Drug misuse implies the use of drugs outside social, medical, or legal norms. It is widespread among young people in the UK. Although statistically it is strongly linked with violent and criminal behaviour, there are large numbers of 'weekend' or 'recreational' drug users who do not come in conflict with the law and who would claim that their drug taking is no more abnormal than drinking alcohol.

Relevant terms include the following:

• Addiction: dependence on drugs with consequent detriment to social, physical, or economic function.

• Dependence: psychological dependence is a strong desire to take a certain drug to produce pleasure or relieve distress, and physical dependence is indicated by the development of bodily symptoms if the drug is withdrawn.

• Tolerance: physical adaptation to a drug, leading to a need for increasing dosage to achieve the same effect. Tolerance often precedes development of physical dependence.

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