< Opioid Addiction & Treatment: Glossary of Essential Terms

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Opioid Addiction & Treatment: Glossary of Essential Terms


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In 2015, about 591,000 people suffered from a heroin use disorder. Of this group, 6,000 were teenagers and 155,000 were young adults. Though over half a million people struggle with heroin and opioid use, opioid addiction is, unfortunately, a controversial topic, and misinformation about the condition and treatment is ever-present.

If you or someone you know is looking for introductory information about opioid disorders and treatment options, start with basic terms. Use the following list to build a better and more accurate understanding of opioids, conditions, and treatment:

Glossary of Important Terms

  • Addiction:
    A sustained and uncontrollable desire for a substance. The substance forms a habit pattern where the addict seeks out the substance repeatedly. The individual continues use of the substance despite adverse consequences.

  • Agonist :
    A molecule that attaches to a cellular receptor, which activates the receptor. Activated receptors produce a response in the organism. Drugs that activate cellular receptors are termed agonists, including morphine, heroin, oxycodone, and methadone.

    • Partial Agonist:
      While full agonists like the ones listed above produce increasing effects as the substance increases until the receptors are fully activated, partial agonists work differently. Partial agonists like buprenorphine attach to receptors but produce a lower response, making them helpful for treating addiction and dependence.

  • Antagonist:
    Antagonists attach to receptors without creating a response, which blocks the receptors from being activated by other substances. Antagonists like Nolaxone are sometimes used to treat overdoses since they prevent opioids from flooding too many receptors.

  • Dependence:
    When the body relies on external substances to avoid symptoms of withdrawal. Dependence is largely physical and can be managed with tapered medication schedules. Dependence can be caused by other substances, like caffeine. While addiction is a behavioral disease associated with uncontrollable cravings, dependence has to do with the body not being able to produce the chemicals necessary to maintain balance without the substance.

  • Detoxification:
    Detoxification is the process of removing toxins, like opioids, from the body. Detoxification is a natural metabolic process that occurs over time. Sometimes, detoxification leads to withdrawal symptoms, which can be managed by a doctor using medications.

  • Methadone:
    A synthetic full agonist that is federally regulated for use in treating opioid addiction. Methadone does not produce a high like heroin, and so patients can use methadone to manage their condition while participating in society.

  • Overdose:
    When a substance is taken in higher-than-normal quantities. Overdose can lead to negative effects, serious harmful symptoms, and even death.

  • Relapse:
    A recurrence of a symptom or condition after a period of remission. Relapse can also refer to moving back to an earlier stage in the recovery process after a period of improvement.

How Do I Find Methadone Centers Near Me?

If you're looking for help overcoming opioid use, don't simply type in "methadone centers near me." Call the Substance Abuse Hotline for a referral to a local opiate treatment center. If you're looking for methadone centers near metropolitan Chicago areas, call the Sundance Methadone clinic today.

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