Rx Abuse Glossary



A condition that results when a person engages in a compulsive behavior that can be pleasurable but with continued behavior it can lead to adverse consequences such as interference with ordinary life responsibilities, such as work, relationships, or health.

CNS Depressants

Substances that can slow brain activity and respiration. Medications with this property are used to treat anxiety  and sleep disorders and are often referred to as sedatives and tranquilizers. Among the medications commonly prescribed for these purposes are: Benzodiazepines, such as diazepam (Valium) and alprazolam (Xanax) which are used to treat anxiety. Non-benzodiazepines, such as zolpidem (Ambien) and eszopiclone (Lunesta) used to treat sleep disorders.


A substance intended for use in the diagnosis, cure, mitiagtion, treatment, or prevention of disease.

Drug Abuse

Prescription medications that are taken for reasons or in ways not intended by a medical professional, or taken by someone other than the person for whom they were prescribed. Medications taken in large doses to achieve a euphoric effect or to reduce withdrawl symptoms.

Drug Dependence

The body's physical need to a specific substance (drug). Occurs when a person needs a substance to function normally. Abruptly stopping the substance leads to withdrawl symptoms.

Drug Misuse

Taking a medication not to "get high" or abuse the drug but in order to try and self treat a condition or symptom. Use of a substance for a purpose not consistent with legal or medical guidelines.

Drug Use

Using a drug as prescribed for medical reasons.

Gateway Drugs

Drugs that can lead to the later abuse of other drugs such as heroin.


A strongly physiologically addictive narcotic that is more potent than morphine and is prohibited for medical use in the United States but is used illicitly  for its euphoric effects.


Not legally permitted; unlawful; illegal.


Any of a group of drugs such as morphine and oxycodone that reduces pain, alters mood and behavior, and usually induces sleep or stupor. They are used medically to relieve pain but are sometimes also taken for their pleasant effects: prolonged use may cause addiction. Heroin is also a narcotic.


Any of the narcotic opioid alkaloids found as natural products in the opium poppy plant. These include heroin, morphine, codeine, and methadone.


A chemical that resembles morphine or other opiates in its pharacological effects. Opioids are medications that relieve or reduce the intensity of pain signals reaching the brain. Medications that fall within this class include hydrocodone (e.g. Vicodin), oxycodone (ne.g. OxyContin, Percocet), morphine (e.g. Kadian, Avinza), and codeine.


Taking large doses of a drug typically to achieve a euphoric effect and/or reduce withdrawl symptoms. These larger doses can cause breathing to slow down so much that breathing stops and can result in death.

Over the Counter (OTC) Drugs

Drugs sold without a prescription.

Prescription Drug

Drug only available with a doctor's order.

Psychotropic Drug

Any drug acting on the brain; affecting the mind, emotions, and behavior. Some prescription drugs are lithium, Abilify, Zyprexa. Many illicit drugs, such as cocaine, are also psychotropic.


Medications that increase alertness, attention, and energy, as well as elevate blood pressure, heart rate, and respiration. These medications are often used for treatment of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

Substance Use Disorder

Substance use disorders occur when the recurrent use of alcohol and/or drugs causes clinically and functionally significant impairment, such as health problems, disability, and failure to meet major responsibilities at work, school, or home. 


Body's ability to become used to a drug's effect; requiring larger doses to get the same feeling.


The wide range of symptoms that occur after stopping or dramatically reducing opiate drugs after heavy and prolonged use (several weeks or more).

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