commonly abused prescription drugs

What are the Most Commonly Abused Prescription Drugs?

This entry was posted on .

aThe quick and easy answer to a variety of ailments from stress to accident related or chronic pain tends to be prescription drugs. But can they be abused? What are the most commonly abused prescription drugs? Prescription drug abuse has been steadily increasing in the United States and it can lead to lethal consequences. Anyone from teenagers and young adults to the older generations can be affected by prescription drug abuse. This can be because of the illusion that since the drugs were prescribed by a doctor they are safe. This can be a dangerous mindset. 

What is Prescription Drug Abuse?

When used correctly, medications prescribed by a medical doctor can be very beneficial. But when they begin to be abused, it can lead to far worse consequences than just running out of medications. 

Prescription drug abuse is when medication is taken in a way that is not specified in the written directions of the prescription itself. This can be defined as taking someone else’s medication, taking more than you are supposed to take, or not taking it as it is meant to be taken, meaning it is snorted or injected into the bloodstream. Abusing prescriptions can lead to addiction and in turn lead to other consequences such as overdose and death.

Types of Prescription Drugs

Prescription drugs are used to treat a variety of ailments. They can be used to treat mental health disorders such as anxiety, panic disorders, attention deficit disorders and sleep disorders. They can also be used to treat acute, or short term and chronic, or long term pain whether from accidents or things like arthritis and bone degeneration. There are three commonly abused prescription drug types:

  • Stimulants: often used to treat ADHD
  • Central Nervous Systems such as benzodiazepines: used to treat anxiety and sleep disorders
  • Opioids: used in the treatment of pain

Commonly Abused Prescription Drugs

In 2020, approximately 16.1 million people in the United States aged 12 and older reported abusing prescription psychotherapeutic drugs. More than 9 million reported they were abusing opioid painkillers, 5.1 million people reported abusing stimulants, and 11 million reported abusing central nervous system suppressants including benzodiazepines, tranquilizers, and sedatives. These numbers can be frightening. Which are the most commonly abused prescription drugs? There are a variety of different drugs that can be abused. A lot of them are taken daily, in a manner not prescribed. Knowing which drugs are most abused can help loved ones to identify when someone they know is abusing their medications.


These drugs are used for treating pain, and produce a euphoric “high” feeling when used. Many of these drugs can be used in ways not intended by the prescription and can lead to lethal overdoses due to slowing breathing, and unconsciousness. Commonly abused forms of opioids are:

  • Fentanyl
  • Percocet
  • Vicodin
  • Oxycodone
  • Oxymorphone
  • Dilaudid
  • Demerol


Used mainly to treat ADHD, these drugs help people who have trouble focusing be able to control their ability to focus. They can stimulate the mind into being able to slow down and pay attention. However, in those that don’t suffer from the disorders, it can cause a spike in energy levels. These drugs get abused by college students as they try to keep up with their courses. Commonly abused stimulants can include:

  • Ritalin
  • Adderall
  • Concerta
  • Dexedrine

Central Nervous System Suppressants 

These drugs treat panic and anxiety disorders. These drugs slow brain activity to help ease the anxiousness that those who suffer from anxiety disorders feel. They can cause drowsiness, slowed breathing, and low blood pressure. Abusing these drugs can lead to overdose. Taking these long term can lead to dependence and the body requiring more and more of the drug to achieve the desired results or feeling. Commonly abused central nervous system suppressants can include:

  • Xanax
  • Valium
  • Phenobarbital 
  • Ambien
  • Zoloft
  • Klonopin

Effects of Prescription Drug Abuse

Abusing any of these commonly abused prescription drugs can lead to severe consequences. Abuse can lead to addiction to the drugs. These drugs affect the brain in different ways and have different side effects that can lead to fatal results. Overdose can occur by abusing these prescription drugs. When someone experiences a drug overdose, it can cut off oxygen flow to the brain, resulting in brain damage or possibly death. If you are abusing prescription drugs, it might be time to seek professional help. Medical professionals can help you to safely come off of the drugs and begin to live life without them.

Getting Help for Prescription Drug Abuse in Southern California

Prescription drug abuse can lead to harmful and lethal consequences. If you or a loved one are suffering with prescription drug abuse, we at Ocean Hills Recovery can help you find recovery from the drug addiction. We have professionals trained to help you as you walk the path to a life after prescription drug addiction. Contact us today and begin your journey to a new life.

About the author: