Alcoholmd Glossary Page - A

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A Definition

In the context of alcohol or other drugs, absorption by the stomach and intestines into the blood stream. Alcohol absorption is influenced by several factors such as beverage type. For example, the alcohol from higher concentration beverages, as well as from carbonated beverages such as champagne or sweetened drinks, may be absorbed faster.


A non-drinker; someone who never or rarely uses alcoholic beverages. Abstainers are either lifetime abstainers or former drinkers. The longer the abstinence, the lower the risk of relapse. A key treatment goal is to promote and maintain abstinence. Rapid transition to abstinence can lead to withdrawal symptoms (see withdrawal). Lifelong abstainers never consumed alcoholic beverages (syn. teetotaler).


Non-use of a specific substance. In recovery, non-use of any addictive psychoactive substance. May also denote cessation of addictive behavior; such as gambling, over-eating, etc. Refraining from all use of alcoholic beverages.


Harmful use of a specific psychoactive substance. The term also applies to one category of psychoactive substance use disorder. While recognizing that “abuse” is part of present diagnostic terminology, the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) recommends that an alternative term be found for this purpose because of the pejorative connotations of the word “abuse.” Alcohol abuse is defined by an excessive use of alcohol. There is no single definition of abuse. Abuse varies with age, gender, weight, medical condition, profession, and activity. See also Addiction, Dependence.


A medication approved in Europe, and in development in the U.S. to decrease alcohol consumption and help prevent relapse. See also Treatment.


An unforeseen event, with a negative outcome, such as injuries or death. Accidents resulting in trauma are a leading cause of death amongst alcoholics, particularly the younger people. See also Trauma, Car accident, Drunk driving, Fall, Injury.


Primary product derived from alcohol metabolism. Acetaldehyde is potentially toxic; acetaldehyde accumulation may cause a flushing syndrome, a feeling of heat in the face or chest and the patient may experience hypotension and vomiting.


Adult Children of Alcoholics; a self help group; a Twelve Step, Twelve Tradition program of women and men who grew up in alcoholic or otherwise dysfunctional homes.

Acquired immune deficiency disorder

(AIDS) Set of symptoms including a massive failure of the immune system and its consequences such as opportunistic infections, believed to be caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

 Acute intoxication

A series of conditions resulting from a massive ingestion of alcoholic beverages, including excitement, ebriety, depression and eventually coma. See also Drunkenness, Overdose, Intoxication, Binge drinking.


A disease process characterized by the continued use of a specific psychoactive substance, or the realization of a particular behavior (sex, gambling) despite physical, psychological or social harm. Dependence on alcohol, is characterized by a compulsion to drink and loss of control, to the point that stopping is very difficult and causes severe physical and mental reactions. See also Dependence, Abuse, Tolerance.

 Addiction Counselors

Persons trained to counsel people who have addictions. May be medically trained, such as medical social workers, but are often non-medical personnel. Must be licensed or certified by their state.

 Addiction medicine

A medical specialty dealing with addictions.

 Addiction Specialist

Physicians trained in addiction medicine. See also Addictionist, Addictionologist, Addiction medicine


(Also known as Addictionologist.) An addictionist is a physician who specializes in Addiction Medicine. Addictionists work in a variety of settings, such as outpatient settings, day treatment settings, hospitals, or private practice offices. These physicians may come from other clinical specialty areas such as internal medicine, cardiology, endocrinology, neurology. They may have backgrounds in surgery or be family practitioners. An addictionist will diagnose and treat addiction withdrawal and the complications that may accompany addiction. The addictionist may also be involved in the patient's recovery process and in preventing relapse.


Properties of a drug, a substance, or a behavior that can lead to addiction are a rapid pleasurable effect, a withdrawal syndrome, and increasing tolerance. See also Addictive behavior.

 Addictive behavior

A behavior geared toward getting a pleasant effect or avoiding a feeling of distress that gets out of control and persists despite adverse consequences. Goodman in 1990 reported a list of criteria describing and limiting the addictive behavior concept: 1. Incapacity to resist the impulse to initiate the behavior. 2. Increased tension before the initiation of the conduct. 3. Pleasant feeling or relief occurring upon realization of the behavior. 4. Feeling of loss of control during the behavior. 5. One of at least the 5 following items: a. Frequent concern about the behavior or its preparation. b. Increase in the duration and intensity of the experiences. c. Repeated attempts to reduce, control or to cut down the behavior. d. Significant amounts of time spent realizing, preparing or recovering from addictive behavior. e. Frequent occurrences during professional, school or university, or family time. f. Alteration of social, professional and family life. g. Persistence of the behavior despite the alteration of social and personal situations. h. Tolerance described as the need to increase the dose or frequency of use in order to obtain the same effect. i. Agitation or irritability when confronted with the behavior. See also Addiction, Addictive.

 Addictive spectrum

The large variety of addictive behaviors which represents the pathological pattern with or without drugs. The psychoactive substance-related dependences are distinguished from other addictive behaviors without drugs such as anorexia, bulimia, pathological gambling or buying, and more recently some suicides in adolescents.

 Adverse consequences

(of alcohol abuse): Negative consequences directly triggered by alcoholism. Alcohol-related problems, “disabilities,” or impairments in such areas as physical health (e.g., alcohol withdrawal syndromes, liver disease, gastritis, anemia, and neurologic disorders), psychological functioning (e.g., cognition and changes in mood and behavior), interpersonal functioning (e.g., marital problems, child abuse, and troubled social relationships), occupational functioning (e.g., scholastic or job problems), and legal, financial, or spiritual problems. Although the alcohol dependence syndrome may theoretically occur in the absence of adverse consequences, we believe that the latter are evident in virtually all clinical cases.


The process of growing older. Changes in metabolism related to aging can be an important factor in alcohol effects. In persons over the age of 65, the incidence of alcoholism may be rising.


(ALATEEN for younger members) "a worldwide organization offering a self-help recovery program for families and friends of alcoholics whether or not the alcoholic seeks help or even recognizes the existence of a drinking problem." Alanon, Alateen


Popular term for the pharmacological and psychoactive agent found in alcoholic drinks, also known as ethanol or ethyl alcohol. The term is also used for beverages containing ethyl alcohol. Chemically, an alcohol is an aliphatic hydrocarbon containing an -OH radical. Ethyl alcohol is C2H5OH. The acute effects of alcohol have been described for centuries (excitement and euphoric mood followed by sedation), but the clinical aspects of alcohol dependence were described only in the 19th century, especially in its compulsive form. Alcohol can be produced in different ways: fermentation of sugar-rich plants (apple, pear, grape, sugar-cane, barley, corn) or distillation. (See also Wine, Beer, Spirits). Spirits obtained by distillation such as whisky, rum, vodka, gin, and cognac, have higher alcohol concentration; the fermentation process is inhibited when the alcohol concentration rises to around 12%; to get a higher concentration, a treacle distillation is needed.

 Alcohol abuse

Continuing consumption of alcohol despite alcohol-related social or interpersonal problems. When the above is accompanied by tolerance, withdrawal or compulsive behavior related to alcohol use, the diagnosis is alcohol dependence. See also Addiction, Substance abuse.

 Alcohol concentration of the blood

A measure of the degree of toxicity with alcohol. See also drunkeness, Blood Alcohol Concentration

 Alcohol problem

Any problem associated with or resulting from the use of alcoholic beverages, particularly health, social or interpersonal problems, and high risk drinking. The term "alcohol-related problem" is used in a broader sense to include problems indirectly related to alcohol, e.g., problems arising from the presence of a problem drinker in the home.

 Alcohol Risk Assessment & Intervention

(ARAI) A resource manual and program for family physicians to provide "a standardized approach to assist patients whose drinking puts them at risk for problems."

 Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms; U.S. Bureau of

A law enforcement organization of the U.S. Department of Treasury

 Alcoholic family

A family affected by the alcohol drinking of one or more of its members.

 Alcoholics Anonymous

(AA) “A fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and hope with each other that they may solve their common problem and help others recover from alcoholism. The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking." (from the Alcoholics Anonymous Preamble in "How it Works", the AA Big Book). The association was founded in 1935 by two former addicts; the group enhances abstinence with real support and represents a useful adjunct treatment.


"Repetitive intake of an alcoholic beverage to a degree that harms the drinker in health or socially or economically, with indication of inability consistently to control the occasion or amount of drinking" Keller. (see definitions) Chronic alcoholism, frequent relapses, or long standing dependence leading to health problems and social deterioration. As defined by ASAM and the National Council on Alcoholism (Morse, Flavin et al., 1992), alcoholism is a primary, chronic disease with genetic, psychosocial, and environmental factors influencing its development and manifestations. The disease is often progressive and fatal. It is characterized by impaired control over drinking, preoccupation with the drug alcohol, use of alcohol despite adverse consequences, and distortions in thinking, most notably denial. Each of these symptoms may be continuous or periodic.

 Alice Green

A leading character in the hit move "When a Man Loves a Woman", Alice Green is an alcoholic whose attitude about her life, her children, and especially her husband Michael change after going through detox. The film is grounded in the actual experience of co-writer Al Franken (assisted by Rain Man scripter Ronald Bass). This movie is especially meaningful for anyone who is in a relationship with a substance abuser. Stars Meg Ryan and Andy Garcia. Rated R.


Health care outside a hospital or institution.

 American Society of Addiction Medicine

(ASAM) A national association of physicians who have specialized in the treatment of addictive diseases.


Synthetic psychostimulants including dextroamphetamine, methamphetamine, methylphenidate and designer amphetamine (Adam, MDEA, MDMA or Ecstasy, MMDA, DOM) which, besides their euphorigenic properties have some hallucinogenic effects; psycho-stimulants exert rewarding effects via the mesolimbic dopaminergic pathways, they are less addictive than cocaine. Amphetamines increase the availability of neurotransmitters for synaptic transmission. They are known on street market as "crystal ", "ice", or "speed". Amphetamines include drugs like dextroamphetamine, benzedrine, dexedrine, Ritalin


Drug designed to fight alcohol addiction by triggering unpleasant to painfull effects when taken in conjunction with alcohol. Antabuse blocks the ALDH (aldehyde dehydrogenase). The disulfiram-ethanol reaction (DER) results in hypertension, flushing, headache, nausea, vomiting, tachycardia, and convulsions. See also Disulfiram, Aversive therapy.

 Anterograde amnesia

Specific short term memory deficit in which a person is unable to recall events or what he or she was thinking about a few minutes before; the trouble is more severe when the delay is longer.


Family of drugs designed to fight depression. Antidepressants can be effective in the treatment of addictions such as tobacco and alcohol, which are often linked to depression. See also SSRI, Prozac.


An exaggerated fear for often no apparent reason; most alcoholics have to cope with anxiety during the detoxification phase and some signs are usual during withdrawal; tranquilizers may be useful during this temporary phase. Some alcohol dependent patients develop a compulsive abuse and then a dependence in the context of a real anxiety disorder (social anxiety or panic disorder for instance). They use alcohol to limit the social implications of their disorder. As the alcohol problem progresses, the patient may drink alone, hiding his or her compulsive drinking. This behavior is often associated with guilt and remorse linked to anxiety, which leads to more drinking and induces sleep disorders. At the final stage of dependence, alcohol induces anxiety and depression along with insomnia, low mood, irritability, and anxiety symptoms such as chest pain, dyspnea, palpitations. As alcohol may relieve these symptoms, it induces a vicious circle leading to more drinking.


Irregular heartbeats. A common heart problem amongst chronic alcoholics.

 Asymptotic drinking

Drinking that has not caused medical, personal, or social problems.


Lack of control of limb movements, leading to shaky arms and unsteady gait (mainly in alcohol neurological complications), alteration of speech can also occur. This set of symptoms is triggered by an acute axonal polyneuropathy that can be found in cases of alcoholism and other diseases such as syphilis infection.

 Atypical drinkers

Alcohol drinkers who use large amounts of alcohol for several years without increasing the amount.

 Autonomic hyperactivity

Excessive activity of the autonomic nervous system characterized by fever, sweating, rapid heart rate, etc.

 Aversive therapy

Treatment using the conscious or unsconscious fear of adverse effects of alcohol. Initially aversive therapy consisted of giving a patient a glass of wine, and immediately follow the ingestion of alcohol by an injection of an emetic (causing vomiting) substance, several times a day. Today, the treatment with Antabuse (disulfiram) is more common.

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