Why do people use pharmaceutical drugs for medical and non-medical purposes?

Use of pharmaceuticals for medical purposes

People use pharmaceutical drugs to prevent, diagnose, treat, or cure disease or to manage problematic symptoms. Such use is considered sanctioned when it is consistent with a health professional’s instructions and is in accordance with the instructions on the drug label.

Use of pharmaceuticals for non-medical purposes

Pharmaceutical drugs can be misused for a variety of reasons, including dependence, self-medication, withdrawal from other drugs and enhancement of illicit drug effects.

Non-medical use involves using a substance without medical advice, or in a manner deliberately contrary to instructions provided by a health professional or as specified on the package label. This may include taking the drug via a different route of administration, at a different dosage, or in combination with other drugs.

Pharmaceutical drugs used for non-medical purposes can have potentially dangerous side effects and their use can lead to overdose, addiction, poisoning, disease or death.

For more information about pharmaceuticals visit DrugInfo.

Source: Adapted from the Australian Crime Commission’s Illicit Drug Data Report 2015-16, and 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.