Learn more about the medical terms and abbreviations you may see on this website.


  • Abuse:
    The misuse or overuse of a controlled substance.
  • Addiction:
    A prolonged, uncontrollable need for a habit-forming substance that can cause physical symptoms upon withdrawal and the person continues use of the substance despite adverse consequences.
  • Agonist: A molecule that attaches to, and activates, a cellular receptor.
  • Full Agonist:
    An agonist that can produce increasing effects until the receptors are fully activated. Opioids with the greatest abuse potential such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, morphine, and heroin are full opioid agonists.
  • Partial Agonist:
    An agonist that attaches to, and activates, a receptor, but not as much as a full agonist. Because of this, the maximum response that a partial agonist can cause is lower than that of a full agonist. It is also possible for partial agonists to reduce the effects of full agonists by displacing or blocking them from the same receptors. Buprenorphine, the active ingredient in SUBOXONE Film, is a partial opioid agonist.
  • Antagonist:<
    A molecule that attaches to a cellular receptor without activating it. Antagonists can decrease the effect of an agonist by displacing it or blocking its attachment to the same receptors./li>


  • Chronic condition:
    A medical condition that must be lived with and treated over a long period of time.
  • Compulsive:
    Behavior that is overpowering, repeated, and often irrational.
  • Craving:
    The intense desire for a substance, also known as "psychological dependence".


  • Dependence:
    When neurons in the brain adapt to repeated exposure to a drug and they only function normally when the drug is present.


  • Induction:
    The first phase of medication-assisted treatment when medication (eg, buprenorphine) is given to ease a person's withdrawal symptoms. Induction usually lasts 2 to 3 days.
  • Intravenous:
    Drug delivery through insertion of a needle into a vein.


  • Maintenance:
    The phase of treatment when the person is taking a stable dose and working with a doctor or counselor to address other issues affecting his or her dependence and ability to rebuild his or her life.
  • Multi-dose:
    More than one dose


  • Opioid dependence:
    A chronic medical condition affecting the brain that involves a physical, psychological, and behavioral need for an opioid drug.
  • Opiate:
    A drug that comes directly from opium or a naturally occurring substance, such as a hormone, that has sedative or narcotic effects similar to those of opium. Morphine and codeine are opiates.
  • Opioid:
    A drug with opium-like qualities. Opioids reduce pain, cause relaxation or sleepiness, and carry an addictive potential. Opioids include some prescription painkillers, such as oxycodone and hydrocodone. Buprenorphine, methadone, and heroin are also opioids.
  • Overdose:
    When a chemical substance is taken in quantities or concentrations that are large enough to overwhelm the body, causing life-threatening illness or death.


  • Physical dependence:
    The body's response when drug use is reduced or stopped, resulting in withdrawal signs and symptoms.
  • Psychological dependence:
    A compulsion to use a substance or engage in a behavior that is mentally driven rather than physically.


  • Rationalization:
    Distorted thinking about one’s behavior that differs from actual motives.
  • Relapse:
    A setback after a time of improvement.
  • Respiratory failure:
    A person stops breathing.


  • Stigma:
    Something that detracts from the character or reputation of a person or group; a symbol of disgrace.


  • Taper:
    To gradually decrease.
  • Tolerance:
    A decrease in response to a drug dose that occurs with continued use. For example, individuals who have become tolerant require more drugs or alcohol to achieve the same effects originally produced by lower doses.
  • Triggers:
    Activities, sounds, places, people, images, events, or other things that may cause a dependent person to want to use drugs or alcohol again. Triggers can bring on cravings.


  • Unit-dose packaging:
    A package containing a single dose.


  • Withdrawal:
    The uncomfortable symptoms (such as pain, cramps, vomiting, diarrhea, anxiety, sleep problems, cravings) that develop when a person stops taking a drug or medication on which he or she has become dependent.

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