Commonly Abused Prescription Drugs

by | Sep 23, 2020 | Prescription Drugs

Prescription medication bottles lined up on a shelf.

Reported data in the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse showed around 36 million people in the U.S. who are 12 years or older abuse prescription drugs in their lifetime at least once. 

Commonly abused prescription drugs fall into a few broad categories:

  • Narcotics/Opioids
  • Depressants
  • Stimulants

People abuse these certain drugs due to them being an inexpensive and easily accessible way of altering their physical and mental state. They become addicted to the euphoric or pain-relieving effects, and require higher and higher dosages to get their desired effects. Here, you’ll get a closer look at each of the most commonly abused prescription drugs categories.


Opioids are pain relievers, but when you take them in larger doses, they cause euphoric effects and could cause dangerous side effects like:

  • Lowered blood pressure 
  • Lowered pulse
  • Slowed or arrested breathing
  • Addiction
  • Coma
  • Death

Some types of opioids are:

Codeine (Tylenol with Codeine, Empirin with Codeine, etc.) and Morphine (Duramorph, Roxanol). Physicians typically prescribe codeine for coughing and mild pain and morphine for severe pain.

Oxycodone HCL (Oxycontin, Tylox, Percodan, Percocet). Oxycodone is another type of opioid pain reliever. Individuals will abuse this drug by:

  • Snorting it
  • Crushing it
  • Injecting it

This will raise the risk of overdose greatly. Oxycodone has high abuse potential and is twice as potent analgesic as morphine. 

Hydrocodone (Lortab, Vicodin, Lorcet). These drugs contain acetaminophen and opioid hydrocodone. They cause constipation and drowsiness. They can also cause dangerous breathing issues at high doses. If after you’ve stopped taking these, you feel sick like you’re experiencing the flu, your body might have become dependent. 

Fentanyl (Actiq, Duragesic, Sublimaze). Fentanyl is up to 100 times more potent than morphine. It is used to treat chronic pain, severe pain, and to manage pain following surgery. Illegally used fentanyl has resulted in overdoses. For more information on the dangers of Fentanyl, see our blog post: Fentanyl – What Is It And Why Is It So Dangerous?


Some types of depressants are:

Barbiturates (Nembutal, Amytal, Seconal). Depressants like barbiturates are sedatives that help with:

  • Sleep problems
  • Anxiety
  • Seizures

Taking more than prescribed could lead to addiction. You can experience trouble breathing at high doses, particularly if you’re using them while drinking alcohol. Withdrawing from barbiturates can be dangerous so seek help if you’re unable to function without them.

Benzodiazepines (Librium, Klonopin, Valium, Xanax). Benzodiazepines are another type of sedative. They help with:

  • Sleep problems
  • Panic attacks
  • Anxiety

If overused, they can cause addiction and physical dependence. It can be dangerous to stop these abruptly so talk with your doctor if you feel like you’ve become dependent. 

Sleep Medications (Ambien, Lunesta). If you’re having sleep difficulties, prescription sleep medications can help. However, using them longer than directed could cause you to become dependent and require them to be able to sleep. 


Some types of stimulants are:

Amphetamines (Adderall, Biphetamine, Dexedrine). Stimulants can help individuals with ADHD when prescribed. But, some individuals will use them to:

  • Boost energy
  • Get high
  • Keep their weight down
  • Boost alertness and focus

Stimulants can be addictive and at high doses can cause your body temperature to rise to a dangerous level, an abnormal heartbeat, and potentially cardiac arrest. 

Methylphenidate (Ritalin, Concerta) is another type of stimulant for ADHD that when combined with decongestants, could cause irregular heartbeat and dangerously high blood pressure.

Taking prescription drugs without a doctor’s prescription is illegal. You could face penalties for abusing them without a prescription or distributing them. The penalties will vary depending on the type of prescription drug type.

Contact Soul Surgery Today for Drug Abuse and Addiction Treatment

If you or someone you know is misusing prescription drugs, call Soul Surgery today. We offer a wide range of drug and alcohol treatment programs utilizing the tools you need to live an addiction-free life.

Soul Surgery
Soul Surgery Integrative Medicine Addiction Centers works with clients to bring healing and recovery for those suffering with drug and alcohol use, current or past trauma, mental health issues, and other life experiences. Located in Scottsdale, AZ, we provide addiction treatment, drug and alcohol detox, dual diagnosis treatment, mental health treatment, and medication assisted treatment on both an inpatient and outpatient basis.

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