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What are the Differences

What are the Differences?


Misuse refers to the intentional therapeutic use of a drug product in an inappropriate way and specifically excludes the definition of abuse.1


Abuse is defined as the intentional, nontherapeutic use of a drug product or substance, even once, to achieve a desirable psychological or physiological effect.2


Addiction is commonly defined as a chronic, relapsing disease that is characterized by compulsive drug-seeking and use, despite harmful consequences.3 Over time, higher doses may be needed to get the same effect, and withdrawal symptoms may occur when cutting back or abruptly stopping the opioid.4

Tampering with opioids

Tampering with opioids is also very dangerous. Many people who abuse opioids will attempt to manipulate them and take them by snorting, swallowing or injecting them into their body.5

There are many resources available to those battling prescription drug abuse and addiction. NIDA is one organization that has developed principles of effective addiction treatment.6

Based on results from a 2015 survey

~2 million Americans

had substance use disorders related to prescription pain relievers in 2015.7

Physical Behavioral

Recognizing the Warning Signs

While you may think it's fairly easy to spot signs of abuse and addiction in friends and family, this is not always the case. Some common signs and symptoms of opioid misuse are listed below. Note: these signs and symptoms might indicate opioid misuse, but other explanations are possible.8

  • Bloodshot eyes, pupils larger or smaller than usual
  • Changes in appetite or sleep patterns
  • Sudden weight loss or weight gain
  • Deterioration of physical appearance, personal grooming habits
  • Unusual smells on breath, body or clothing
  • Tremors, slurred speech or impaired coordination
  • Drop in attendance and performance at work or school
  • Unexplained need for money or financial problems; may borrow or steal to get it
  • Engaging in secretive or suspicious behaviors
  • Sudden change in friends, favorite hangouts and hobbies
  • Frequently getting into trouble (fights, accidents, illegal activities)
  • Unexplained change in personality or attitude
  • Sudden mood swings, irritability or angry outbursts
  • Periods of unusual hyperactivity, agitation or giddiness
  • Lack of motivation; appears lethargic or "spaced out"
  • Appears fearful, anxious or paranoid, with no reason

Significant Side Effects Associated with Opioids

Beyond misuse, abuse and addiction, opioids also carry other serious risks. Opioids can produce significant side effects, including serious, life-threatening or fatal respiratory depression. Prolonged use of an opioid during pregnancy can result in neonatal opioid withdrawal syndrome. Accidental ingestion of even one dose can result in a fatal overdose. Potential drug interactions should also be carefully monitored. For instance, taking an opioid with other opioid medicines, benzodiazepines, alcohol or other central nervous system depressants can cause severe drowsiness, decreased awareness, breathing problems, coma and death. If you are prescribed an opioid, it is important to talk with your healthcare provider to understand the risks versus benefits associated with the specific opioid.9

It is important to report side effects from opioids, benzodiazepines, or other medicines to the FDA MedWatch program.