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Addiction Glossary

Substance use disorder is a complex behavioral pattern related to acquiring and taking a drug. Oftentimes, a person suffering from a substance use disorder will be unable to cut down on substance use despite negative consequences or failure to fulfill major obligations at work, school or home.

Drugs of abuse typically produce a euphoric “high” by interacting with the brain’s reward system, which exists to reward and promote behaviors that lead to natural rewards like food, water and companionship. By directly activating this system, drugs of abuse provide an artificial reward signal that tricks the brain into repeating behaviors leading up to taking the drug. Though most drugs share this general mechanism, different drugs activate the reward system in different ways. These distinct modes of action account for the different abuse profiles of many drugs, including variation in addictiveness, potential for harm and long-term effects.

Find out more about some commonly abused drugs by clicking the links below.

Alcohol
Nicotine
Cocaine
Methamphetamine
Prescription Painkillers (Opioids)
Heroin
Bath Salts
Inhalants
Ecstasy
LSD