Top 10 Most Commonly Abused Prescription Medications

Prescription drug abuse is a serious matter affecting more Americans each year. It is estimated by the National Institute on Drug Abuse that 54 million Americans abuse prescription drugs each year, with a large portion of that number being adolescents and first-time users. Also, prescription drug overdoses account for more than half of all drug-related incidents in emergency rooms.

Teens and adolescents are especially at risk for prescription drug abuse and their demographic represents the most cases of prescription misuse nationwide. One of the leading factors contributing to adolescent prescription drug abuse is general unawareness of the dangers associated with it as well as the potential for addiction.

Many teens and adolescents assume that because doctors prescribe these medications, they are in some way safer or less addictive than alcohol, cigarettes or street drugs. This couldn’t be further from the truth, as it is well documented that prescription drug addiction is a very real threat, and also contribute to hundreds of thousands of drug overdoses per year.

As a parent or loved one of a possible at-risk adolescent, it is important to inform yourself of the most prolific prescription drugs that are currently being abused by today’s youth. Ensuring these medications do not end up in the wrong hands, even by mistake is essential to hopefully preventing and avoiding the continuation of prescription drug abuse in the future. In this article we have identified some of the most popular medications that are commonly abused, and some side effects that they cause, as to bring about awareness to the dangers they pose.

 

prescription-pills-21. Oxycontin (Oxycodone): an opioid used to treat moderate to severe pain. Users seek the euphoric, pain relieving and sedative effects. Users typically take the pill orally, crush the pill and snort it, or dilute it in water and inject it. Some possible signs of Oxycontin abuse are lethargy, stoned appearance, pinpoint pupils, constipation, loss of appetite, and lack of interest in recreational activities. Opioids are extremely dangerous, especially when mixed with other sedatives such as benzodiazepines or alcohol, and overdose often results in death. Prescription opioid abuse is also commonly linked to abuse of other opioid narcotics such as heroin and fentanyl.

2. Xanax (Alprazolam): a benzodiazepine used to treat anxiety and panic disorders. Abusers take Xanax seeking the euphoric and sedative effects. Users typically take the pill orally or crush the pill and snort it. Some possible signs of Xanax abuse are sedation, dilated pupils, slow movements, slurred speech, loss of coordination, confusion, short-term memory loss, loss of appetite, and lack of interest in recreational activities. Similarly to Oxycontin, Xanax is a sedative and when mixed with other sedatives greatly compounding side effects will occur, increasing likelihood of overdose.

3. Adderall (Amphetamine and Dextroamphetamine): a stimulant used to treat Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy. Users seek the euphoric and stimulant effects, and is frequently seen abused in educational settings such as on high school or college campuses. Often used to increase focus and stay awake for longer periods of time. Users typically take the pill orally, crush the pill and snort it, or dilute it in water and inject it. Some possible signs of Adderall abuse are increased alertness, dilated pupils, hyper-activity, loss of appetite, weight loss, paranoia, sleep disruption, delusions, and hallucinations.

4. Ritalin (Methylphenidate): a stimulant used to treat Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy. Same use, effects, routes of administration and signs of abuse as Adderall, and cross addiction between these two substances has been cited.

5. Vicodin (Hydrocodone and Acetaminophen): an opioid used to treat moderate to severe pain. Users seek the euphoric, pain relieving and sedative effects. Users typically take the pill orally or crush the pill and snort it. Some possible signs of Vicodin abuse are lethargy, stoned appearance, pinpoint pupils, constipation, loss of appetite, and lack of interest in recreational activities. Often these types of opioids are prescribed following medical procedures or injuries. A frequent pathway to addiction for these types of medications in teens and adolescents is from frequent use after sports-related injuries, and caution should be taken when any type of opioid is used for long periods of time.

6. Percocet (Oxycodone and Acetaminophen): an opioid used to treat moderate to severe pain. Same use, effects, routes of administration and signs of abuse as Vicodin. Due to the acetaminophen component of both Percocet and Vicodin, extended use of these substances can severely damage liver functions, especially when used in conjunction with alcohol.

7. Valium (Diazepam): a benzodiazepine used to treat anxiety, sleeplessness and muscle spasms. Users seek the euphoric and sedative effects. Users may take the pill orally or crush the pill and snort it. Some possible signs of Valium abuse are lethargy, dilated pupils, slow movements, slurred speech, loss of coordination, loss of appetite and lack of interest in recreational activities. Effects of Valium are similar to those of Xanax, and cross addiction between the two is very common.

8. Ambien (Zolpidem): a short acting sedative-hypnotic used to treat insomnia. Users seek the euphoric and sedative effects experienced a few hours after taking the pill. Users typically take the pill orally or crush the pill and snort it. Some possible signs of Ambien abuse are lack of coordination, lethargy, short-term memory loss, delusions, hallucinations, and lack of interest in recreational activities.

9. Promethazine/Codeine Syrup: an antihistamine and opiate cough suppressant used to treat cold symptoms, allergies and upper respiratory infections. Users seek the euphoric, pain relieving and sedative effects. Users typically take the syrup orally. Some possible signs of Codeine abuse are lethargy, pinpoint pupils, slurred speech, constipation, loss of appetite, muscle twitches, and lack of interest in recreational activities. Often, Codeine and Promethezine is mixed with other liquids such as alcohol or soft drinks, and may be disguised as completely innocuous.

10. Phenobarbital: a barbiturate used as a sedative hypnotic and anticonvulsant. Users seek the euphoric and sedative effects. Users typically take the pill orally. Some possible signs of Phenobarbital abuse are lethargy, dizziness, loss of coordination, lack of concentration, short-term memory loss, constipation, and lack of interest in recreational activities.

Although the list of medications above represents the majority of abused prescription drugs, it is not all-inclusive and others do exist. It is imperative to stay informed on which drugs have potential for abuse in order to avoid them being stolen or misused. It is also important to note that all the drugs in this list have the potential for addiction and will leave the user physically dependent over a period of time, leading to continued use unless treatment is sought. Fortunately, recovery from prescription drug abuse is achievable, and if you or anyone you know is struggling with an addiction please seek professional help.

2 Comments
  • F.B.
    Posted at 09:39h, 01 May Reply

    Sadly, it is remarkably easy for a young adult to get their hands on every one of these drugs, not just illegally, but through doctors that are willing to over-prescribe potentially addictive medications. Before getting sober I had prescriptions to more than one of the drugs on this list – even while my doctor was aware that I had addiction issues and was simultaneously being prescribed Suboxone for heroin addiction. I abused all of my medications and was able to easily manipulate my psychiatrists into prescribing increasingly higher doses of benzodiazepines and amphetamines.
    My family was clueless to the fact that I was using my ADHD and anxiety medication to get high because doctors had legitimately prescribed them. We need our physicians to be more discerning when dispensing these kinds of chemicals and as family members, be aware of what drugs our loved ones are taking – even if they do come from a doctor.

  • Rhian
    Posted at 08:47h, 08 July Reply

    I didn’t abuse my Prozac in the examples above but rather misused it. I got my dosage upped legitimately by the GP and then would drink a 75cl bottle of Vodka on a weekend. I was just monging myself out so I didn’t have to deal with anything.
    I finally stopped drinking and let the Prozac do it’s job, then I gave that up and started the Gym instead. Things are still hard and always will be but I’ll do everything with a clear unhazed head from now on.

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