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Prescription Drug Abuse

Prescription drug abuse is the use of medication without having a prescription or in a way other than the one prescribed for the feeling and experience. For example, someone is taking medication other than the patient or taking them in a manner or overdosage. After marijuana and alcohol, prescription medication is the third most abused substance. Nearly 48 million people, about 20% of the population aged 12 and above, have abused prescription drugs at least once in their lifetime.

  • One in six teenagers takes prescription medication to get high.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, between 26 to 36 million people abuse opioids worldwide. Additionally, in the United States, an estimated 2.1 million people suffer from prescription drug use related to prescription pain reliever abuse.

  • 207 million prescriptions for opioid pain medications in the U.S. last year

For many people, the initial drug abuse is voluntary. With time the changes in the brain caused by repeatedly abusing the drug affect one’s self-control and ability to make sound decisions. The person gets impulses to take more drugs.

  1. Opioids—prescribed to treat pain
  2. CNS depressants—prescribed to treat anxiety and sleep disorders
  3. Stimulants—prescribed to treat ADHD and narcolepsy


Opiate abuse is the most commonly abused prescription medication. Opioids is the term used for all the opiate family of drugs prescribed to relieve pain. Here is a list of some of the most common opioids:

  • Hydrocodone (Vicodin, Lortab, Lorcet)
  • Oxycodone (Tylox, Oxycontin, Percodan, Percocet)
  • Morphine (Kadian, Avinza)
  • Codeine (Empirin with Codeine, Fiorinal with Codeine, Robitussin A-C)
  • Fentanyl & Heroin


CNS depressants, also known as sedatives or tranquilizers, are substances that slow down the brain’s activity. This property makes them helpful in treating anxiety and sleep disorders. But, unfortunately, it also opens the door to being abused.

  • Barbiturates (Amytal, Nembutal, Seconal, Phenobarbital)
  • Benzodiazepines (Ativan, Halcion, Librium, Valium, Xanax, Klonopin)
  • Sleep Medication (Ambien, Sonata , Lunesta)


Stimulants increase alertness, attention, and energy, elevating blood pressure, heart rate, and respiration. However, they do not get prescribed very often anymore due to increased concerns for abuse.

  • Amphetamines (Biphetamine, Dexedrine, Adderall)
  • Methylphenidate (Concerta, Ritalin)

There are three classifications;

  1. Opioids, used to treat pain, 56% of those who abuse pain relievers got them from family or friends
  2. Central Nervous System (CNS) depressants treat panic attacks, tension, anxiety, and sleep disorders
  3. Stimulants used to treat ADHD and narcolepsy

The typical result of abuse of prescription drugs is addiction. Drug abusers, even prescription drugs, tend to have trouble with the law at school and home. Abuse of prescription drugs has severe risks to the abuser’s health. Abuse of opioids can lead to vomiting, reduced cognitive function, decreased respiratory function, and in extreme cases, coma or death. The risk is even higher if the opioids go with other substances such as alcohol.

Abrupt stopping or reducing the use of CNS depressants can cause seizures. Mixing them with other medications or alcohol can slow one’s heartbeat and cause death. Abusing stimulants is known to cause heart failure and strokes. Combining them with other drugs could cause dangerously high body temperature, or the victim could have an irregular heartbeat.

The symptoms vary depending on the class of drugs abused. Here are the three categories of prescription drugs, opiates, sedatives and anti-anxiety, and stimulants. Each has its own set of symptoms specific for each type.

Opioid painkillers

  • constipation
  • slowed breathing
  • poor coordination
  • slowed breathing

Sedatives and anti-anxiety medication

  • drowsiness
  • unsteady walking
  • confusion
  • slurred speech
  • problems with memory
  • poor concentration and dizziness


  • reduced appetite
  • high body temperature
  • insomnia
  • irregular heartbeat
  • paranoia and agitation


If you suspect your family member or a friend is abusing prescription drugs, compare their behaviors below. They are a few signs to be on the lookout for;

  • “Losing” their prescriptions to get another
  • Seeking prescriptions from many doctors
  • The person appears high, sedated, or unusually energetic
  • Decrease or increase in sleep
  • Excessive hostility or mood swings
  • Taking higher doses than those prescribed
  • Forging or stealing prescriptions

Prescription medications can produce serious adverse health effects, including abuse and addiction. Prescription drug abuse is the fastest-growing drug problem in America. It is estimated over 2 million people in the United States suffer from substance use disorders related to prescription opioid pain relievers alone. It is effortless to become dependent on any of the various prescription and over-the-counter medications. Getting help for medicine or over-the-counter drug abuse problem is a matter of life or death.


Prescription abuse is a very subtle problem. It can convince someone there is nothing wrong, when in fact, there is something very wrong. So please don’t wait until it’s too late.

If you or someone you know is abusing any prescription medication, we are here to help. Inappropriately taking pills is easy. Pain medications and ant-depressants are powerful mood-altering substances. It is effortless to become dependent on them without even realizing it.

Addiction to drugs, whether illicit or prescribed, is a treatable disease. Treatments take into account the needs of the individual and the medication that they abuse. Successful treatment incorporates several components, including detoxification and counseling. For a patient to fully recover, they need multiple courses of treatment.

There are two main categories of treatment; behavioral and pharmacological. Behavioral therapy helps the patient stop using by teaching them how to function without using drugs, how best to deal with cravings, and handle relapses. Pharmacological treatments include using other medications to treat the patient, just like any other addiction treatment works best if the patient seeks treatment early.

Treating prescription drug addiction is different than treating other drug abuse problems. For example, people suffering from chronic pain may need to take prescription medication.

Pages of Interest

Ambien to get high?

Taking Lyrica to gt high?

prescription take back day

read about drinking and taking wellbutrin