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August 29, 2020
Drug Abbreviations
Acronyms and abbreviations play an important role in the medical world. While
Medscape suggests that doctors should avoid using these terms when talking to
patients, they tend to slip in when doctors are writing reports or trying to express a
great deal of information in a short amount of time.For families looking for reliable
information about treatment and drug use, this guide may help. It is full of many of the
abbreviations doctors use every day.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse says the use of illicit substances is rising in the
United States. Close to 10 percent of adults use illicit drugs. There are all sorts of
acronyms that describe the substances they take.
ATS: amphetamine-type stimulant. This acronym is used to describe a substance that is
similar to an amphetamine and can produce the same burst of energy and feeling of joy,
but which might not contain any ingredients that have been clinically recognized as
amphetamines. These drugs are not safer than amphetamine drugs.
DXM: dextromethorphan. This substance is commonly found in cough syrups and cold
medications. The Center for Substance Abuse Research also points out that it is a
powerful hallucinogenic drug that can create a state similar to that seen when people
take PCP or ketamine.
E: ecstasy. This drug, which is often sold and taken in concerts and other music venues,
creates hallucinations and an altered sense of reality. It has also been associated with
dangerously high body temperatures and/or heart failure.
PCP: phencyclidine. This substance, which is also known as angel dust, is a dissociative
drug that was first created as an anesthetic, but quickly became a recreational drug of
choice for people who enjoy hallucinations.
GBL: gamma-Butyrolactone. This drug is colorless, odorless, and tasteless. It can be used
as a solvent or a cleaner, but it can also be used to augment the effects of alcohol. Some
people also tinker with this drug as a replacement for the illegal drug, GHB.
GHB: gamma-Hydroxybutyric acid. This substance got a reputation in the 1980s and
1990s as a “date rape drug,” as it was easy to slip into the drinks of unsuspecting party
goers, who would then become pliant and easy prey for rapists. But, as The Daily
Beast points out, the drug is making a comeback now among people who enjoy the
euphoria of alcohol without hangovers. These people take the drug purposefully.
K2: a brand-name for synthetic marijuana. This drug was designed to help dealers evade
drug laws. The substance produces many of the same effects seen in marijuana, but it is
not considered illegal in all parts of the country. It is typically sold in small, brightly
colored, foil packages.
LAAM: levacetylmethadol. This drug has a chemical structure that is very similar to
methadone. Like methadone, it is often used to help people to recover from very serious
addictions to painkillers or heroin, but it also comes with abuse potential. Some people
grow addicted to this medication, too.
LSD: lysergic acid diethylamide. This drug is sometimes called simply acid. It is a
psychedelic drug that can cause anxiety, paranoia, and delusions. It is not considered
addictive, but people can do terrible things while on the drug, and some develop a
flashback syndrome in which they feel the symptoms of a high return repeatedly.
MDMA: methylenedioxyphenethylamine. This is the formal name for the active
ingredient in ecstasy. Some drug users call this drug Molly, and they believe that
products sold as Molly have a higher proportion of MDMA than products sold as
ecstasy. This has not been scientifically proven.
MSIR: morphine sulfate IR. Morphine is a painkilling drug. This is a quick-release version
of morphine, which is capable of transforming the brain with sensation in mere minutes.
It is considered addictive and dangerous.
Drug-Related Abbreviations
CNS: central nervous system (depressant/stimulant). This abbreviation is often used in
relation to drugs like benzodiazepines or Ritalin. These drugs work directly on the fibers
of the nervous system, changing the way a person thinks, feels, and perceives the world.
RX: medical prescriptions. This abbreviation has its roots in Latin. It refers to
prescriptions doctors write for patients to fill at pharmacies for the help they want and
need. The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation suggests that there are 4 billion such
prescriptions filled in pharmacies every year.
THC: tetrahydrocannabinol. This is the active ingredient in marijuana. It occurs naturally
inside of the plant, for reasons that scientists have not quite made clear. The human
body is packed with receptors for THC, both in the brain and in the gut.
OTC: over the counter. This designation refers to drugs that consumers can legally buy
in a store or a pharmacy without a prescription from a doctor. The designation does not
refer to safety, as many OTC drugs are as dangerous as illegal drugs.
Substance Abuse Overview
Abbreviations for Mental Health Disorders
Addictions can cause a great deal of stress and distress. Mental health disorders can do
the same thing. Most of these disorders are caused by shifts in brain chemistry, and
when they are in place, people may lean on drugs or alcohol for relief.
AD: adjustment disorder. This mental illness, per Psychology Today, refers to an
abnormal and/or excessive reaction to a life stress others might consider mildly anxiety-
provoking or not anxiety-provoking at all.

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