Top 10 Most Commonly Abused Prescription Medications


The most commonly abused prescription medications today

Commonly Abused Prescription MedicationsPrescription drug abuse is steadily rising in the United States and around the world. More than half of the deaths from drug overdoses in the United States are now caused by prescription drug abuse, outstripping deaths caused by cocaine, heroin, amphetamines, and methamphetamine combined.  The number of people abusing prescription drugs has risen so steeply in recent years that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has declared prescription drug abuse an epidemic in the United States.  The top 10 most commonly abused prescription medications fall into three categories: painkillers, tranquilizers, and stimulants, and include the following:

1: OxyContin (Oxycodone)

OxyContin is an opioid typically used to treat moderate to severe pain that is taken orally. It has recently been found to have a higher potential for addiction than previously thought, and even patients who take OxyContin as prescribed may need help from a drug addiction treatment program when they stop taking it.  Users take OxyContin orally, crush and snort it, or crush and inject it for a feeling of euphoria, pain relief, and sedation.  Signs of OxyContin abuse include lethargy, pinpoint pupils, loss of appetite, and lack of interest in usual activities.

2: Fentanyl

Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid analgesic that is similar to morphine but 50 to 10 times stronger. It is primarily prescribed to treat patients with severe pain, typically cancer patients, patients who have just had surgery, and chronic pain patients who have become opioid-tolerant. In 2016, fentanyl became linked with the heroin epidemic when the U.S. began experiencing a rash of overdose deaths caused by fentanyl-laced heroin. Signs of fentanyl abuse include extreme lethargy, difficulty concentrating, paranoia, and hallucinations.

3: Adderall

Adderall is a stimulant prescribed for treatment of Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and narcolepsy. Users take it orally, crush and snort it, or crush and inject it for its stimulant and euphoric effects. Adderall improves focus and concentration, and allows users to stay awake for long periods. It is frequently prescribed to adolescents and is widely abused by college students and workers in high stress environments. Symptoms of Adderall abuse include loss of appetite and weight loss, sleep disruption, hyper-activity, and paranoia.

4: Xanax

Xanax is a benzodiazepine taken orally for the relief of anxiety and panic disorders. Taken orally or crushed and snorted, Xanax produces a euphoric, sedative effect. Xanax abuse often causes short-term memory loss, lack of coordination, and slurred speech.

5: Hydrocodone (Vicodin, Percocet, Lortab, Lorcet, etc.)

Hydrocodone is an opioid narcotic drug prescribed to relive moderate to severe pain. When taken orally or crushed and snorted, it creates feelings of euphoria and sedation. Signs of hydrocodone drug abuse include lethargy, pinpoint pupils, loss of appetite, and lack of interest in daily activities.

6: Valium

Valium is a benzodiazepine used to treat anxiety, insomnia, and muscle spasms. Valium has a high potential for abuse, and is frequently taken with alcohol to create a euphoric state. Signs of Valium abuse include irritability, confusion, amnesia, and aggressive behavior.

7: Phenobarbital

Phenobarbital is a barbiturate narcotic used as a hypnotic sedative and anticonvulsant. Users take it orally to experience feelings of euphoria and sedation. Signs of Phenobarbital abuse include lethargy, dizziness, lack of concentration, short-term memory loss, and loss of coordination.

8: Ambien

Ambien is a short acting sedative-hypnotic used to treat insomnia. Users take it orally or crush and snort it to produce feelings of euphoria and sedation. Short-term memory loss and amnesia is frequently seen in patients who take Ambien and does not necessarily signify abuse. Signs of Ambien abuse include fatigue, euphoria, hallucinations, severe lethargy, lack of coordination, and delusions.

9: Dilaudid

Dilaudid is an opioid narcotic used to treat severe pain, typically prescribed for patients with cancer, severe burns, and soft tissue injuries. Users take it orally or crush and snort it for feelings of euphoria and pain relief. Symptoms of Dilaudid abuse include insomnia, strange dreams, mood swings, and seizures.

10: Promethazine

Promethazine is an antihistamine and opioid cough suppressant taken orally to relieve allergies, cold symptoms, and upper respiratory infections. Promethazine creates a euphoric, sedative effect, and is often prescribed as a syrup. It is widely abused by adolescents and young adults. Signs of promethazine abuse include lethargy, impaired motor function, rapid heart rate, and respiratory depression.

If you or a loved one needs help with abuse and/or treatment, please call the White Sands Treatment Center at (877) 855-3470. Our addiction specialists can assess your recovery needs and help you get the addiction treatment that provides the best chance for your long-term recovery.

About the Author

is a proud alumni member of White Sands Treatment Center. After living a life of chaos, destruction and constant let downs, Mark was able to make a complete turnaround that sparked a new way of life. He is serious about his recovery along with helping others. At White Sands Treatment Center, we offer support to you in your homes or when you are out living in your daily lives.

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