How are pharmaceutical drugs used?

Pharmaceutical drugs are used for medical purposes but may also be misused for non-medical purposes.

Medical use of pharmaceutical drugs

Pharmaceutical drugs are used for medical purposes when a person follows the advice/instructions from a doctor, pharmacist, other health professional, or packet label and takes the medication for the purpose for which it is intended.

Non-medical use of pharmaceutical drugs

Non-medical pharmaceutical drug use occurs when a drug is used by a person at a dosage or via a route of administration unintended by the prescriber, pharmacist or drug manufacturer.

Non-medical use includes:

  • Use by an individual to deliberately obtain a non-therapeutic intoxicating effect
  • The use of a prescription medication outside the terms of a prescription
  • Deliberately obtaining prescriptions for drugs from multiple prescribers without informing those prescribers of the full extent of one’s use
  • The supply of prescription pharmaceutical drugs to a person for whom the drugs were not prescribed  
  • The purchase or use of prescription pharmaceutical drugs by a person other than the prescribed user
  • The use of pharmaceutical drugs at a dosage, or via a route of administration, unintended by the prescriber, pharmacist or manufacturer (e.g., the injection of a drug intended for oral use).    

For more information about pharmaceuticals visit DrugInfo.

Source: Adapted from Nicholas, R., Lee, N., and Roche, A. (2011). Pharmaceutical drug misuse problems in Australia: Complex issues, balance responses. National Centre for Education and Training on Addiction (NCETA), Finders University, Adelaide.