Psychoactive Substances and ‘Addiction’

Psychoactive substances are chemicals that affect the way
an individual feels. This chapter will focus on those psychoactive
substances that are abused, including alcohol,
illicit drugs, and certain prescribed medications, such as
painkillers. In addition to affecting mood states, psychoactive
substances may have profound effects on
cognition, behavior, and physiology, and therefore they
influence how we function in an interpersonal and social
context. Use of alcohol and other drugs can produce acute
intoxication, withdrawal states, substance-induced psychiatric
syndromes, and lead to syndromes of substance
abuse and dependence (i.e., addiction). The commonly
used term ‘addiction’ has become ever more ambiguous
as it has been applied to everything from shooting heroin
to playing video games and has been called ‘the troublesome
concept’ (Achers 1991). The term has political and
moral meaning, and reflects social modes of consumption,
the limits of normative behavior, and the constitution of
deviance (Quintero and Nichter 1996). The expert who
communicates to judge or jury should remain sensitive to
these semantic issues and specify the meaning intended.