AskDefine | Define pothead

Dictionary Definition

pothead n : someone who smokes marijuana habitually

User Contributed Dictionary



Pothead is a compound of the words pot (as in marijuana) and head.


  1. derogatory slang A person who smokes cannabis frequently.
    That pothead Shane has a nasty bong.


a person who smokes cannabis frequently

Extensive Definition

Drug addiction is widely considered a pathological state. The disorder of addiction involves the progression of acute drug use to the development of drug-seeking behavior, the vulnerability to relapse, and the decreased, slowed ability to respond to naturally rewarding stimuli. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (DSM-IV) has categorized three stages of addiction: preoccupation/anticipation, binge/intoxication, and withdrawal/negative affect. These stages are characterized, respectively, everywhere by constant cravings and preoccupation with obtaining the substance; using more of the substance than necessary to experience the intoxicating effects; and experiencing tolerance, withdrawal symptoms, and decreased motivation for normal life activities. By the American Society of Addiction Medicine definition, drug addiction differs from drug dependence and drug tolerance.
It is, both among scientists and other writers, quite usual to allow the concept drug addiction to include persons who are not drug abuser according to the definition which the American Society of Addiction Medicine want to use. The term drug addiction is then used in a role which may include approximately the same persons who, under the DSM-IV, can be given the diagnosis of substance dependence or substance abuse. (See also DSM-IV Codes)

Drugs causing addiction,

Drugs known to cause addiction include illegal drugs as well as prescription or over-the-counter drugs, according to the definition which the American Society of Addiction Medicine want to use.
Addictive drugs also includes a large number of substrates that are currently considered to have no medical value and are not available over the counter or by prescription.
An article in the Lancet compared the harm and addiction of 20 drugs, using a scale from 0 to 3 for physical addiction, psychological addiction, and pleasure to create a mean score for addiction. Caffeine was not included in the study. The results can be seen in the chart above.

Addictive potency

The addictive potency of drugs varies from substance to substance, and from individual to individual
Drugs such as codeine or alcohol, for instance, typically require many more exposures to addict their users than drugs such as heroin or cocaine. Likewise, a person who is psychologically or genetically predisposed to addiction is much more likely to suffer from it.
Although dependency on hallucinogens like LSD ("acid") and psilocybin (key hallucinogen in "magic mushrooms") is listed as Substance-Related Disorder in the DSM-IV, most psychologists do not classify them as addictive drugs.


The most common drug addictions are to legal substances such as:

The biological basis of drug addiction

Researchers have conducted numerous investigations using animal models and functional brain imaging on humans in order to define the mechanisms underlying drug addiction in the brain. This intriguing topic incorporates several areas of the brain and synaptic changes, or neuroplasticity, which occurs in these areas.

Acute effects

Acute (or recreational) drug use causes the release and prolonged action of dopamine and serotonin within the reward circuit. Different types of drug produce these effects by different methods. DA appears to harbor the largest effect and its action is characterized. DA binds to the D1 receptor, triggering a signaling cascade with in the cell. cAMP-dependent protein kinase (PKA) phosphorylates cAMP response element binding protein (CREB), a transcription factor, which induces the synthesis of certain genes including C-Fos.

Reward circuit

When examining the biological basis of drug addition, one must first understand the pathways in which drugs act and how drugs can alter those pathways. The reward circuit, also referred to as the mesolimbic system, is characterized by the interaction of several areas of the brain.
  • The ventral tegmental area (VTA) consists of dopaminergic neurons which respond to glutamate. These cells respond when stimuli indicative of a reward are present. The VTA supports learning and sensitization development and releases dopamine (DA) into the forebrain. These neurons also project and release DA into the nucleus accubems, through the mesolimbic pathway. Virtually all drugs causing drug addiction increase the dopamine release in the mesolimbic pathway, in addition to their specific effects.
  • The nucleus accumbens (NAcc) consists mainly of medium-spiny projection neurons (MSNs), which are GABA neurons. The NAcc is associated with acquiring and eliciting conditioned behaviors and involved in the increased sensitivity to drugs as addiction progresses.
  • The basolateral amygdala projects into the NAcc and is thought to be important for motivation as well.


Drug addiction also raises the issue of potential harmful effects on the development of new neurons in adults. Eisch and Harburg raise three new concepts they have extrapolated from the numerous recent studies on drug addiction. First, neurogenesis decreases as a result of repeated exposure to addictive drugs. A list of studies show that chronic use of opiates, psychostimulants, nicotine, and alcohol decrease neurogenesis in mice and rats. Second, this apparent decrease in neurogenesis seems to be independent of HPA axis activation. Other environmental factors other than drug exposure such as age, stress and exercise, can also have an effect of neurogenesis by regulating the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. Mounting evidence suggests this for 3 reasons: small doses of opiates and psychostimulants increase coricosterone concentration in serum but with no effect of neurogenesis; although decreased neurogenesis is similar between self-administered and forced drug intake, activation of HPA axis is greater in self-administration subjects; and even after the inhibition of opiate induced increase of corticosterone, a decrease in neurogenesis occurred. These, of course, need to be investigated further. Last, addictive drugs appear to only affect proliferation in the subgranular zone (SGZ), rather than other areas associated with neurogenesis. The studies of drug use and neurogenesis may have implications on stem cell biology.
Bejerot's opinion was that drug addicts must be prosecuted. This does not mean that Bejerot proposed what he called the harsh American sentences. - The society must, however, make it very uncomfortable to abuse illicit drugs.


Treatments for drug addiction vary widely according to the types of drugs involved, amount of drugs used, duration of the drug addiction, medical complications and the social needs of the individual.
Determining the best type of recovery program for an addicted person depends on a number of factors, including: personality, drug(s) of addiction, concept of spirituality or religion, mental or physical illness, and local availability and affordability of programs.
Many different ideas circulate regarding what is considered a "successful" outcome in the recovery from addiction. It has widely been established that abstinence from addictive substances is generally accepted as a "successful" outcome, however differences of opinion exist as to the extent of abstinence required.
In the USA and in many other countries, the goal of treatment for drug dependence is generally total abstinence from all drugs, which while theoretically the ideal outcome, is in practice often very difficult to achieve. Other countries particularly in Europe argue the aims of treatment for drug dependence to be more complex, with treatment aims including reduction in use to the point that drug use no longer interferes with normal activities such as work and family commitments, shifts away from more dangerous routes of drug administration such as injecting to safer routes such as oral administration, reduction in crime committed by drug addicts, and treatment of other comorbid conditions such as AIDS, hepatitis and mental health disorders. These kind of outcomes can often be achieved without necessarily eliminating drug use completely, and so drug treatment programs in Europe often report more favourable outcomes than those in the USA because the criteria for measuring success can be met even though drug users on the programme may still be using drugs to some extent. The supporters of programs with total abstinence from drugs as a goal stress that enabling further drug use mean prolonged drug use and a risk for an increase of total number of addicts; the participants in the program can introduce new users in the habit.
Drug addiction is a complex but treatable brain disease. It is characterized by compulsive drug craving, seeking, and use that persist even in the face of severe adverse consequences. For many people, drug addiction becomes chronic, with relapses possible even after long periods of abstinence. In fact, relapse to drug abuse occurs at rates similar to those for other well-characterized, chronic medical illnesses such as diabetes, hypertension, and asthma. As a chronic, recurring illness, addiction may require repeated treatments to increase the intervals between relapses and diminish their intensity, until abstinence is achieved. Through treatment tailored to individual needs, people with drug addiction can recover and lead productive lives. The ultimate goal of drug addiction treatment is to enable an individual to achieve lasting abstinence, but the immediate goals are to reduce drug abuse, improve the patient's ability to function, and minimize the medical and social complications of drug abuse and addiction. Like people with diabetes or heart disease, people in treatment for drug addiction will need to change behavior to adopt a more healthful lifestyle.


Residential drug treatment can be broadly divided into two camps: 12 step programs or Therapeutic Communities. 12 step programs have the advantage of coming with an instant social support network though some find the spiritual context not to their taste. In the UK drug treatment is generally moving towards a more integrated approach with rehabs offering a variety of approaches. These other programs may use Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy an approach that looks at the relationship between thoughts feelings and behaviors, recognizing that a change in any of these areas can affect the whole. CBT sees addiction as a behavior rather than a disease and subsequently curable, or rather, unlearnable. CBT programs recognize that for some individuals controlled use is a more realistic possibility.

12 step program

One of many recovery methods is the 12 step recovery program, with prominent examples including Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous. They are commonly known and used for a variety of addictions for the individual addicted and the family of the individual. Substance-abuse rehabilitation (or "rehab") centers frequently offer a residential treatment program for the seriously addicted in order to isolate the patient from drugs and interactions with other users and dealers. Outpatient clinics usually offer a combination of individual counseling and group counseling. Frequently a physician or psychiatrist will assist with prescriptions to assist with the side effects of the addiction (the most common side effect that the medications can help is anxiety).

Anti-addictive drugs

Other forms of treatment include replacement drugs such as methadone or buprenorphine, used as a substitute for illicit opiate drugs. Although these drugs are themselves addictive, opioid dependency is often so strong that a way to stabilize levels of opioid needed and a way to gradually reduce the levels of opioid needed are required. In some countries, other opioid derivatives such as levomethadyl acetate, dihydrocodeine, dihydroetorphine and even heroin are used as substitute drugs for illegal street opiates, with different drugs being used depending on the needs of the individual patient.
Substitute drugs for other forms of drug dependence have historically been less successful than opioid substitute treatment, but some limited success has been seen with drugs such as dexamphetamine to treat stimulant addiction, and clomethiazole to treat alcohol addiction.
Other pharmacological treatments for alcohol addiction include drugs like disulfiram, acamprosate and topiramate, but rather than substituting for alcohol, these drugs are intended to reduce the desire to drink, either by directly reducing cravings as with acamprosate and topiramate, or by producing unpleasant effects when alcohol is consumed, as with disulfiram. These drugs can be effective if treatment is maintained, but compliance can be an issue as alcoholic patients often forget to take their medication, or discontinue use because of excessive side effects. Additional drugs acting on glutamate neurotransmission such as modafinil, lamotrigine, gabapentin and memantine have also been proposed for use in treating addiction to alcohol and other drugs.
Opioid antagonists such as naltrexone and nalmefene have also been used successfully in the treatment of alcohol addiction, which is often particularly challenging to treat. These drugs have also been used to a lesser extent for long-term maintenance treatment of former opiate addicts, but cannot be started until the patient has been abstinent for an extended period, otherwise they can trigger acute opioid withdrawal symptoms.
Treatment of stimulant addiction can often be difficult, with substitute drugs often being ineffective, although newer drugs such as nocaine, vanoxerine and modafinil may have more promise in this area, as well as the GABAB agonist baclofen. Another strategy that has recently been successfully trialled used a combination of the benzodiazepine antagonist flumazenil with hydroxyzine and gabapentin for the treatment of methamphetamine addiction.
Another area in which drug treatment has been widely used is in the treatment of nicotine addiction. Various drugs have been used for this purpose such as bupropion, mecamylamine and the more recently developed varenicline. The cannaboinoid antagonist rimonabant has also been trialled for treatment of nicotine addiction but has not been widely adopted for this purpose.
Ibogaine is a psychoactive drug that specifically interrupts the addictive response, and is currently being studied for its effects upon cocaine, heroin, nicotine, and SSRI addicts. Alternative medicine clinics offering ibogaine treatment have appeared along the U.S. border. Ibogaine treatment for drug addiction can be reasonably effective, but potentially dangerous side effects which have been linked to several deaths have limited its adoption by conventional medical practice. A synthetic analogue of ibogaine, 18-methoxycoronaridine has also been developed which has similar efficacy but less side effects, however this drug is still being tested in animals and human trials have not yet been carried out.

Alternative therapies

Alternative therapies, such as acupuncture, are used by some practitioners to alleviate the symptoms of drug addiction. In 1997, the American Medical Association (AMA) was adopted as policy following statement after a report on a number of alternative therapies including acupuncture: There is little evidence to confirm the safety or efficacy of most alternative therapies. Much of the information currently known about these therapies makes it clear that many have not been shown to be efficacious. Well-designed, stringently controlled research should be done to evaluate the efficacy of alternative therapies.
Accupuncture has been shown to be no more effective than control treatments in the treatment of opiate dependence. Acupuncture, acupressure, laser therapy and electrostimulation have no demonstrated efficacy for smoking cessation.

Medical definitions

The terms abuse and addiction have been defined and re-defined over the years. The 1957 World Health Organization (WHO) Expert Committee on Addiction-Producing Drugs defined addiction and habituation as components of drug abuse:
'Drug addiction is a state of periodic or chronic intoxication produced by the repeated consumption of a drug (natural or synthetic). Its characteristics include: (i) an overpowering desire or need (compulsion) to continue taking the drug and to obtain it by any means; (ii) a tendency to increase the dose; (iii) a psychic (psychological) and generally a physical dependence on the effects of the drug; and (iv) detrimental effects on the individual and on society.
Drug habituation (habit) is a condition resulting from the repeated consumption of a drug. Its characteristics include (i) a desire (but not a compulsion) to continue taking the drug for the sense of improved well-being which it engenders; (ii) little or no tendency to increase the dose; (iii) some degree of psychic dependence on the effect of the drug, but absence of physical dependence and hence of an abstinence syndrome [withdrawal], and (iv) detrimental effects, if any, primarily on the individual.
In 1964, a new WHO committee found these definitions to be inadequate, and suggested using the blanket term "drug dependence":
The definition of addiction gained some acceptance, but confusion in the use of the terms addiction and habituation and misuse of the former continued. Further, the list of drugs abused increased in number and diversity. These difficulties have become increasingly apparent and various attempts have been made to find a term that could be applied to drug abuse generally. The component in common appears to be dependence, whether psychic or physical or both. Hence, use of the term 'drug dependence', with a modifying phase linking it to a particular drug type in order to differentiate one class of drugs from another, had been given most careful consideration. The Expert Committee recommends substitution of the term 'drug dependence' for the terms 'drug addiction' and 'drug habituation'.
The committee did not clearly define dependence, but did go on to clarify that there was a distinction between physical and psychological ("psychic") dependence. It said that drug abuse was "a state of psychic dependence or physical dependence, or both, on a drug, arising in a person following administration of that drug on a periodic or continued basis." Psychic dependence was defined as a state in which "there is a feeling of satisfaction and psychic drive that requires periodic or continuous administration of the drug to produce pleasure or to avoid discomfort" and all drugs were said to be capable of producing this state:
There is scarcely any agent which can be taken into the body to which some individuals will not get a reaction satisfactory or pleasurable to them, persuading them to continue its use even to the point of abuse — that is, to excessive or persistent use beyond medical need.''
The 1957 and 1964 definitions of addiction, dependence and abuse persist to the present day in medical literature. It should be noted that at this time (2006) the Diagnostic Statistical Manual (DSM IVR) now spells out specific criteria for defining abuse and dependence. (DSM IVR) uses the term substance dependence instead of addiction; a maladaptive pattern of substance abuse, leading to clinically significant impairment or distress, as manifested by three (or more) specified criteria, occurring at any time in the same 12-month period. This definition is also applicable on drugs with smaller or nonexistent physical signs of withdrawal, for ex. cannabis.
In 2001, the American Academy of Pain Medicine, the American Pain Society, and the American Society of Addiction Medicine jointly issued "Definitions Related to the Use of Opioids for the Treatment of Pain," which defined the following terms
Addiction (definition proposed by professor Nils Bejerot).
''"An emotional fixation (sentiment) acquired through learning, which intermittently or continually expresses itself in purposeful, stereotyped behavior with the character and force of a natural drive, aiming at a specific pleasure or the avoidance of a specific discomfort."''''

Addiction and drug control legislation

Depending on the jurisdiction, addictive drugs may be legal only as part of a government sponsored study, illegal to use for any purpose, illegal to sell, or even illegal to merely possess.
Most countries have legislation which brings various drugs and drug-like substances under the control of licensing systems. Typically this legislation covers any or all of the opiates, amphetamines, cannabinoids, cocaine, barbiturates, hallucinogenics and a variety of more modern synthetic drugs, and unlicensed production, supply or possession is a criminal offence.
Usually, however, drug classification under such legislation is not related simply to addictiveness. The substances covered often have very different addictive properties. Some are highly prone to cause physical dependency, whilst others rarely cause any form of compulsive need whatsoever. Also, under legislation specifically about drugs, alcohol is not usually included.
Although the legislation may be justifiable on moral or public health grounds, it can make addiction or dependency a much more serious issue for the individual: reliable supplies of a drug become difficult to secure, and the individual becomes vulnerable to both criminal abuse and legal punishment.
It is unclear whether laws against drugs do anything to stem usage and dependency. In jurisdictions where addictive drugs are illegal, they are generally supplied by drug dealers, who are often involved with organized crime. Even though the cost of producing most illegal addictive substances is very low, their illegality combined with the addict's need permits the seller to command a premium price, often hundreds of times the production cost. As a result, the addict sometimes turns to crime to support their habit.

History of addiction

The phenomenon of drug addiction has occurred to some degree throughout recorded history (see "opium"), though modern agricultural practices, improvements in access to drugs, advancements in biochemistry, and dramatic increases in the recommendation of drug usage by clinical practitioners have exacerbated the problem significantly in the 20th century. Improved means of active biological agent manufacture and the introduction of synthetic compounds, such as methamphetamine are also factors contributing to drug addiction.
In 1971, United States President Richard Nixon declared a war on illegal drugs in an attempt to control the growing problem of drug addiction and drug-related crime.

See also


  • Sainsbury, Drug and the Drug Habit (New York, 1909)
  • C. A. McBride, Modern Treatment of Alcoholism and Drug Narcotism (New York, 1910)
  • G. E. Pettey, Narcotic Drug Diseases and Allied Ailments (Philadelphia, 1913)
  • Fitz Hugh Ludlow wrote The Hasheesh Eater (1857) and The Opium Habit (1868), designed as a warning.
  • Thomas de Quincey, Confessions of an English Opium Eater (London, 1822)
  • William S. Burroughs, Junkie (New York, 1953)



External links

pothead in Bengali: মাদকাসক্তি
pothead in Bulgarian: Пристрастяване
pothead in Catalan: Addicció
pothead in Czech: Závislost
pothead in Danish: Narkoman
pothead in German: Missbrauch und Abhängigkeit
pothead in Estonian: Sõltuvus (narkoloogia)
pothead in Spanish: Drogodependencia
pothead in Esperanto: Droga dependeco
pothead in Persian: اعتیاد
pothead in French: Toxicomanie
pothead in Galician: Adicción
pothead in Korean: 중독
pothead in Armenian: Թմրամոլություն
pothead in Croatian: Ovisnost
pothead in Indonesian: Kecanduan
pothead in Icelandic: Fíkn
pothead in Italian: Tossicodipendenza
pothead in Hebrew: התמכרות
pothead in Lithuanian: Narkomanija
pothead in Hungarian: Függőség
pothead in Dutch: Verslaving
pothead in Japanese: 薬物依存症
pothead in Norwegian: Narkomani
pothead in Occitan (post 1500): Adiccion
pothead in Polish: Narkomania
pothead in Portuguese: Toxicomania
pothead in Romanian: Dependenţă
pothead in Russian: Наркомания
pothead in Sicilian: Divotu (idiali)
pothead in Simple English: Drug addiction
pothead in Serbian: Наркоманија
pothead in Serbo-Croatian: Ovisnost
pothead in Finnish: Päihderiippuvuus
pothead in Swedish: Narkomani
pothead in Turkish: Bağımlılık
pothead in Ukrainian: Наркоманія
pothead in Chinese: 藥物成癮

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

LSD user, acidhead, addict, alcoholic, chain smoker, cocaine sniffer, cokie, cubehead, dipsomaniac, dope fiend, doper, drug abuser, drug addict, drug user, drunkard, fiend, freak, glue sniffer, habitual, head, heavy smoker, hophead, hype, junkie, marijuana smoker, methhead, narcotics addict, pillhead, snowbird, speed freak, tripper, user
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