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  • Alcohol and drug abuse can be difficult to understand and identify, as the terms get used interchangeably with addiction terminology. It's important to understand the difference between abuse and addiction.

    Definition

    Alcohol and drugs are considered substances in medical terms. There is no widely accepted definition of substance abuse. The term substance abuse is often used in cases of prolonged or excessive use or when a patient has legal or financial trouble due to the use of substances.

    Alcohol

    Abusers of alcohol can sometimes be difficult to diagnose. People that drink illegally, such as minors or those that drive while drunk, are abusing alcohol.

    Drugs

    Like alcohol, drug abuse can be difficult to identify but is usually indicated by the persistent, unathorized or illegal use of street or prescription drugs.

    Use

    Prescription drugs such as pain medication or stimulants can be abused by using them in ways they were not intended, or by obtaining them without a prescription for recreational use. Depending on the circumstances of diagnosis, use of street drugs such as cocaine or methamphetamines can be considered abuse just through a single use. Alcohol abuse can be noted in a person that consistently drinks to excess or someone that binges occasionally.

    Most Common Drugs Associated with Abuse

    Drug abuse most often refers to the use of amphetamines, barbiturates, benzodiazepines, cocaine, methaqualone, and opium alkaloids for a non-therapeutic or non-medical effect, according to Mosby's Medical, Nursing, & Allied Health Dictionary.

    Source:

    MedTerms

    HealthScout

    Mosby's Medical, Nursing, & Allied Health Dictionary; 2002

    More Information:

    National Institute on Drug Abuse: Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment

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