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Glossary of Terms for Understanding Alcohol Addiction

Alcohol Addiction

Understanding alcohol addiction is an important part of recognizing the symptoms and challenges of alcohol addiction. Also known as alcoholism, this addiction affects millions of people and their loved ones worldwide. Professional treatment is an invaluable tool for overcoming addiction, providing structured support and resources for those who are struggling.

This glossary of substance abuse terminology will help demystify the language surrounding alcohol addiction and its treatment, educating individuals and making it easier to communicate with healthcare providers.

Alcohol Addiction Terminology

Alcohol Abuse

Alcohol abuse is a general term for any pattern of drinking that repeatedly leads to negative consequences. Individuals may neglect responsibilities, engage in dangerous behaviors, or experience legal problems due to their drinking.


Alcoholic is a term used to describe someone who is addicted to alcohol. The word carries some stigma and may be used negatively to denigrate people with alcohol addiction. People wishing to offer support should understand the kind of language their loved one prefers to use.

Related addiction terms include “high-functioning alcoholic” or “functional alcoholic,” which are sometimes used to describe someone who seems to be capable at work and in daily life despite their heavy alcohol use. The truth is that they’re still struggling with a severe and damaging addiction that requires help.

Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD)

AUD is a diagnosed medical condition that is marked by an impaired ability to quit or cut down on drinking alcohol, even in the face of serious consequences to their relationships, job, and health. It ranges from mild to severe and is diagnosed based on specific criteria.

Binge Drinking

Binge drinking is the consumption of an excessive amount of alcohol in a short period. For men, it typically means drinking five or more drinks in about two hours; for women, it means four or more drinks.


A blackout is a period of amnesia during which a person actively engages in behaviors but cannot remember afterward due to excessive alcohol consumption.


Craving is a strong urge or desire to drink alcohol, often occurring in individuals with alcohol addiction. It is a significant factor that can lead to relapse during the recovery process.

Delirium Tremens

Delirium tremens (DTs) is a severe, dangerous symptom of alcohol withdrawal that involves sudden and severe mental or nervous system changes. Symptoms include confusion, rapid heartbeat, fever, and hallucinations. DTs require immediate medical attention.


Tolerance is the need to consume larger amounts of alcohol to achieve the same effects due to the body’s adaptation to its presence.


Withdrawal refers to the symptoms that occur when a person who is physically dependent on alcohol stops drinking. Symptoms can range from mild anxiety and tremors to severe seizures and delirium tremens.

Alcohol Addiction Treatment

Alcohol Addiction Treatment Terminology

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is a worldwide fellowship of individuals who share their experiences, strengths, and hopes to solve their common problem and help others recover from alcoholism. AA follows a 12-step program to support sobriety.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

CBT is a type of therapy that helps individuals recognize and change negative thought patterns and behaviors associated with alcohol addiction.

Detoxification (Detox)

Detoxification is the process of removing toxic substances, like alcohol, from the body. This initial stage of treatment helps manage withdrawal symptoms under medical supervision.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)

DBT is a type of cognitive behavioral therapy that combines strategies like mindfulness, emotion regulation, distress tolerance, and interpersonal effectiveness to help individuals manage their emotions and behaviors.

Dual Diagnosis

Dual diagnosis refers to the presence of both a substance use disorder and a mental health disorder in an individual. Treatment for dual diagnosis addresses co-occurring conditions simultaneously.

Inpatient Treatment

Inpatient treatment, also known as residential treatment, involves staying at a residential facility for a period to receive intensive treatment and support for alcohol addiction.

Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)

MAT involves using appropriate medications to help with alcohol addiction treatment. Medications may be used to help reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms, or to treat a co-occurring issue.

Motivational Interviewing (MI)

MI is a counseling approach that helps individuals find the motivation to make positive changes in their behavior related to alcohol use.

Outpatient Treatment

Outpatient treatment allows individuals to receive therapy and support for alcohol addiction while living at home or in a sober living facility. It typically involves regular visits to a treatment center. Intensive outpatient programs (IOPs) are a form of outpatient treatment that requires regular attendance at therapy sessions but allows individuals to continue with their daily activities.

Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP)

A partial hospitalization program (PHP) is a structured treatment program that offers intensive therapy and support during the day but allows individuals to return home or to a sober living facility at night. PHPs provide a higher level of care than traditional outpatient treatment but are less intensive than inpatient treatment.


Relapse is the return to alcohol use after an attempt to stop. It is a common part of the recovery process and can be triggered by stress, environmental cues, or other factors.

Relapse prevention involves strategies and techniques to help individuals recognize and manage triggers, stress, and cravings to avoid returning to alcohol use.

Sober Living Homes

Sober living homes are residential facilities that provide a structured, supportive environment for individuals transitioning from intensive treatment to independent living.


Sobriety refers to the state of living without alcohol. It involves abstinence from alcohol and often includes participating in support groups and ongoing treatment.


A sponsor is an experienced individual in a 12-step program who supports and guides a newcomer through the recovery process, offering personal experience and encouragement.

Support Groups

Support groups consist of individuals who meet regularly to discuss their experiences, challenges, and successes in recovery. They provide mutual support and encouragement.

Break Away From Alcohol Addiction at Lumina Recovery

At Lumina Recovery, we are dedicated to both treating alcohol use disorders and educating individuals about them. Our comprehensive alcohol addiction treatment programs are designed to support you through every step of your recovery journey, from medically assisted detox through relapse prevention.

If you or a loved one is struggling with alcohol addiction, call (877) 716-7515 today to learn more about our personalized treatment programs and start your journey to a healthier, alcohol-free life.

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