Drug Abuse and Substance Abuse

What are drug and substance abuse?

In recent years the term drug abuse and substance abuse are more and more often being used interchangeably. Part of the reason for this is there is a lack of agreement on what constitutes a drug; it all depends on who is doing the defining. Government organizations have different definitions than those used by some medical organizations, which are often different than those in common usage.

Substance use includes the use of chemical or organic substances for the effect it has on the mind or body of the user. Substance abuse is continued substance use despite the negative side effects of such use.

As you can see from this definition, substance abuse could apply to almost anything you can take into your body: alcohol, painkillers, coffee, cigarettes, cannabis or food. For our purposes, except for alcoholic beverages, I’ll exclude all food items from my definition of a substance.

Because people think of them differently, I will use the term drug to refer to anything that is not food or alcohol that people use for the effect it has on their mind or body. Therefore abuse of drugs becomes the continued use of any non-food, non-alcohol item despite the negative side effects of that use.

In summary, here’s how I will use the terms:

Alcohol Abuse: Refers to the continued use of alcoholic beverages despite the negative side effects of such use.

Abuse of Drugs: Refers to the continued use of non-food, non-alcohol items despite the negative side effects of such use.

Substance Abuse: Can refers to both or either of drug and / or alcohol abuse, though most often it is used synonymously with drug abuse.

Common Questions

What are the signs of drug and substance abuse?

What are the causes of drug and substance abuse?

Is there a Drug Abuse Test?


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