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What Are the Mostly Commonly Abused Prescription Drugs?

commonly abused prescription drugs

Even when legally and correctly prescribed by a medical doctor, prescription medication abuse is still possible and increasingly common. The most commonly abused prescription drugs include pain relievers, stimulants, and depressants, which carry the potential for misuse, abuse, and addiction. Understanding the types of prescription drug abuse can help you know when to seek help if you or your loved one begins to misuse their medications. Reach out to A Better State online, or you call us at 781.412.1488 today to learn how our prescription drug addiction treatment can help.

The Rise of Prescription Medication Abuse

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the number of Americans addicted to prescription drugs has risen to epidemic levels. Accidental overdose deaths have increased at a staggering rate, rising from 4,000 to 14,800 per year. Many of the most commonly abused prescription drugs play a pivotal and scary role in this alarming statistic. But there is help available and prescription drug addiction treatment programs, like the one at A Better State that will care for you or a loved one with individual attention.

The Most Commonly Abused Prescription Drugs

When it comes to the types of prescription drug abuse, it is important to note that many medications carry the potential for abuse, but the most commonly abused drugs in the United States include:

  • Opioids
  • Stimulants
  • Depressants


This is a class of drugs that includes heroin and the potent synthetic opioid fentanyl, 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. Opioids are commonly used as pain relievers, prescribed by trusted doctors, and used by people with chronic pain caused by headaches and backaches, as well as patients recovering from surgeries or those experiencing extreme pain as a result of cancer or after auto accidents. While used to treat persistent and severe pain, prescription drugs such as oxycodone (OxyContin), hydrocodone (Vicodin), and codeine can be highly addictive.

Opioids are usually taken by mouth, and many are intended to be time-released drugs. However, by crushing the pills, the powder can be snorted or injected to receive a rapid release of the drug to get high. When higher than prescribed doses of opioids are released into a person’s bloodstream, a quicker dependence on the drug begins. Opioid abuse is extremely dangerous and can lead a user to overdose or death.


Usually prescribed by doctors to help increase alertness, attention, and energy in their patients, stimulants are mainly used for treating ADHD and sleep disorders and for helping augment the use of antidepressants. The most commonly prescribed stimulants include:

  • Adderall
  • Dexedrine
  • Ritalin

Doctors once turned to prescription stimulants to treat various medical conditions. Still, because of the alarming potential for abuse and addiction, the frequency of use has been reduced. Still, stimulants are one of the commonly abused prescription drugs. And when abused, they are usually taken orally, or the user will dissolve their stimulant pills in water and then attempt to inject the mixture directly into their body, opening the door to vascular issues.

There are several harmful effects of these types of prescription drug abuse, all of which are primarily related to the cardiovascular system:

  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart damage
  • Heart failure
  • Serious psychiatric reactions

As dangerous as they can be when used as standalone drugs, stimulants are even more harmful if combined with other prescription medication abuse, such as certain antidepressants. Sadly, over-the-counter medicines, like cold medicine with a decongestant, pose a risk when used simultaneously with stimulants.


Another group of commonly abused prescription drugs adding to the increase of overdose deaths in the U.S. are the sedatives barbiturates and benzos:

  • Barbiturates (Mebaral and Nembutal): This category of drugs is one of the reasons prescription medication abuse is on the rise because anesthetics and anti-seizure medications were previously commonly used for anxiety and sleep and therefore readily available and with a potential for dependency and overdose. In recent years, their use has been cut in favor of benzos, which also risk addiction.
  • Benzodiazepines (Valium, Xanax, Klonopin): Used to treat anxiety, seizures, and sleep, these prescription drugs carry a particular danger when taken along with other drugs that can cause drowsiness, such as alcohol, prescription pain medications, or some over-the-counter cold and allergy medications. An overdose of benzos can cause unconsciousness, respiratory failure, and even death.

Learn More at A Better State

If you are struggling with prescription medication abuse, our prescription drug addiction treatment program is ready to help you through the entire process and usher you toward a lifetime of recovery. Contact us using our secure online form or call us at 781.412.1488 today.