Prescription Medications have long been reported to be abused by people. This is because these medications are available in drugstores and supermarkets across the world. Typically, prescribed medications are safe to take if used at recommended doses. However, like any type of drug, prescribed meds can also be abused. If taken more than the prescribed dosage, a person will be more likely to develop an addiction.
According to a studies, an estimated 18 million people have been abusing prescription medications, especially ones containing codeine like painkillers.
So what are the most common prescription drugs being abused these days? Should medications be regulated better so people cannot abuse it?
12 Most Commonly Abused Prescription Drugs
Besides many illegal drugs, prescription drugs are among the most commonly abused drugs in the United States. While prescribed drugs can help us, some can be dangerous once abused and can generally be addictive. Here are the most common prescription drugs being abused so you can educate yourself and others:
- Barbiturates – this medication is a sedative and is commonly known as pentobarbital, phenobarbital, and secobarbital. It helps in relieving anxiety, it is used to treat some seizures, and even assist with sleep problems. They are prescribed medications only but, if taken more than the required dosage, can be very addictive. The most common side effect of taking too many barbiturates include difficulty in breathing especially if taken with alcohol.
- Sleep medications – for people who have trouble sleeping, prescribed medications are given like Ambien (zolpidem), Sonata (zaleplon) and Lunesta (eszopiclone) all of which can help with their sleep issues. However, if you get used to using these, you can develop dependence and will have the “need” to take them over and over again. They are not entirely addictive but they can be a cause of concern for many doctors if you developed a dependency on these drugs.
- Benzodiazepines – these include drugs like Xanax, Klonopin and diazepam which helps in panic attacks, anxiety and sleeping problems. They are also a type of barbiturates but safer to use however, abusing these medications can lead to addiction and physical dependence. Note that you cannot stop these medications abruptly as it can be dangerous. If you ever feel like you have developed a dependence on these, make sure to talk to your physician first. Keep in mind as well that your prescription must not be shared with others.
- OxyContin, Percocet – is an opioid painkiller known as oxycodone and can be found in Roxicodone, OxyContin, Percodan and Percocet. It can be taken by crushing and snorting it but some drug users inject this into their system. This can cause high-risk of overdose or infection and must be avoided.
- Codeine and Morphine – is one of the most commonly abused prescription medications. They are a type of painkiller usually prescribed for severe pain as well as mild pain and coughing. These drugs are also known opioids that helps in dulling, numbing pain. However, if this is taken in large doses, it can cause a euphoric high for the user. It can also lead to dangerous side effects which usually result in an overdose.
- Vicodin, Lortab, and Lorcet – these drugs contain opioid hydrocodone and acetaminophen which usually cause drowsiness and constipation as well as breathing problems if taken in large amounts. One of the most common signs that you have developed a dependence on these drugs is when you develop the flu after regular use is stopped.
- Amphetamines – is a stimulant mostly found in Adderall, Adderall XR, Mydasis and Dextroamphetamine which are prescribed for people with ADHD. However, some people take these drugs to give them an energy boost, high alertness and even a sense of being high. In some cases, people use these medications to lose weight or maintain their weight. If taken at higher doses, this could lead to irregular heartbeat, elevated body temperature, and even cardiac arrest.
- Methylphenidate – are also stimulant drugs like Amphetamines. These are usually found in Concerta, Methylin, Ritalin, Metadate, and Daytrana. Combining these drugs with decongestants can cause elevated blood pressure which can be very dangerous or could also result in an irregular heartbeat.
- Pseudoephedrine – are decongestants found in many non-prescription cold medicines. It is used to help clear up stuffy noses, but it is also used for making methamphetamine, which is an illegal drug.
- Dextromethorphan or DXM – is a common ingredient that can be found in OTC cough and cold medicines. These drugs help in stopping coughs, but if taken at large doses can result in hallucinations and a euphoric high for the user. It is also known as “syrup” and is popular among many teenagers since it can be found in many medicine cabinets. Irregular heartbeat, vomiting and brain damage (very rare) are among the most dangerous side effects of cough medicine addiction.
- Laxatives – abuse of laxatives are very common among people who are suffering from eating disorders like bulimia or anorexia, this is because it helps them lose weight. However, laxatives cannot remove calories and therefore causes more health problems to the user. Abuse can be triggered by temporary weight gain and can cause bloating once discontinued. It can also lead to many side effects like loss of electrolytes, organ damage, irritable bowel syndrome, heart failure, loss of minerals and water in the body, colon cancer or infections as well as bleeding and subsequent anemia.
- Motion Sickness pills – these are antihistamine drugs used when one feels motion sickness. This type of drug is common in Dramamine and when abused can cause the user to feel high or have a mild sense of euphoria and relaxation. If taken in higher doses, the drug can lead to hallucinations which are similar to those with LSD and mushrooms.
If you or anyone you know have been using prescribed medication and unknowingly developing a dependence, go and consult your doctor. Early stages of addiction must be treated immediately so as to not lose the person to the disease. Once someone is fully immersed in addiction, it is difficult to pull them out. But it is entirely possible! Drug addiction can be deterred if you know the warning signs, so don’t miss them. Make sure to seek medical help right away as this could save your life.
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