Drug Misuse Definition: How To Know If You Or Someone You Love Is Misusing Drugs (2023)

Drug Misuse Definition: How To Know If You Or Someone You Love Is Misusing Drugs (1)

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Drug abuse is a serious mental disorder affecting thousands of people and their families annually. People who misuse drugs are part of the drug abuse category, with many becoming addicted to the substances they misuse.

(Video) Drug Addiction: Recognizing the Warning Signs

Drug misuse is when a person uses a substance for a purpose that is inconsistent with medical or legal instructions. Drug misuse has a huge negative impact on people’s health and general wellness. Drug misuse frequently becomes a dependency, and a person becomes addicted to the misuse of a substance.

Many people think that they will not be the one who becomes addicted to misusing their drugs, but it is more common than people think. While we assume the worst will never happen to us, when it comes to addictive substances, the worst frequently happens to most.

It is important to know and understand the definition of drug misuse so that it can be identified in people. In addition, it is important to identify drug misuse because of its common nature and potential for abuse and addiction.

Please read on to learn more about drug misuse and the signs and symptoms of drug misuse so that you can help yourself or your loved ones who are suffering from drug misuse.

What Is The Definition Of Drug Misuse?

The definition of drug misuse is using a drug or substance that does not follow the proper medical or legal instructions. It also includes using the drug for a purpose other than what it is legally and medically designed for.

Thousands of people misuse drugs every year, and it has become commonplace for people to self-medicate and self-diagnose medical issues. This is not only dangerous because of the medical and health risks associated with self-diagnosing and self-medicating, but it is increasing the number of people who become addicted to drugs after misusing them.

Drug misuse is a very easy way for people to become addicted to drugs. Regardless of the type of drug that the person is misusing, any drug that is not being used for its regulated purpose has the potential to turn into an addiction.

Drug Misuse Definition: How To Know If You Or Someone You Love Is Misusing Drugs (4)

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For people using drugs incorrectly, it is a slippery slope from self-medicating and self-diagnosing to becoming heavily addicted to a drug and having their lives overturned. This is similar to those prescribed opioid medications for pain who later become addicted to the opioids and turn to street drugs to get cheaper and more effective drugs.

Because it is so common to misuse drugs, many people do not think that misusing drugs is an actual problem. However, drug misuse is a serious issue. It is very dangerous to assume that you understand how a drug works more than a certified medical professional. People who misuse drugs are at a higher risk of potentially overdosing or mixing a deadly combination of drugs.

Regulation is an extremely important part of medical drug use. Without it, it would be nearly impossible to know and monitor medical drug use. In addition, regulation helps prevent toxic and fatal drug mixes. Without supervision and medical attention, there is a huge risk of creating a toxic or deadly combination of drugs.

How The Definition And Signs Of Drug Misuse Can Tell You If You Or A Loved One Is Struggling With A Drug Problem

Drug misuse is an issue related to substance abuse and substance use disorder. Substance use disorders are mental disorders classified in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders, fifth edition.

While there is no specific designation for drug misuse in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, it is a general assumption that drug misuse is a part of substance use disorder. Because of the severity of substance use disorder, it is important to address the issues as they arise. If you or a loved one suffers from drug misuse or other related substance use, you must recognize the signs early to prevent severe physical injury or death.

Recognizing the signs and symptoms of drug misuse and substance use disorder early can be the difference between catching the disorder early and becoming heavily addicted to substances and misused drugs.

The following are a variety of symptoms that you may experience while misusing drugs related to a substance use disorder.

  • Feeling like you must use the drug several times a day or frequently
  • Experiencing intense cravings and urges to take the drug that rules your thoughts.
  • Building tolerance and needing more drugs to achieve the same effect over time.
  • Misusing and using a drug for a longer time than intended or using more of the drug than intended.
  • Maintaining a large supply of the drug.
  • Spending money on purchasing drugs even if you cannot afford them.
  • Neglecting social applications such as work, relationships, and education because of misuse of drugs.
  • Continue using the drugs even though you know that you are using them incorrectly and that they are causing problems for your life and body.
  • Experiencing behavioral changes.
  • Participating in risky behavior or other behaviors you did not participate in before the drug use.
  • Spending lots of time, energy, and money to get the drug, recover from the drug, and use the drug.
  • Unable to stop using the drug.
  • Experiencing symptoms of withdrawal and detoxification when trying to stop taking the drugs.

When you are trying to see if a loved one is using drugs and experiencing addiction or substance abuse because of it, there are certain signs to look for. The signs include being able to recognize symptoms of unhealthy drug misuse and abuse as well as intoxication.

(Video) Drug Abuse, Causes, Signs and Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment.

One of the most common signs of unhealthy or abusive drug use in a loved one is problems concerning their career or education. If they are frequently missing work or school commitments, that can mean they are struggling with drug misuse. Additionally, if they are suddenly disinterested in school activities or work agreements, it could be connected to drug misuse. Lastly, if their grades or work performance suddenly decreases in value, they may be letting their drug misuse affect their education or work.

If a family member or loved one’s physical health suddenly begins to deteriorate, that could be a significant indication of drug misuse. Lack of energy and lowered motivation levels are very common in people who misuse drugs. Extreme weight loss or extreme weight gain are also significant indications. Red, bloodshot eyes and frequent bloody noses also indicate drug misuse.

If a loved one suddenly begins to neglect their hygiene and self-care or lacks interest in how they are grooming and presenting themselves to the world, this could be a sign of drug misuse.

Drug Misuse Definition: How To Know If You Or Someone You Love Is Misusing Drugs (5)

Finally, the last two indications of unhealthy drug misuse are extreme changes in behavior and financial problems. Changes in Behavior can span from trying to keep family members or friends away from their personal spaces, being secretive about where they are going and who their friends are, changes in personality, extreme moodiness, and relationship issues within friendships and romantic relationships.

Financial issues are another huge indication of a drug misuse issue. If someone suddenly begins requesting money without a clear explanation, becomes in debt, or money and items with value begin to go missing from home, they may have a drug misuse issue.

How The Definition of A Drug Misuse Can Help Guide You To The Addiction Treatment You Need

Getting help for drug misuse is an important step toward living a life that is free from drugs and healthy. Many people feel like they cannot reach out to friends and family for support for drug addiction or drug misuse issues because of a social stigma around people suffering from substance use disorders.

However, one of the most important parts of recovery and getting clean is communication. Letting people in your close inner circle know that you are struggling with substance abuse issues such as drug misuse is very important for overcoming the disorder and getting your life back on track.

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Additionally, reaching out or attending a professional care facility that can help treat the underlying causes of your drug misuse and substance use disorder is extremely important and helpful. Professional care facilities and centers can help individuals struggling with drug misuse or substance use disorder overcome future issues with a confident mindset.

Everyone deserves to live a life free from drugs and healthy and happy. So please reach out to the top detox facility today to start taking the first steps toward getting your life back.


  1. Hartney E. The Symptoms Used to Diagnose Substance Use Disorders. Verywell Mind. Published August 25, 2022. Accessed August 27, 2022. https://www.verywellmind.com/dsm-5-criteria-for-substance-use-disorders-21926

Drug Misuse Definition: How To Know If You Or Someone You Love Is Misusing Drugs (6)

Medical Content Writer

Amanda Stevens, B.S.

Amanda is a prolific medical content writer specializing in eating disorders and addiction treatment. She graduated Magnum Cum Laude from Purdue University with a B.S. in Social Work. As a person in recovery from disordered eating, she is passionate about seeing people heal and transform. She writes for popular treatment centers such as Ocean Recovery, Epiphany Wellness, The Heights Treatment, Infinite Recovery, New Waters Recovery and adolescent mental health treatment center BasePoint Academy. In her spare time she loves learning about health, nutrition, meditation, spiritual practices, and enjoys being the a mother of a beautiful daughter.

Last medically reviewed August 27, 2022


What are 5 signs that indicate a person has an addiction? ›

General physical signs of addiction include but are not limited to:
  • Enlarged or small pupils.
  • Sudden weight loss or gain.
  • Bloodshot eyes.
  • Insomnia.
  • Unusual body odors.
  • Poor physical coordination.
  • Looking unkempt.
  • Slurred speech.

How do people misuse drugs? ›

Drug misuse happens when these substances are taken for a purpose that is not consistent with legal or medical guidelines. Examples of this include: Taking the incorrect dose. Taking the drug at the wrong time.

What does misusing a drug mean? ›

©iStock.com/ognianm. Misuse of prescription drugs means taking a medication in a manner or dose other than prescribed; taking someone else's prescription, even if for a legitimate medical complaint such as pain; or taking a medication to feel euphoria (i.e., to get high).

What are the most misused drugs? ›

A: Although any prescription drug can be abused, the three types of drugs that are most commonly abused are: Painkillers, also known as narcotic or opiates/opioids. Examples include morphine, codeine, oxycodone (OxyContin), hydrocodone (Vicodin, Lortab) and meperidine (Demerol).

What are warning signs that someone has a drug problem? ›

Slurred speech. Lack of coordination. Irritability or changes in mood. Problems concentrating or thinking clearly.

What are two signs a person is addicted? ›

Physical symptoms of addictions: Lack of concern over physical appearance/personal hygiene. Disrupted sleep patterns, including insomnia.

What kind of person is an addict? ›

People with addictive personalities typically switch from one addiction to the next. These individuals may show impulsive behavior such as excessive caffeine consumption, Internet use, eating chocolate or other sugar-laden foods, television watching, or even running.

What are the characteristics of drug abuser? ›

A drug abuser increases his/her drug use in multiples of 2 over time. Results: Emotional change: The drug-dependent person experiences mood swings related to drug use. Gradually there is a personality change and all activity and thoughts revolve around drugs. Judgment and insight are also impaired.

What is the difference between misuse and abuse of drugs? ›

Drug abuse often follows drug misuse.

People who abuse drugs develop a tolerance and feel they must take more and more of the drug to “feel normal.” People who abuse drugs are using them to get high–not to treat a specific ailment.

How do you fight drug misuse? ›

Here are the top five ways to prevent substance abuse:
  1. Understand how substance abuse develops. ...
  2. Avoid Temptation and Peer Pressure. ...
  3. Seek help for mental illness. ...
  4. Examine the risk factors. ...
  5. Keep a well-balanced life.
7 Jul 2021

What are the main causes of drug abuse? ›

Factors such as peer pressure, physical and sexual abuse, early exposure to drugs, stress, and parental guidance can greatly affect a person's likelihood of drug use and addiction. Development. Genetic and environmental factors interact with critical developmental stages in a person's life to affect addiction risk.

What are the effects of drug misuse? ›

Side effects of drug addiction may include:

Increased strain on the liver, which puts the person at risk of significant liver damage or liver failure. Seizures, stroke, mental confusion and brain damage. Lung disease. Problems with memory, attention and decision-making, which make daily living more difficult.

What are 3 examples of drug abuse? ›

Some of the most common types of drug abuse include the following:
  • Stimulant Abuse. Stimulants are substances that cause physical and psychological functions to speed up. ...
  • Cocaine Abuse. ...
  • Adderall Abuse. ...
  • Meth Abuse. ...
  • Opioid Abuse. ...
  • Heroin Abuse. ...
  • Prescription Painkillers. ...
  • Sedative Abuse.

What are the 9 drugs of abuse? ›

Other names that describe the test.
  • Amphetamines, Urine.
  • Barbiturates, Urine.
  • Benzodiazepines, Urine.
  • Cocaine, Urine.
  • Marijuana, Urine.
  • MDMA, Urine.
  • Methadone, Urine.
  • Opiates, Urine.

What are the 7 types of drugs? ›

The Seven Primary Types Of Drugs
  • Drug Type No. 1 — Opioids/Opiates.
  • Drug Type No. 2 — Stimulants.
  • Drug Type No. 3 — Depressants.
  • Drug Type No. 4 — Dissociatives.
  • Drug Type No. 5 — Hallucinogens.
  • Drug Type No. 6 — Anabolic Steroids.
  • Drug Type No. 7 — Inhalants.
  • Help Is Available for Your Drug Addiction.
27 Nov 2018

What drug is most commonly abused by older adults? ›

Alcohol. Alcohol is the most used drug among older adults, with about 65% of people 65 and older reporting high-risk drinking, defined as exceeding daily guidelines at least weekly in the past year.

How do you deal with someone who is on drugs? ›

The earlier an addiction is treated, the better. Express your concerns honestly. Emphasize that you care for the person and are worried about their well-being. Offer specific examples of your loved one's drug-related behavior that have made you concerned—and be honest about your own feelings.

What does addictive behavior look like? ›

They will do things like stealing in order to continue getting drugs, or they may commit crimes like forging prescriptions, depending on their drug of choice. There are also indirect criminal behaviors such as driving under the influence, or violence. An addict behavior that's often seen is shifting the blame.

How can you identify the addict? ›

Signs someone else is addicted:
  1. Changes in personality and behavior like a lack of motivation, irritability, and agitation.
  2. Bloodshot eyes and frequent bloody noses.
  3. Shakes, tremors, or slurred speech.
  4. Change in their daily routines.
  5. Lack of concern for personal hygiene.
  6. Unusual need for money; financial problems.
27 Jan 2021

What happens in the brain when someone is addicted? ›

Instead of a simple, pleasurable surge of dopamine, many drugs of abuse—such as opioids, cocaine, or nicotine—cause dopamine to flood the reward pathway, 10 times more than a natural reward. The brain remembers this surge and associates it with the addictive substance.

What do addicts have in common? ›

People with addiction lose control over their actions. They crave and seek out drugs, alcohol, or other substances no matter what the cost—even at the risk of damaging friendships, hurting family, or losing jobs.

What are three types of addiction behaviors? ›

Types of Addiction
  • Behavioral addiction: Many people associate addiction solely with substances, like alcohol or drugs. ...
  • Substance addiction: Substance addiction creates a physical dependence on a specific chemical. ...
  • Impulse addiction: Impulse control disorders can lead to impulse addiction.

What are 3 personality traits that are closely related to addiction? ›

No single personality type sets someone up for addiction, but there are a few personality traits common among people who have a substance use disorder: an inability to handle stress, impulsivity, unaccountability and a lack of empathy.

What are three symptoms of drug abuse? ›

Behavioral Signs of Drug Addiction
  • Struggling with Limits: ...
  • Loss of Interest: ...
  • Mood Swings: ...
  • Reclusive and Private Behavior: ...
  • Defensiveness: ...
  • Erratic Behavior: ...
  • Changes in Sleep Habits:

What are 4 personality traits that contribute to drug use? ›

Drug Use and Personality

Generally, those who use drugs or alcohol are characterized by having high Neuroticism, high Openness to Experience, low Agreeableness, and low Conscientiousness.

What is the difference between drug abuse and? ›

What is the Difference Between Addiction and Drug Abuse? Substance abuse is when you use a drug in a harmful way. Addiction describes the compulsive seeking of that drug. Substance abuse may not lead to addiction.

What's the difference between abuse and use? ›

Drug use refers to the experimentation, low frequency, or irregular use of alcohol and drugs. On the other hand, drug abuse refers to regular or compulsive urges to use alcohol and drugs. Generally, drug abuse will alter lifestyles and influence psychological dependency on a substance.

What are 10 ways on how do you avoid drug addiction? ›

  1. Understand How Addiction Happens. Education is often one of the most powerful counteractions against addiction. ...
  2. Know Your Risk Factors. ...
  3. Steer Clear of Peer Pressure. ...
  4. Live a Balanced Life. ...
  5. Know the Signs. ...
  6. Learn to Cope. ...
  7. Develop Strong and Healthy Relationships. ...
  8. Take All Prescription Drugs Exactly as Prescribed.

What are four ways you can help someone who is addicted to drugs? ›

Here are seven tips that family and friends can reference to support an addicted family member or friend.
  • Tip #1: Educate Yourself. ...
  • Tip #2: Get Support. ...
  • Tip #3: Get Counseling. ...
  • Tip #4: Seek Specialty Help. ...
  • Tip #5: Don't Enable. ...
  • Tip #6: Have Realistic Expectations. ...
  • Tip #7: Take Care of Yourself.

How can I influence others to avoid getting involved in drugs? ›

Be a good role model and stay drug free yourself. Let them know that most young people do not use drugs. Help them understand the negative consequences of using drugs. Teach them ways to resist pressure to use drugs.

How do drugs affect the brain? ›

Drugs interfere with the way neurons send, receive, and process signals via neurotransmitters. Some drugs, such as marijuana and heroin, can activate neurons because their chemical structure mimics that of a natural neurotransmitter in the body. This allows the drugs to attach onto and activate the neurons.

What are the 10 causes of drugs? ›

Causes of Substance Use Disorders
  • Family history of addiction.
  • Sleep problems.
  • Chronic pain.
  • Financial difficulties.
  • Divorce or the loss of a loved one.
  • Long-term tobacco habit.
  • Tense home environment.
  • Lack of parental attachment in childhood.
11 Dec 2017

What are the causes and effects of drug abuse? ›

Long-Term Effects of Drug or Alcohol Abuse

Using drugs or alcohol can cause dehydration-induced seizures and damage immune systems. This increases susceptibility to infection and further complications, psychotic behavior, and serious cardiovascular conditions, including heart attacks and collapsed veins.

What are the 10 effects of drug abuse? ›

  • Isolation. Addiction quickly becomes a lifestyle. ...
  • Stagnation. Getting stuck in our emotional development is another of the 10 effects of drug abuse. ...
  • Damaged Relationships. ...
  • Financial Distress. ...
  • Health Problems. ...
  • Depression and Anxiety. ...
  • Provoking Existing Mental Health Conditions. ...
  • A Criminal Record.
22 Feb 2022

What are the 5 main drugs? ›

Here are the five main categories and some information about each:
  • Central nervous system depressants.
  • Central nervous system stimulants.
  • Opiates and Opiodes.
  • Hallucinogens.
  • Marijuana.

What are 10 examples of drugs? ›

Drugs can be grouped together in different ways – by the way they affect the body, how they are used or where they are used.
  • alcohol.
  • benzodiazepines (minor tranquillisers such as Valium)
  • cannabis.
  • GHB (gamma-hydroxybutyrate)
  • ketamine.
  • opioids (heroin, morphine, codeine).
21 Jun 2021

What are the six forms of drug abuse? ›

There are 6 types of drug dependence based on the type of substance being abused. These are alcohol, cannabis, hallucinogens, cocaine, opioids, and sedatives.

What are 3 examples of drug misuse? ›

Examples of drugs that are commonly misused include:
  • illegal drugs,
  • alcohol,
  • tobacco,
  • prescribed medicines including painkillers, sleeping tablets, and cold remedies,
  • khat (a leaf that is chewed over several hours), and.
  • glues, aerosols, gases and solvents.
20 May 2009

What are 4 common symptoms of prescription drug misuse and addiction? ›

Common symptoms of prescription drug abuse include:
  • Drug-seeking behaviors.
  • Taking higher doses than prescribed.
  • Hostility.
  • Appearing to be intoxicated, overly energetic, or lethargic.
  • Changes in sleeping and eating patterns.
  • Increased usage of alcohol.
  • Mood swings relating to availability of prescription medications.

What is the difference between drug abuse and drug misuse? ›

Drug abuse often follows drug misuse.

People who abuse drugs develop a tolerance and feel they must take more and more of the drug to “feel normal.” People who abuse drugs are using them to get high–not to treat a specific ailment.


1. Teen Health: Substance Use and Abuse
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2. How to Pass a Drug Test (After Doing Lots of Drugs) | Vanity Code | Vanity Fair
(Vanity Fair)
3. Inside the struggle to live a normal life addicted to fentanyl
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4. Carfentanil: the next deadly street drug?
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5. Unlocking the Cure to Substance Use Disorder | Brad Finegood | TEDxUofW
(TEDx Talks)
6. Drug Addiction- Basic Introduction in Detail (HINDI) By Solution Pharmacy
(Solution- Pharmacy)
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