Most Commonly Abused Prescription Drugs

For years, governments all over the world have implemented stricter policies to curb illicit drug use. However, people hooked on drugs have evolved in terms of preferences, thereby giving rise to abuse of prescription drugs.

While these medications are still being legally sold to treat illnesses, prescription drugs are also freely available to users. The alarming rise in prescription drug abuse has been a major concern of authorities because this has resulted to negative health effects, crimes, and even death.

As prescription drugs can easily be repacked and sold in smaller quantities, it is an imperative for the general public to know what these medications can cause if abused. Here are the most common prescription drugs that you should know about:

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This benzodiazepine is commonly prescribed to people suffering from sleep deprivation, anxiety and panic attacks. Valium has the ability to strengthen the effects of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a neurotransmitter that slows down brain activity and reduces anxiety. Valium is an effective way for someone to feel relaxed and sedated.

Addiction to valium may cause depression, loss of concentration and coordination, lethargy and loss of appetite. Higher doses of valium may cause hallucinations, leaving the user to have a distorted sense of reality. Those who have developed dependence on the drug become emotionally distant and want to spend time alone.


A painkiller that is usually substituted or taken with street opiates, OxyContin is prescribed to patients who are suffering from severe pain. Just like any known painkiller, OxyContin has the ability to lessen the patient’s pain as it reacts with the chemical processes in the brain.

People usually develop addiction to OxyContin because they feel detached from any physical and emotional pain they are dealing with. People who abuse this medication feel drowsy, weak and nauseous. Coordination and concentration is also impaired.

The person may also suffer from arrested breathing, low blood pressure, mental conditions such as depression and hallucination. Those who are using the drug long-term may also suffer from unconsciousness, coma, or even death.


Xanax is commonly prescribed to patients suffering from generalized anxiety disorder, sleep deprivation and panic attacks. Tolerance to this drug can easily be developed by the user to achieve the desired feeling. The reason why people get addicted to the drug is because they like the feeling of detachment from reality, especially when they are facing emotional stress.

Those who decide to quit Xanax addiction may also have a hard time coping with withdrawal syndrome, and this is because of developed dependence on the drug.

Addiction to this drug commonly causes mental health issues such as depression, loss of concentration and inability for decision-making. It can also cause fainting, severe drowsiness, and even coma.


Commonly found in cough syrup, codeine is a type of opiate that acts as a sedative. As this is usually a substance mixed in medicine intended for the treatment of severe cough, the dependence on this drug is caused by one’s tolerance to the medicine.

Similar to other opiates, codeine can cause nausea, drowsiness, and difficulty in breathing. This can also cause impaired vision, low blood pressure, loss of consciousness and the feeling of detachment and lethargy.

Codeine addicts usually shift to stronger types of opiates like hydrocodone and oxycodone, which are more addictive. It is highly recommended that patients who are prescribed with cough syrup with codeine content should be monitored until finally treated to prevent the development of addiction.


Being one of the most common stimulants, Ritalin is listed under the Schedule II type of medication. It has the ability to increase dopamine levels in the body, causing one to feel euphoria quickly after taking in the drug. Schedule II drugs have high potential for abuse despite its legal trade, and that is why it is being controlled.

Also known as a “smart drug”, Ritalin is said to be effective in increasing the energy of a person to meet the demands of work, school, and other activities. Users of this drug may suffer from severe weight loss, and sleep deprivation especially in higher doses. When a person is dependent on this drug, not taking it will cause the person to develop depression and agitation.


Adderall is a type of amphetamine that is commonly given to patients with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), depression, or narcolepsy. It is a central nervous system medication that is usually given in smaller doses and then given in higher doses once the patient has already adjusted in the effects of the medication.

The short-term effects of using Adderall include lethargy, constipation, headache, dry mouth and lips, changes in sleeping patterns, anxiety, and restlessness. Long-term use of the drug may cause one to suffer from numbness of the limbs, slurred speech, severe peeling and bruising of the skin, seizures and tremors, paranoia, hallucinations, and loss of consciousness.


Percocet is a combination of oxycodone and acetaminophen. It is prescribed to patients suffering from severe pain, by changing the way the brain perceives pain.

Percocet addiction is similar to heroin addiction wherein the user experiences a euphoric feeling after taking the drug. Side effects of Percocet use include light-headedness, sleepiness, constipation, confusion, nausea, and difficulty breathing.

As Percocet is a very strong medication, those who develop addiction or dependence on the drug may develop liver failure and other illnesses of internal organs. A Percocet addict may also feel flu-like symptoms, dizziness, and panic attacks. Addiction to Percocet also usually results to drug overdose, especially because of its acetaminophen content.


This is a prescription drug given to patients who have recently undergone major surgeries. Darvocet is an opioid that contains propoxyphene and acetaminophen. Just like painkillers, Darvocet has the ability to immediately lessen physical pain. This is usually the reason why people begin to develop their addiction to the medicine—the numbness saves them from any type of pain they are struggling with.

Addiction to Darvocet may cause a person to have chest pains, nausea, and swelling of body parts, jaundice, skin rashes, and seizures. It may also cause mood swings, anxiety, depression and paranoia. Because of the strong effects of the drug, the person addicted may have a very difficult time going through withdrawal because dependence on Darvocet easily and quickly develops.


A narcotic prescription analgesic, Demerol is used as a pain reliever and is often given to women who are in labor or after childbirth. Similar to other pain management medication, this drug changes the brain’s perception of pain by acting on the central nervous system.

Usually, addiction to Demerol is developed from a person’s desire to escape from any physical or emotional pain he or she is struggling with. Addiction to the drug may cause intense mood swings, depression, agitation and irritability. Risks also include liver failure, hypotension, kidney failure, heart attack, and difficulty breathing.


Ativan is a benzodiazepine and an effective depressant medication that slows down the chemical processes throughout the body. The medication is used as sedative and prescribed to patients diagnosed with anxiety and depression.

Given that Ativan is highly addictive and has a very high dependence rate among its users, it is not recommended as a maintenance medication. Addiction to Ativan may cause someone to suffer from memory problem, loss of concentration, control and coordination, weakening of the muscles, difficulty in breathing, hallucination and light-headedness. Severe cases may result to the user’s kidney failure, psychosis and paranoia, respiratory illnesses, and amnesia.


Most of the cases involving addiction to prescription drugs have developed because of the body’s tolerance to the medication. When the body is exposed to long-term use of any type of substance, a person will require higher doses each time to attain the desired feeling of effect.

While prescription drugs are legal but controlled, these substances are also a concern of medical and healthcare professionals because of their effects to the human body. Not only are these medicines effective for treating certain diseases and illnesses, but they are also highly addictive and potentially fatal when taken in high doses.

Therefore, when a person is observed with the signs and symptoms mentioned above, family and friends should immediately consult a specialist to help the person suffering from addiction.

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Lena Butler

My name is Lena Butler. I live in San Diego, California. I work as a customer service representative for I attended the University of San Diego and majored in marketing. I enjoy spending time at home, working on my painting and playing with my two pet rabbits, Carl and Lenny, when I am not here sharing interesting posts :)

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