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Public Health Definitions

  • Date Submitted: 03/30/2010 04:52 AM
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Public health definitions
Source: A Public Health Approach to Drug Control in Canada, Health Officers Council of British Columbia, 2005

Public health practitioners have attempted to look at drug abuse from a broader perspective than the individual, emphasizing the role of society, culture and availability. Rather than accepting the loaded terms alcohol or drug "abuse," many public health professionals have adopted phrases such as "substance and alcohol type problems" or "harmful/problematic use" of drugs.

The Health Officers Council of British Columbia — in their 2005 policy discussion paper, A Public Health Approach to Drug Control in Canada — has adopted a public health model of psychoactive substance use that challenges the simplistic black-and-white construction of the binary (or complementary) antonyms "use" vs. "abuse". This model explicitly recognizes a spectrum of use, ranging from beneficial use to chronic dependence (see diagram to the right).
[edit] Medical definitions

In the modern medical profession, the two most used diagnostic tools in the world, the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) and the World Health Organization's International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD), no longer recognize 'drug abuse' as a current medical diagnosis. Instead, DSM has adopted substance abuse[4] as a blanket term to include drug abuse and other things. ICD refrains from using either "substance abuse" or "drug abuse", instead using the term "harmful use" to cover physical or psychological harm to the user from use. Physical dependence, abuse of, and withdrawal from drugs and other miscellaneous substances is outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV-TR) ). Its section Substance dependence begin with:

        "Substance dependence When an individual persists in use of alcohol or other drugs despite problems related to use of...

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