What's the Difference Between Misuse and Abuse?

It mostly has to do with the individual's intentions or motivations. For example, let's say that a person knows that he will get a pleasant or euphoric feeling by taking the drug, especially at higher doses than prescribed. That is an example of drug abuse because the person is specifically looking for that euphoric response.

In contrast, if a person isn't able to fall asleep after taking a single sleeping pill, they may take another pill an hour later, thinking, "That will do the job." Or a person may offer his headache medication to a friend who is in pain. Those are examples of drug misuse because, even though these people did not follow medical instructions, they were not looking to "get high" from the drugs. They were treating themselves, but not according to the directions of their health care providers.

However, no matter the intention of the person, both misuse and abuse of prescription drugs can be harmful and even life-threatening to the individual. This is because taking a drug other than the way it is prescribed can lead to dangerous outcomes that the person may not anticipate.