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I am a Social Work degree student. I am currently writing a dissertation about addiction and the impact this may or may not have on parenting capabilities. Throughout the text I have been using terms such as addiction, drug misuse, substance misuse/abuse, interchangeably, and was wondering if there exists a favoured use of terminology. Perhaps you would be so kind as to enlighten me of the current usage and the relevant definition, thanks for your time.


The terms drug abuse/use/misuse and addiction are indeed commonly used interchangeably, although serious researchers would define their terms in any papers published.

Use - could include any type of use, from social to problem. In general, it would refer to moderate non-dependent use of drugs causing no problems to the user or others.

Misuse - tends to be a political term used to describe any type of illegal drug use.

Abuse - tends to be heavy, dependent, or problem use, but may again refer to any type of illegal drug use.

Addiction - should refer to use accompanied by tolerance and physical dependence.

Problem use - use which causes problems to the user or society.

General - other than cannabis, caffeine and tobacco, most users do not take drugs on a daily basis. The majority of users of stimulants (amphet, cocaine, ecstasy) tend to be episodic users (e.g. over weekends or prolonged binges), the majority of other drug users tend to be experimental or occasional, with a very small proportion of regular users. This data is obtained from large samples (annual samples of 1000-2000+ users) using anonymous questionnaires (Regular Users series).

Our definitions are:

Experimental - up to ten occasions

Occasional - over 10x but not monthly

Regular - monthly or more often

Daily - every day, or nearly every day

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