Certain prescription medications are more likely to be abused than others because of their euphoric effects. In other words, they can cause people to feel good, and so many seek them out, in doses that are unhealthy.
The three most commonly abused types of drugs are painkillers, stimulants, and central nervous system depressants (a category that includes tranquilizers, sedatives, and hypnotics) used to treat anxiety and sleep disorders. People might abuse these drugs by taking them more often than prescribed or in higher doses than recommended. This can lead to tolerance, dependence, and addiction, which means that people will need medical help to recover.
Painkillers, or opioids, are the most commonly abused type of prescription medication. Opioids include drugs like OxyContin, Percocet, and Vicodin. These drugs are often prescribed for pain relief after an injury or surgery. At the same time, they can be highly addictive and lead to abuse. People who abuse opioids may crush and snort the pills, or dissolve them in water and inject them into their bodies. This can increase the risk of overdose and other serious side effects.
Sedatives, such as Xanax and Valium, are often prescribed to treat anxiety and insomnia. They can also be habit-forming and lead to abuse. People who abuse sedatives may take higher doses than prescribed, or take them more frequently than recommended. Again, this can lead to tolerance, dependence, and addiction. Sedative abuse can also cause dangerous side effects, including drowsiness, confusion, and shallow breathing.
Here is a fuller list of some of the painkillers, sedatives, and stimulants that are most commonly abused:
– Hydrocodone (Vicodin)
– Oxycodone (OxyContin, Percocet)
– Propoxyphene (Darvon, Darvocet)
– Benzodiazepines (Xanax, Valium, Klonopin)
– Amphetamines and other stimulants (Adderall, Ritalin, Concerta)
Stimulants, such as Adderall and Ritalin, are often prescribed to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). These drugs can be and are misused and abused. Higher-than-prescribed or more-frequent-than-prescribed doses can lead to tolerance, dependence, and addiction. Stimulant abuse can also cause side effects like increased blood pressure and heart rate, insomnia, anxiety, and aggression.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, increased prescription drug misuse over the last two decades has resulted in increases in emergency room visits, overdose deaths associated with prescription drugs, and treatment admissions for prescription drug use disorders, which, in their most severe form, are addictions. “Drug overdose deaths involving prescription opioids rose from 3,442 in 1999 to 17,029 in 2017. From 2017 to 2019, however, the number of deaths dropped to 14,139. From 2019 to 2020, the number increased to 16,416.”
In summary, painkillers, sedatives, and stimulants are the three most commonly abused types of drugs, with opioids being the most popular among abusers. It’s clear that prescription medication abuse can have serious and often fatal consequences. The tolerance, dependence, and addiction that results from abusing these drugs all require medical intervention for recovery.