Commonly Abused Prescription Drugs

A number of prescription drugs pose a risk of abuse, however, three classes of medications are particularly common – opioids, central nervous system (CNS) depressants or sedatives and stimulants. These medications are of major importance for millions of people all over the world and are safe when taken as prescribed. Prolonged use, taking higher doses or misuse, however, can cause serious complications and addiction.

All the mentioned classes of prescription drugs work on the central or/and peripheral nervous system. Opioids such as oxycodone, hydrocodone and hydromorphone relieve the pain by shutting down the pain receptors. But they can also cause a number of side effects including feeling of euphoria and hallucinations which makes them particularly popular among recreational drug users. Unfortunately, most people who abuse opioids are not aware that they can be life-threatening, especially when taken with some other types of prescription drugs.

Central nervous system (CNS) depressants are used to treat sleeping problems such as insomnia and anxiety because they have a calming effect and promote sleep. Like their name suggests, they act on the central nervous system and decrease brain activity. But with prolonged use, the body develops tolerance and as a result, higher doses are required for them to be efficient. This, however, can lead to dependence and withdrawal symptoms if the therapy is suddenly stopped. If taken with alcohol, the CNS depressants can cause life-threatening complications which makes them very dangerous for teens because they often drink alcohol when experimenting with prescription drugs. Examples of CNS depressants include alprazolam, triazolam, diazepam, and phenobarbital.

Stimulants such as methylphenidate and dextroamphetamine, on the other hand, increase the energy levels and attention. Like opioids and CNS depressants, stimulants are safe and are an effective treatment for various health problems such as depression, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), chronic sleep disorders and similar problems which involve difficulties concentrating, focusing and remaining alert. The use of stimulants in high doses to achieve feeling of euphoria, however, can be dangerous because they can cause irregular heartbeat, while prolonged abuse can lead to addiction.

People who are taking any of the mentioned classes of prescription drugs and their loved ones should pay attention to signs of abuse and addiction because the problem is treated a lot easier if detected early. Doctors usually keep a closer eye on patients who receive therapies which pose a risk of abuse or addiction, however, the patients often also seek prescription at other doctors. As a result, the primary health care provider may not always be able to detect the problem until it gets severe. Just as important is to keep all prescription drugs including those which do not have the potential for abuse out of reach to teenagers because prescription drug abuse is especially common in teens who steal prescription medications from their parents. Although many parents consider hiding their medications from their kids as unnecessary, it is better not to give them the opportunity in the first place.