Module 12: Key Terms

acamprosate: a medication used to reduce the desire to drink alcohol by adjusting neurotransmitter balance.

agonist: a drug that partially or fully activates specific neurotransmitter receptors, creating a partial or full response that would be triggered by another drug (e.g., illicit or misused substances); used as a substitute for the problematic substances.

anabolic (androgenic) steroids: synthetically produced testosterone, potentially misused.

antagonist: a drug that blocks another substance’s action by binding to the neurotransmitter sites and preventing its action.

behind-the-counter (BTC) medication: a level of control imposed on over-the-counter medications that limits amounts obtained and/or records user identification information to reduce potential for misuse; does not involve a prescription control but requires involvement of a licensed distributor (e.g., pharmacist).

benzodiazepines: synthetically produced drugs with a tranquilizing effect on the brain, commonly prescribed to treat anxiety, sleep disorders, and alcohol withdrawal; potentially addictive, and may be misused themselves.

buprenorphine: a prescribed opioid medication (narcotic) used to treat opioid use disorder; may be combined with naloxone (e.g., Suboxone®). [not to be confused with bupropion, see below] 

bupropion: an antidepressant medication that also may be used to treat nicotine dependence by reducing cravings and withdrawal effects. [not to be confused with buprenorphine, see above]

detoxification (detox): an initial step in treating substance misuse/substance use disorders during which the substances of concern are withdrawn from the body under supervision, the person is medically stabilized, withdrawal symptoms are managed, and longer-term treatment is encouraged.

disulfiram: an alcohol antagonist drug that produces unpleasant physical reaction to alcohol consumption/exposure; serves as a deterrent to drinking (avoiding the punishing consequences); may also be used in pharmacotherapy with cocaine misuse where it likely serves as a cocaine agonist in the dopamine reward system instead.

inhalants: volatile substances (gas, aerosol, or vapor) misused by inhalation in high concentrations.

medication adherence: the extent to which an individual uses medication as prescribed (adheres to a treatment plan involving medication).

medication assisted treatment (MAT): treatment of specific substance misuse/substance use disorder with specific medications; the term often refers to the combination of medication and behavioral intervention approaches, but may refer only to the medication aspect of intervention.

medication management (MM): a specific type of intervention designed to support adherence to a medication-involved intervention protocol.

methadone: a synthetic opioid agonist drug used to treat opioid use disorder by reducing cravings and withdrawal symptoms, as well as blocking the effects of other opioids that might be used.

methadone maintenance therapy (MMT): a coordinated, integrated intervention strategy for treating opioid use disorder that includes concurrent delivery and monitoring of methadone pharmacotherapy with behavioral/rehabilitation interventions.

naloxone: an opioid antagonist used for rapid reversal of an opioid overdose event.

naltrexone: an opioid antagonist used for treatment of opioid or alcohol misuse/use disorder. [Not to be confused with naloxone, see above]

nicotine replacement therapy (NRT): medications or devices that deliver controlled amounts of nicotine that can be gradually tapered to help a person stop using nicotine products (e.g., cigarettes) by minimizing the cravings and withdrawal symptoms associated with cessation efforts; considered a harm reduction approach if the medication or device eliminates the risks associated with smoking or otherwise consuming the nicotine-containing products.

over-the-counter (OTC) substance misuse: intentional misuse of medication/medical products sold without a prescription for the purpose of experiencing their psychoactive effects.

persistence: how long a substance remains active in the body; related to the pharmacokinetic principle of drug half-life.

pharmacotherapy: use of (prescribed) medications, in this context, for the purpose of treating substance misuse/substance use disorder.

polydrug misuse: using two or more psychoactive substances in combination, usually with the intent of achieving a particular effect; alcohol is commonly involved in polydrug use scenarios.

prescription misuse: the use of a controlled substance (medication) without a prescription, in a manner other than was prescribed, or for the purpose of altering feelings/experience.

stabilization: one major goal of the detoxification (detox) process aimed at ensuring a person is medically and mentally stable without additional use of previously misused substances.

Suboxone®: a medication combining buprenorphine and naloxone, used in treating opioid misuse/use disorder.

varenicline: a partial nicotine agonist medication used in treating nicotine addiction.


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SWK 5805: Theories and Biological Basis of Substance Misuse Copyright © by Dr. Audrey Begun is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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