Chooper's Guide ... the Internet's most comprehensive substance abuse treatment, prevention and intervention resource directory.

Key Terms


The following alphabetized list of key term explanations will get you started. There will likely be more and CHOOPER’s GUIDE is here to help. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, drop us a note (and know that we will NOT track you or your contact information!). 

Addiction – whether it’s an addiction to alcohol or illegal or prescription drugs, collectively referred to as “drugs,” “addiction is a chronic, often relapsing brain disease that causes compulsive drug seeking and use despite harmful consequences to the individual who is addicted and to those around them.” ("NIDA InfoFacts: Understanding Drug Abuse and Addiction,” National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) of the National Institutes of Health [NIH].)

After Care – the phase of treatment that follows rehabilitation (which follows detox/stabilization). This is a plan, a specific strategy, for how the addict/alcoholic is going to continue and maintain abstinence and a happy, healthy life after the detox/stabilization and rehabilitation phases have been completed. It may involve an extended stay at a treatment center or living in an SLE (sober living environment), in addition to the strategies outlined in the continuing care plan. Other terms for After Care are "Continuing Care" or "Extended Care."

Alcoholic – identifies a person addicted to alcohol (a person who has the disease of alcoholism).

Codependent – a term often assigned to the family member or friend of an alcoholic or drug addict. It is a complicated concept to explain without first having an understanding of the disease of addiction. So for now, it just helps to know the term. See “Secondhand Drinking/Drugging (SHDD)” for additional explanation.

Continuing Care – see “After Care”

Co-Occurring Disorder – see “Dual Diagnosis”

Detox/Stabilization – the first phase of treatment when alcohol and drugs are safely removed from the addict/alcoholic’s system in order to physiologically stabilize him/her.

Drug Addict – the common term used to identify a person addicted to an illegal and/or prescription drug. The term is often shortened to “addict.”

Drug and Alcohol Counselors – a state certified professional that provides drug and alcohol counseling to drug addicts, alcoholics and their family members and friends.  Other tiltes include: substance abuse professional, certified addiction specialist, certified alcohol and drug counselor.

Dual Diagnosis – to be diagnosed with both a mental illness and an addiction (whether it is to drugs or alcohol) is to be diagnosed with two separate brain diseases and is commonly known as a “dual diagnosis” or having “co-occurring disorders.” If your loved one suffers from a mental illness and an addiction, it will be important that both be treated at the same time, preferably by the same treatment team (when care is being provided at a treatment facility).

Extended Care – see “After Care”

Interventionist – a person who is trained to work with family members and friends to help them better understand the disease of addiction; to explain the various types of treatment options available and the best options/facilities to address a particular addict/alcoholic’s specific needs; to identify additional experts for consultations (e.g., mental health professional); and to facilitate a meeting of family members and friends with the addict/alcoholic at which all of this and more (if necessary) is discussed in a loving, non-threatening manner. The objective is for the addict/alcoholic to agree to seek/enter treatment.

IOP (Intensive Outpatient) – a treatment plan whereby the person does not live at the treatment center but attends treatment programs at the center during the day and/or evening.

Maintenance Substance Misuse – includes both substance abuse and addiction because both cause a person to engage in substance misuse behaviors. It is the substance misuse behaviors, regardless of the label, that cause the problems for the substance abuser, addict/alcoholic, family, friends and communities-at-large.

Methadone Maintenance – a long-term, outpatient treatment option for treating drug addicts addicted to opioids (heroin, e.g., prescription pain killers, e.g, oxycodone, oxycontin, hydrocodone, morphine, dilaudid, fentanyl, opana, demerol, codeine).

Naltrexone – a medication that blocks the effects of both opioids and alcohol used in treating opioid addictions and alcoholism.

National Alliance of Mental Health (NAMI) – the number of addicts and alcoholics with a co-occurring mental illness is significant. NAMI is a free program to help both the person with the mental illness and the family member of that person. To find NAMI chapters throughout the United States, please visit

Recovery – treatment for addiction is far more than just stopping the drug or alcohol use or the behavior. Effective treatment is about recovery, which is defined as abstinence and a joy-filled life. Part of treatment is to learn how to live the “joy-filled” life.

Recovery Coach – this is a relatively new concept/function. It is the idea of having an individual who understands addiction to help the addict/alcoholic stay on their recovery path and/or implement their continuing care plan (defined above). Additional terms for this person include: Sober Companion, Sober Expert.

Recovery Residence – is basically a “home” where no alcohol, drugs or paraphernalia are allowed. Often family members and friends are not ready to have the addict/alcoholic move home, or the addict/alcoholic is not ready to move home because of too many triggers or an unhealthy recovery environment. In these instances, a sober living environment home is suggested. You can find these homes in the yellow pages or by contacting a treatment center near you.

Rehab (Rehabilitation) – Rehabilitation (a.k.a. Rehab) is the phase of treatment (following detox) where individuals start the process of changing their brains – repairing, developing new and rewiring old neural networks – while at the same time, restoring their body’s physical health. Generally rehab starts with an intense, almost immersion-like period, during which time the addict/alcoholic focuses on abstinence, education and behavioral changes. As neural networks change/repair/develop and physical health returns, rehabilitation efforts are generally changed and/or modified. Rehab is often what we think of when we think of a typical 28-day residential treatment program. There are a number and variety of rehab centers that provide treatment to drug addicts and alcoholics.

Residential Treatment – a treatment option whereby the addict/alcoholic lives in residence at a treatment center while engaging in treatment.

Risk Factors – there are five key risk factors that contribute to a person who abuses a substance (uses/drinks more than their brain and body can process) becoming an addict/alcoholic. These include: genetics (if it runs in the family, genetic predisposition); social environment (where heavy drinking is viewed as “normal” and encouraged);  childhood trauma (verbal, physical, emotional abuse – which “wires” unhealthy coping skills and brain changes); early use (see above), mental illness (e.g., depression, anxiety, ADHD, PTSD, bipolar – which also cause brain changes and a potential to “self-medicate” with alcohol or drugs). Of further note, all alcoholics go through a period of alcohol abuse, but not all alcohol abusers become alcoholics. The same is true of addiction. A person does not have to “hit bottom” to get and/or be encouraged to seek help. When family members and friends get help and understanding, they can be more effective in talking about the situation (moving away from blaming, shaming, for example).

Secondhand drinking/drugging (SHDD) – describes the impacts of a person’s substance abuse or addiction behaviors on others – especially on family members and friends, but also on co-workers, fellow students and communities-at-large.

When a person drinks too much alcohol or abuses drugs, they change the way their brain works; they interrupt the normal functioning of neural networks. Because the brain controls everything we think, feel, say and do, these brain changes get in the way of that person’s ability to act normally and make good decisions. It can cause that person to do things like: starting fights with friends, yelling at or hitting family members, missing work, carrying on rambling arguments, accusing family members or friends of doing things they haven’t done, driving while under the influence, being super nice, or continuing to use/drink after promising not to. We call these “things” substance misuse (or drinking or drugging) behaviors. When a friend or family member is on the receiving end of someone’s substance misuse behaviors and/or on the receiving end of someone’s reactions to those behaviors (i.e., a non-drinking spouse trying to control a husband/wife’s drinking behaviors), that person experiences SHD (like the idea of secondhand smoke). If chronically exposed to SHD, a person can suffer physical and/or emotional-related brain changes, such as anxiety and depression disorders, fatigue, headaches, and pain. The terms, secondhand drinking or secondhand drugging, are meant to cause impressions similar to those a person has when they hear the words, “secondhand smoke,” a term that immediately brings to mind the impacts of a person’s smoking on others.

Understanding that alcohol misuse (whether is abuse or addiction) causes the drinking behaviors; that it is not a behavioral choice once the brain changes have occurred, helps all concerned better appreciate that: 1) the alcohol misuse needs to stop in order to stop the drinking behaviors, and 2) the non-drinker has no control over the drinking behaviors caused by a person’s alcohol misuse-related brain changes.

SLE (Sober Living Environment) – see “Recovery Residence”

Sober Companion – an individual who provides support to a newly recovering drug addict or alcoholic in potentially stressful living, working and/or social environment.

Sober Escort – an individual who accompanies a drug addict or alcoholic from one location to another to insure they arrive safely.

Sober Home – see “Recovery Residence”

Suboxone or Subutex (aka Buprenorphine) – a narcotic medication used for the treatment of opioids addiction administered under a doctor’s care; reduces the cravings and blocks the effects of opiates in ways similar to methadone.

Substance Abuse – the term used to describe drinking or using more of a drug or alcohol than the brain or body can process and as a result, engaging in substance misuse behaviors. Common variations of this term include alco­hol abuse and drug abuse. Repeated substance abuse causes chemical and structural changes in the brain. These brain changes contribute to a person developing the disease of addiction. Substance abuse also causes secondhand drinking/drugging impacts, as does addiction.

Substance Misuse Behaviors – describes the behaviors a person engages in when they drink or use more drugs than their body and brain can process. These include arguments about the drinking, getting into fights, driving while under the influence (DUI), doing poorly in school or at work because of the sub­stance misuse or having to recover from the misuse, having unwanted or un­protected or unplanned sex, binge drinking (defined as four or more standard drinks on a single occasion for women and five or more standard drinks on a single occasion for men) or blacking out.

Treatment – There are many treatment options because no one person’s recovery will follow a path identical to another’s. In other words, there is NO “one size fits all” when it comes to addiction treatment. Additionally, what may work in the beginning is not as effective several months along – this is because a person is being treated for a brain disease. As the brain heals/repairs the chemical and structural changes caused by substance abuse, the brain changes the way it 'works.' Thus it may be necessary to add or subtract or expand some of the many options that are available and described in the next paragraph.

According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM), regardless of the options used, effective addiction treatment should follow a disease management approach and include: 1) detox/stabilization, 2) rehabilitation (rehab), and 3) continuing care. Often, people engage in a combination of treatment options, which may include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), medications to curb cravings, a 12-step program, mindfulness programs (for example, yoga), spiritual and/or religious programs or activities, healthy nutrition, exercise, group meetings, counseling, intensive outpatient (the person does not live at the treatment center but attends treatment programs at the center during the day and/or evening), residential treatment (the person lives at the treatment center) and continuing care (a plan for what to do after rehab [rehabilitation]). And please know that if there is a dual diagnosis, treatment must also include treatment of the mental illness.

12-step program – a term that refers to several programs, all based on the 12-steps of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). One is NA (Narcotics Anonymous), which is for persons addicted to illegal or prescription drugs. Another is AA (Alcoholics Anonymous), which is for persons addicted to alcohol. Another is Dual Recovery Anonymous (DRA), a 12 step for persons with a dual diagnosis.

Three additional 12-step programs referenced in addiction recovery circles are for the families and friends of an addict/alcoholic. They are Nar-Anon (drugs), Al-Anon (alcohol – adults) and Alateen (alcohol – young people, 13 and up). There are others, as well. Each has a website where you can find meeting times and locations.