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Difference Between Abuse and Misuse

Abuse Vs Misuse

In the non -medical world, there is a lot of confusion between the definitions and meanings of the words addiction, dependence, tolerance, use, abuse and misuse with respect to drugs and prohibited substances. These words are often used interchangeably. In the strictest sense however, this should not be the case since there are already several thin-line distinctions set between these words, most especially in the case of misuse and abuse.

Misuse is the improper use of either non-prescribed or prescribed medications. This is applicable in situations wherein the medication is taken for therapeutic purposes only and not for ecstasy, pleasure and euphoria. Nevertheless, some sources claim that drug misuse is more commonly applied to situations where prescription medicines are involved. These are licensed drugs that require prescriptions for them to be purchased at the drug stores (opposite of over-the-counter medications). Some of the most popularly misused drugs are the psychoactive medications that lead to some emotional and mental adverse effects to the user.

If a patient will decide not to take his regular dose of antibiotic until his ‘as needed’ dose of pain killers take some effect then this can be categorized as drug misuse. The simple thought of taking in more than the prescribed amount of meds can also be called drug misuse even if it’s for a one time non-repetitive basis only as opposed to drug abuse.

Abuse, on the other hand, is a term that connotes the repetitive and willful use of drugs for another end aside from its original or prescribed intention or use. It is using medicine or substance in a way other than its socially sanctioned purpose. One of the most commonly abused substances is alcohol. However, the definition of drug abuse is socially defined per context wherein a person can interpret a minor’s behavior of drinking 6 bottles of beer to be wrong as compared to a 22 year-old who is drinking as much alcohol which in this case will just be considered appropriate.

Thus, the difference between misuse and abuse is clearly on the difference of intention. The only problem is that one cannot readily tell that a person is misusing or abusing drugs by simply looking at him or her. However, one can say that substance abuse and misuse have already been reached if the user is already displaying some significant psychological, social and physical limitations or impairments.


1. Drug misuse is the improper use of medications for purely therapeutic gains but does not include the improper use of drugs taken for pleasure and the like.

2. Drug abuse is a more repetitive and willful habit of taking drugs for the purpose of pleasure, ecstasy and euphoria but does not include the repeated use of drugs for therapeutic purposes.

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  1. Sound,Simple,& Strategic comparison. Thanks.

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  3. Concise and to the point.

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