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Difference Between Drug Abuse and Drug Misuse

drug abuse vs misuse

Substance abuse is no joke, and unfortunately, it’s not uncommon either. According to the National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics, the Federal budget for drug control in America in 2020 was $35 billion. The budget is assumed to reach a historic $41 billion by the end of 2022. The budget is rising due to the number of drug users. But what is the difference between drug abuse and drug misuse? For someone to abuse a drug, first they must misuse it. 

Drug Abuse vs. Misuse

Drug misuse, technically, is not taking illegal drugs, so the drug misuse meaning refers to someone consuming a prescribed or legal substance that is not as directed. If a person often takes a drug that is meant for medical purposes often, regardless of how the doctor intended the drug to be used, then the action is defined as misuse. Many individuals will seek prescription drug detox in Miramar due to misusing the drug, forming dependency, and acquiring adverse side effects. 

Signs of misuse include: 

  • Missing a dose 
  • Change in personality
  • Lying to obtain more pills or drugs 
  • Stopping the medication before the doctor intended 
  • Using a prescription drug for other purposes 
  • Using a prescription drug not prescribed to you 
  • Unexplained need for money or financial problems 

An example of drug misuse is a person taking Adderall to study or before a test to stimulate their minds and help them focus, although the drug is not prescribed to them. There are dangers to drug misuse like change in character or work ethic, and the action often leads to drug abuse or addiction.   To define abuse, a person will use illegal substances or medication without a prescription, take frequent or large doses, and develop a tolerance to the specific drug. The difference between drug abuse and misuse is that a person will misuse a drug outside of guidelines, not directly prescribed, or it may be illegal, and abuse is often to achieve a euphoric sensation or an emotional alteration. A person will first get their hands on a drug, using it without proper consent, which may lead to abuse and addiction.    Drug abuse shares similar signs to that of someone misusing a drug. Signs and symptoms include possessing drug paraphernalia, neglected hygiene, dramatic weight change, and mood swings. For instance, alcohol is a commonly abused drug since it’s considered socially acceptable, and alcohol detox in Florida is often needed for people to go through the withdrawal process safely. The signs mentioned above are regularly connected to those struggling with alcohol abuse.  

Substance Abuse Statistics 

The difference between drug abuse and drug misuse is important to understand since people can misuse a drug that may not lead to abuse, but oftentimes, consumption does stem from dependency. 70% of users who try an illegal drug before age 13 develop a substance abuse disorder within the next 7 years, and 8.1 million of 25.4% of illegal drug users have a drug disorder.1   Unfortunately, over 70,000 drug overdose deaths occur in the US annually, and overdose rates have continued to increase, especially since 2015. People will often abuse drugs to distract themselves or feel the intense effects the drug stimulates. Unfortunately, these overwhelming euphoric sensations or feelings of numbness lead people to stray into addiction and potential overdose.  

Difference Between Abuse and Addiction 

Drug abuse often leads to addiction or physical dependency on a specific drug. The chances of addiction increase regarding genetics, environmental factors or peer pressure, poverty, and availability of drugs. Other reasons for addiction include how a drug is consumed, how much is taken, and when the drug is abused. Abuse can lead to a medical disorder which is an addiction, and professional care is usually necessary for an addict to reduce cravings and stop intake. 

Treatment at Our Florida Wellness Center 

At Evoke Wellness, we care about your well-being during and after treatment. We offer special programs like our family therapy program that can help addicts and their loved ones mend relationships and get back on a healthy track. Our experienced medical staff understands the risks inflicted by opioids, alcohol, benzos, and prescription pills. Our job is to make sure that you do, too, and provide you with the appropriate treatment plan.    Recovery starts here. Contact a specialist at Evoke Wellness by calling 866.931.9312 and ask about our residential rehab program in Miramar, FL to get started today!


  1. NCDAS – NCDAS: Substance Abuse and Addiction Statistics [2022] 

Related Readings: Cities with the Most Drug UsersStages of Grief and Addiction