When it comes to drug use, there’s often one question that’s commonly asked: is drug misuse the same as abuse?

In short, no. Both are unique issues that come about in different ways. However, both drug use and drug abuse can lead to addiction if not corrected as soon as possible. Fortunately, correcting drug misuse and drug abuse is possible once we identify either in our lives.

What’s the difference between drug use and drug abuse?

According to the FDA, the difference between drug misuse and drug abuse “mostly has to do with the individual’s intentions or motivations.” With drug misuse, a person may improperly take a drug with the purpose of self-medicating. Let’s say you have a headache, for instance, and ask a friend for a prescription pain reliever. Without your own prescription for the drug, you’re misusing it, even if it seems like you’re taking it for a legitimate purpose. When we treat ourselves, we’re not acting according to the directions of any medical provider, and the chances of incurring serious consequences increase.

Drug abuse, on the other hand, usually relates to taking a drug with the sole purpose of achieving a high or euphoria. More often than not, drug abuse involves taking higher doses of a drug than what has been prescribed, and specifically looking to get some sort of pleasurable result from it.

Whether abusing or misusing drugs, both actions are so dangerous because they involve taking a substance without medical oversight to guide us. Though taking prescription drugs always involves some sort of risk, the risks associated with a drug prescribed and managed by a healthcare professional are minimal compared to if it’s taken with no oversight. Additionally, when taking drugs as properly prescribed, the benefits far outweigh the risks.

If drug misuse and abuse aren’t the same, which one’s worse?

There is a huge problem with both drug misuse and abuse, and one isn’t worse than the other in the technical sense– primarily because both typically involve willfully using prescription medication in a way other than how it’s intended to be used. There’s no such thing as a “legitimate” reason to use drugs in a way that they aren’t supposed to be used. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, just one decade ago, “20 million persons in the United States age 12 or older had used prescription drugs nonmedically at least once in their lifetime, and 6.2 million had used them in the past month.” Whether misusing or abusing drugs, both can lead to dependence and addiction.

How can drug misuse be prevented?

The number one way to prevent ourselves from misusing drugs is to be sure that we are only taking medications that have been prescribed to us. Even if it seems innocuous enough to borrow a pain reliever here or there, prescription drugs, their combinations, and their dosages are carefully designed to cater to specific people for a variety of reasons. Some medications purely work with a certain blood type, or a certain fat to muscle ratio. Others have dangerous side effects that prevent them from being shared widely. Still others are prescribed to deal with a very specific set of issues or ailments. When we take drugs that aren’t ours, we’re playing the lottery with our lives, and the odds aren’t in our favor. If there is a drug that we think may benefit us, it’s always best to consult with a physician and let him/her make the call on the healthiest course of action for us, instead of taking things into our own hands.

As for misusing a drug that is prescribed to us, this can be prevented by carefully following the instructions given to us by our healthcare provider. If there’s a certain way that we’re supposed to take the drug, then that’s the only way we should take it. If there’s a certain amount of pills that are to be taken, then no more should be taken. When a physician tells us that our prescription is no longer needed, we should also make sure to properly discard of any leftover medication. If there are no specific instructions for discardal, the FDA recommends mixing the remaining medication with an undesirable substance, placing in an airtight container, and placing them in the trash.

How can drug abuse be prevented?

Because drug abuse is often more deliberate than misuse, the key to preventing it is to identify the reasons behind why we want to use, and fixing them. Going to a counselor or therapist is often a great way for us to learn how to work out the issues that may be going on internally or externally, and to learn how to channel negative energy into positive alternatives.

Though drug abuse and drug misuse are not the same, they can both lead to serious consequences that can turn deadly if we aren’t careful. Identifying and rectifying the issues that encourage us to abuse, and taking prescription medications only as directed can help prevent both misuse and abuse.

Here at The Last House sober living facility, we build men into champions of recovery by educating them and cultivating an environment where they feel respected, appreciated, and motivated. We believe that addiction is an illness that can be treated by educating the mind, stimulating the soul, and rebuilding the body. If you’re dealing with the effects of drug misuse or abuse, we encourage you to reach out at 1-866-677-0090 today.