Abuse And Misuse

In everyday English, abuse carries the connotations of improper, perverse, or corrupt use or practice, as in child abuse, or abuse of power. As applied to drugs, however, the term is difficult to define and carries different meanings in different contexts. In relation to therapeutic agents such as Benzodiazepines or Morphine, the term drug abuse is applied to their use for other than medical purposes, or in unnecessarily large quantities. With reference to licit but non-therapeutic substances such as ALCOHOL, it is understood to mean a level of use that is hazardous or damaging, either to the user or to others. When applied to illicit substances that have no recognized medical applications, such as PHENCYCLIDINE (PCP) or MESCALINE, any use is generally regarded as abuse. The term misuse refers more narrowly to the use of a therapeutic drug in any way other than what is regarded as good medical practice.

Substance abuse means essentially the same as drug abuse, except that the term ''substance'' (shortened form of psychoactive substance) avoids any misunderstanding about the meaning of ''drug''. Many people regard as drugs only those compounds that are, or could be, used for the treatment of disease, whereas ''substances'' would also include materials such as organic solvents, MORNING Glory Seeds or toad venoms, that have no medical applications at present but are ''abused'' in one or more of the senses defined above.

The best general definition of drug abuse is the use of any drug in a manner that deviates from the approved medical or social patterns within a given culture at a given time. This is probably the concept underlying the official acceptance of the term abuse in such instances as the names of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (USA) and the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse. Such official acceptance, however, does not prevent the occurrence of ambiguities such as those mentioned in the next section.

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