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Alcohol Drug and Substance Abuse: Getting Familiar with Common Terms and Language

Getting confused between abbreviations like AODD, ACOA, AlAnon, and AA? Need help understanding the difference between enabling and codependence?

To help those new to the alcohol & drug addiction recovery world become versed in some of the frequently used language, here are some of the more common terms and their meanings within this context. With the rise of attendance in addiction treatment centers being at an all time high, we felt it was time for a post on helping people decipher the shortened versions of these terms.

AA – Alcoholics Anonymous; Worldwide fellowship from which all 12-step “programs” have stemmed.

ACOA – Adult Child Of Alcoholic

Addiction – A physical and/or psychological need to continue to use the substance in question

Al-Anon – 12-Step based fellowship of family, friends, and those affected by alcoholism and addiction

Alcoholism – A condition where the consumption of alcohol has caused disruption in one or many areas of a person’s life, including family, employment, psychological state, health, spirituality, or other areas important to the individual.

AODD – Alcohol and Other Drug Dependence; abbreviation often used clinically but also in chat rooms and discussion boards as a way for individuals to quickly indicate that they are addicted to all drugs of dependence.

Codependent – Coined originally to describe the relationship between an alcoholic and their partner. Now used more loosely to describe actions of enabling, lack of self esteem, and an unhealthy need to “fix” another person.

Comorbidity – when more than one “disorder” or illness exists; most often used when describing the presence of addiction alongside one or more mental health disorders (depression, bipolar, panic disorder, etc).

Dependence – Commonly used to describe the physical aspect of addiction after chemical changes have caused the body or mind to feel discomfort if the substance is not present (i.e. withdrawal symptoms, or “I cannot handle my anxiety level going outside unless I am stoned”)

IOP – Intensive Outpatient Treatment; common as next step for those leaving inpatient treatment, or alternative for those who cannot leave work or afford to go to residential treatment facilities for their alcohol & drug abuse issues. Provides auxiliary or alternative support to AA, NA, and other self-help groups.