Drug misuse

What is drug misuse?

Drugs can be used either by swallowing, smoking, injecting or any other way of getting the drug into the blood stream, such as inserting into the anus (often done by heavy cocaine snorters to avoid further damaging their noses) or insufflation – inhaling the drug contained in a fine spray.

The terms have different connotations, varying usually on ideas of harm or inappropriate purpose. Abuse and misuse imply that the use is harmful or done in the wrong way. Misuse, as harm, refers to use that is dependent or part of a problematic or harmful behaviour. Those who believe drug taking is wrong, except within a medical context, will tend to use the term misuse to refer to illicit drug taking. The Government, for example, still uses this term, in keeping with their policies that aim to prevent non-medical drug taking.

Use by children is regarded as inappropriate and again the terms abuse and misuse often apply, such as in the case of volatile substance abuse which is often harmful and particular to young teenagers.

Drug use is used to refer to drug taking that, although it has some risk, is not necessarily wrong or dangerous. The term does not imply that drug taking is wrong and is therefore preferred by many not wishing to value-judge the taking of drugs.