Terms Used When Referring to Substance Abuse

Terms Used When Referring to Substance Abuse drug rehabilitation and alcohol rehabilitation

Many different terms are used that may be difficult for a person to understand sometimes when we talk about drugs and substance abuse. Below you will find brief descriptions for some of the terms used when we reference them in our articles and blogs.


Club Drugs (Party Drug) - The term club drug is used to describe various drugs that are abused by many young people today recreationally. Unfortunately they're extremely dangerous and each type of drug in this category comes with its own set of health related dangers, risks and affects each person differently. Today drugs like Ecstasy, methamphetamine, ketamine, rohypnol, LSD and GHB are produced illegally in labs and abused by many adolescents and young adults while hanging out at parties, dance clubs, raves, during concerts or in night clubs. Club Drugs are also referred to as party drugs and are extremely dangerous because no one knows for sure what's in the drug they're using, how potent it is, or what reaction they will experience after taking the substance. There are very serious side effects associated with the use of club drugs and individuals that use them risk many different health problems as well as addiction, seizures, coma and possible death.

Gateway Drug - When referring to gateway drugs, the term means the use of one drug could possibly lead to the abuse of other harder more dangerous drugs. For example, not everyone that experiments with pot will eventually move onto drugs like meth, heroin or cocaine, but sadly many people do. Gateway drugs are usually not hard to get and inexpensive according to D.A.R.E. , but they're not typically the first drug a person chooses to experiment with.

Synthetic Drug - Synthetic drugs are man-made drugs that are chemically produced. Examples of synthetic drugs that are abused today include: synthetic marijuana (spice and K2), bath salts, methamphetamine, crystal meth, GHB, Rohypnol, Ketamine, and MDMA. Synthetic drugs are widely available, addictive and extremely dangerous when used and abused.

Semi-Synthetic Drugs - Semi synthetic drugs are natural drugs that are chemically treated. Examples of semi-synthetic opiates would be heroin and hydrocodone.

Psychoactive Drugs (Psychotropic Drugs) - Psychoactive drugs affect the central nervous system and the brain when abused and are used purposely by many people to alter their moods, perception and state of mind. Examples of psychoactive drugs include alcohol, heroin, cannabis, LSD and cocaine.

Psychedelic Drugs - Psychedelic drugs distort a person's awareness, their thoughts and their feelings. LSD and psilocybin mushrooms are examples of psychedelic substances.

Mind Altering Substance - Mind altering drugs are the same as psychoactive substances. Mind altering drugs distort perception and alter a person's feelings and moods. Examples of mind altering substances include hallucinogens like LSD, PCP and ecstasy.

Hypnotic Drug - Hypnotic drugs are used to treat sleep disorders like insomnia. Sedative hypnotic drugs are often referred to as depressants and are commonly abused. Examples include benzodiazepines like Valium, Xanax and Rohypnol.

Performance Enhancing Drug - Performance enhancing drugs are used to increase or improve a person's performance and endurance athletically. Anabolic steroids are commonly abused by many bodybuilders and athletes.

Psychedelic Drug - A psychedelic drug distorts thoughts, moods and awareness and is often used when referencing hallucinogens like LSD and other drugs that create hallucinations.

Self-Medicate - When the term self-medicating is used when referencing substance abuse, it refers to the use of drugs or alcohol to treat underlying emotional symptoms brought on for various reasons that have never been dealt with. Many people turn to drugs or alcohol instead of seeking help for depression, anxiety, anger, and mood disorders.

Recreational Drug Use - The term recreational drug use refers to using a drug or other substance that will enhance a person's personal enjoyment in a sociable or relaxing setting. Tobacco, alcohol, marijuana and club drugs are commonly used recreationally.

Polydrug Use - Polydrug use refers to the use of more than one drug. Many people use one specific drug exclusively but poly drug users use more than one drug either at a time or one right after the other for various reasons. One reason for some people is to create a more intense long lasting high.

Controlled Substance - A controlled substance means that the drug has either been approved or not been approved for medical use and treatment by law. Drugs are placed in 5 different categories (schedules) depending on whether or not they're approved for use in the medical field, how likely the drug could be abused, and how likely the substance can lead to dependence.

Hallucinogen - A hallucinogen is a drug or substance that causes hallucinations like LSD for example.

Illicit Drug - Illicit means illegal, examples of illicit drugs include meth, cocaine and heroin.

Occasional Drug Use - Occasional drug use refers to the use of a substance once in a while but occasional drug use could possibly lead to addiction in the future for some people.

Substance Use Disorder - Both substance addiction and substance abuse fall into this illness which is termed substance use disorder.

Drug Detox - When referring to detoxification associated with substance use, during detox the body is eliminating itself of the drug and chemicals that have been abused. Withdrawal symptoms are experienced during detoxification and can be medically managed during this time if necessary by a medical professional.

Withdrawal Symptoms - When a person has used a substance for a prolonged period of time, withdrawal symptoms occur when they stop using or decrease their use of the drug. Symptoms of withdrawal depend on the drug or substance that's been abused and the intensity and duration of symptoms experienced depend on the individuals overall health and extent of their addiction.

Topic Discussion

  1. Addict

    I have never touched and really know nothing about drugs. What could someone be referring to if they say they are looking for a g?

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