health disorders and/or addiction. This type of therapy seeks to overcome destructive behavior and teaches people how to better manage emotions and impulses.


A condition where the body has adapted to the presence of drugs or alcohol. If someone who is drug dependent stops taking that drug suddenly, withdrawal will occur. In some situations, such as benzodiazepines, alcohol, heroin or opiate addiction, withdrawal can be severe or life threatening.


The process of removing a toxic substance from the body. Medically assisted detoxification may be needed to help manage withdrawal symptoms associated with dependence. Symptom severity depends on the type of drug, the dosage, and how long and how frequently it has been taken. Detoxification is often the first step in a drug treatment program, particularly with addiction to opiates such as heroin, tranquilizers and alcohol.

Drop-In Center

A place where a person can safely recuperate from the immediate effects of drugs or alcohol with medical supervision.


A person who is suffering both from mental illness and substance use disorder.

Evidence-Based Treatment / Practice

A form of treating addiction based on clearly specified psychological treatment where decisions are based on research studies; CBT and DBT are examples of evidence-based treatment and practice.

Family Program

A portion of a facility’s care program where family members are encouraged (or sometimes required) to participate in therapy sessions to better understand addiction and goals for treatment, as well as improve communication and overall family functioning.

Group Counseling (or Group Therapy)

Participants (usually six to ten people) work with counselors to openly address experiences and problems. Discussions may include coping skills to help prevent relapse or how to change patterns of thinking that drive addiction. In some groups, members hold each other accountable, supporting constructive change and confronting obstacles together.

Holistic Treatment

Treatment that seeks to address the needs of the whole person: mind, body and spirit.

Home-Based Services

Substance use disorder and mental health treatment which is provided in-home.

Emergency Shelter (or Homeless Shelter)

Temporary residence for homeless individuals and families.

Individual Counseling

One-on-one counseling or therapy designed to help people overcome obstacles, change behaviors and improve quality of life.

Inpatient Treatment

This is a rehabilitation process where a person resides at a facility during treatment. Inpatient treatment is typically reserved for those with more severe substance use disorder problems, particularly where detox may be needed to manage withdrawal.

Inpatient Hospitalization

A patient who is admitted to a hospital or clinic for treatment for more than one night. This intensive level of treatment requires 24-hour care in a safe and secure unit of the hospital. Inpatient treatment is necessary for those who need constant nursing care, those who are severely depressed or suicidal, and those who are unable to break the cycle of their illness in a less restrictive treatment setting. A major focus is to stabilize symptoms and develop a plan for continued treatment of the illness outside the inpatient program.


Treatment providers typically have a process, where a person's condition is evaluated and a recommended treatment approach is provided, based on severity of the substance use problem presented.

Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP)

An intensive outpatient program consists of regularly scheduled sessions of structured addiction treatment and mental health counseling. This option may be suitable for someone who is unable to attend an inpatient treatment program or residential facility and can serve as a middle ground between residential treatment and aftercare.

Life Skills

A term commonly used during the treatment process that describes the set of coping strategies used to help persons with substance use disorder address the challenges and stresses of daily life.

Medical / Somatic Services

Medical services, medication administration services, medication assisted treatment, and the dispensing of medications in an alcohol or drug treatment program.

Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT)

MAT is the use of medications, in combination with counseling and behavioral therapies, to provide a whole-patient approach to the treatment of substance use disorders.

Mobile Crisis Counseling

A Mobile Crisis Counselor goes to area Emergency Rooms to provide services in response to an opioid overdose. A crisis screening, counseling, and possible referral services for further chemical dependency assessments and/or detoxification services are offered to individuals who have recently overdosed on heroin or other opiate drugs. The counselor may also be able to offer assistance, support, and coordination of care for the individuals and/or their families.

Motivational Incentives

Uses positive reinforcement such as providing rewards or privileges for remaining drug free, for participating in counseling sessions or for taking treatment medications as prescribed.

Motivational Interviewing

Uses strategies to encourage rapid and self-driven behavior change to stop drug use and help a patient enter treatment.  (from the National Institute on Drug Abuse: Seeking Drug Abuse Treatment: Know What To Ask)

Motivational Enhancement Therapy (MET)

MET refers to a type of behavioral therapy in which patients are inspired and coached toward a more self-motivated, self-driven desire for recovery. Sessions are designed to motivate and facilitate a plan of action.

Opioid Treatment Program (OTP)

Opioid treatment programs provide medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for patients diagnosed with opioid-use disorder. Typically, these facilities have the largest array of MAT options including methadone, buprenorphine products, and naltrexone (a.k.a., Vivitrol). OTPs are different than more common office-based opioid treatment programs because they are licensed by various federal and state authorities and must adhere to a strict set of guidelines that cover patient care.

Outpatient Treatment

Outpatient treatment programs do not require people to live at the treatment center and are typically reserved for those with less severe needs. This type of treatment can act as a bridge after inpatient care. It can also serve the needs of those who cannot utilize inpatient treatment due to costs or an inability to commit the time away from personal or professional obligations.

Partial Hospitalization / Day Treatment

Partial hospitalization programs involve regular onsite treatment, but do not require you to live at the facility. They offer ongoing medical monitoring and treatment for those living in a stable environment.

Peer Support Groups

Smaller group meetings with people who are going through similar experiences. Peers help participants stay accountable, motivated, and on-track in their recovery.


Recovery from addiction is more than abstinence. It's about improving quality of life, being emotionally and physically healthy, succeeding in school or work, having healthy relationships, and achieving a healthy social life, while living free of drugs and alcohol.

Recovery Residence (or Recovery Housing)

Housing for people recovering from drug or alcohol addiction that provides peer support and assistance with obtaining drug addiction services. There are four different levels of recovery residences:

Recovery Residence: Level I

These are peer-run recovery residences that have no external supervision or oversight. Residents determine which arrangements most effectively meet their needs. These facilities typically serve those far along in the treatment / recovery process.

Recovery Residence: Level II

These are staff-run residences, often called Sober Living Homes, where house managers monitor activities and screen potential residents. These facilities typically serve those actively in treatment, but who still can benefit from a more structured, supervised environment.

Recovery Residence: Level III

These are supervised residences with high levels of support to guide the treatment process. The goal of these facilities is to provide a structured environment that allows the resident to transition to lower levels of support or independent living.

Recovery Residence: Level IV

The most structured and supervised level of recovery residences, these facilities provide primary medical treatment services by credentialed staff and are generally located in a more institutional environment. This is often the first step people make into recovery housing during the treatment process.


Resuming drug or alcohol use after seeking treatment for addiction. A common issue that may require a person to seek further treatment or to make adjustments to an existing plan. Note: The National Institute on Drug Abuse states “Relapse does not mean treatment failure. The chronic nature of addiction means that relapsing to drug abuse is not only possible, but likely, similar to what happens with other chronic medical illnesses - such as diabetes, hypertension, and asthma - that have both physical and behavioral components. And like these illnesses, addiction also requires continual evaluation and treatment modification if necessary”.

Relapse Prevention Therapy (RPT)

Interventions designed to teach people how to anticipate and cope with the problem of relapse.

Residential Treatment Programs

Treatment in a residential setting which can last from one month to a year. Typically, residents go through different phases as they progress through the program. Also called inpatient, or rehab, these 24-hour supervised Residential Treatment Programs are designed to provide a full array of treatment services.

SMART Recovery

SMART (Self-Management and Recovery Training) is a secular response to the 12-Step program (which stresses spirituality). SMART Recovery instead focuses on self-empowerment (as opposed to the “surrender to powerlessness” that AA mentions in their first step).

Substance Abuse / Substance Use / Substance Use Disorder

Long-term, pathological use of alcohol or drugs, characterized by daily intoxication, inability to reduce consumption, and impairment in social or occupational functioning; broadly, alcohol or drug addiction.  

Transitional Housing

Transitional housing is supportive housing that helps fight the homeless problem in today’s society. Transitional housing is generally for a limited time period. Stays can be from two weeks to twenty-four months. Transitional housing provides people with help after a crisis such as homelessness or domestic violence. 


Physical and emotional symptoms that generally occur after discontinuing a substance that the body has become dependent on, such as opiates, tranquilizers or alcohol. Symptom severity depends on the type of drug, the dosage, how long and how frequently it has been taken. In some situations, such as benzodiazepines, alcohol, heroin or opiate addiction, withdrawal can be severe or life threatening.


A drug that activates a receptor in the brain.


A stimulant drug with effects similar to cocaine.


A group of medications that reduce pain.


A substance that can nullify another drug’s effects such as Naloxone (Narcan is the brand name) or Naltrexone.


A type of central nervous system (CNS) depressant often prescribed to promote sleep.


A type of medication known as tranquilizers. Familiar names include Valium, Ativan and Valium. They are some of the most commonly prescribed medications in the United States. Benzodiazepines are commonly abused. The combination of benzodiazepines and alcohol can be dangerous and even lethal.


Medication used for the treatment of opioid addiction. It is considered a “partial opioid agonist,” meaning that it produces a milder form of the effects produced by opioids (which are “full opioid agonists”). It essentially fills the brain’s opioid receptors without producing the same high as full opioids.


An analog (chemically similar) of the opioid analgesic fentanyl. It is 10,000 times more potent than morphine, making it among the most potent commercially used opioids.


A highly addictive stimulant drug derived from the coca plant that produces profound feeling of pleasure.


A narcotic pain reliever and cough suppressant, codeine is a sleep-inducing and analgesic chemical derived from morphine. In addition to reducing pain, codeine cases sedation, drowsiness, and depresses breathing.


Slang term for a smokeable form of cocaine.


An opioid drug that is fifty times as potent as heroin and 100 times as potent as morphine. Used commonly during surgery as anesthesia, fentanyl has recently been used to cut heroin throughout the country leading to many overdoses.


A diverse group of drugs that alter perceptions, thoughts, and feelings. Hallucinogenic drugs include LSD, mescaline, PCP, and psilocybin (magic mushrooms).


Heroin is a highly addictive drug made from morphine, a natural substance taken from the seed pod of the Asian opium poppy plant. Heroin is used as a recreational drug for its euphoric effects, which are about twice as strong as morphine. Heroin can be a white or brown powder, or a black sticky substance known as black tar heroin. Heroin can be injected, inhaled as smoke through a straw or snorted as a powder.


An opioid drug is derived from codeine and is about half as strong as oxycodone. This is one of the only opioids that can’t be administered intravenously.


An opioid drug that is between eight and ten times stronger than heroin, hydromorphone crossed the blood-brain barrier faster than any other opioid. This accounts for the strong “rush” associated with intravenous use.


A psychoactive drug, usually smoked but sometimes vaporized or ingested, that is typically made from the flowers, leaves, and stems of the female cannabis plant. The main psychoactive ingredient is THC.


A medication that can be used to treat opiate addiction and to relieve pain. It works by blocking the receptors in the brain that are affected by opioids. Methadone is not used to treat addictions to substances such as alcohol, marijuana or cocaine.


An addictive, potent stimulant drug that is part of the larger class of amphetamines.


A type of opiate used to treat moderate to severe pain. Short-acting versions are taken as needed and used for acute pain. Extended-release versions are used for the treatment of chronic pain. Morphine is usually used after invasive surgery.


Naloxone (also known as Narcan) is a medication that can reverse an overdose caused by an opioid drug (heroin or prescription pain medications). When administered during an overdose, naloxone blocks the effects of opioids on the brain and quickly restores breathing. Naloxone has been used safely by emergency medical professionals for more than 40 years and has only this one critical function: to reverse the effects of opioids to prevent overdose death. Naloxone has no potential for abuse. It is also mixed with Buprenorphine to create Suboxone.


A narcotic antagonist that blocks the effects of opioids. It is a once a day pill prescribed since the mid-’90s for addiction.


One of the brand names of Naloxone, Narcan is a medication used to block the effects opioids, especially in an overdose. When given intravenously, it works within two minutes, and when injected into a muscle, it works within five minutes. The medication may also be used in the nose. Some counties give out Naloxone kits to people addicted to Heroin and/or friends and families.


Opium is a sap derived from the poppy seed. It’s the oldest opiate around and predates even morphine. It’s used medically as an analgesic.


Drugs derived from the opium poppy are categorized as opiates. Types of Opiates include: Morphine, Codeine, Heroin and Opium.


Synthetic and semi-synthetic drugs that are modified versions of opiates. Types of Opioids include: Methadone, Oxycodone (Percocet, OxyContin), Hydrocodone (Vicodin, Lorcet, Lortab), Hydromorphone (Dilaudid) and Fentanyl (Duragesic).


A prescription medication used for relief of moderate to high pain. It is an opioid which has about double the strength as morphine, which puts it in the same ballpark as heroin. OxyContin is the brand name version of oxycodone that kicked off our current opioid epidemic.

Psychedelic Drug

A drug that distorts perception, thought, and feeling. This term is typically used to refer to drugs with hallucinogenic effects like those of LSD.


Drugs that promote sleep, suppress anxiety, and relax muscles. They include benzodiazepines, barbiturates, and other types of Central Nervous System depressants.


A class of drugs that elevates mood, increases feelings of well-being, and increases energy and alertness. Some stimulants, such as cocaine and methamphetamine, produce euphoria and are powerfully rewarding. Other stimulants, such as methylphenidate (Ritalin and Concerta) or Adderall (a mix of amphetamine salts), are often prescribed to treat ADHD.


A prescription medication that contains the active ingredients buprenorphine and naloxone. It is used in the treatment of opioid addiction.


A prescription injectable formulation of naltrexone, used to prevent relapse to opioid dependence. It blocks opioid receptors in the brain for one month at a time, helping patients to prevent relapse.