Currently, narcotic painkillers lead to three out of every four prescription drug overdoses, and cause upwards of 15,500 deaths on a yearly basis. However, prescription painkillers aren’t the only medications that are frequently abused. Other commonly abused prescription drugs include:
Prescription stimulants can be broken down into two categories: methylphenidate drugs and amphetamines. Some examples of methylphenidates are Ritalin and Concerta, and some examples of amphetamines are Adderall and Dexedrine. These drugs are commonly used by students to increase alertness and capacity to study for long hours – however, they are highly addictive and can lead to serious physical and psychological consequences. Those that abuse prescription stimulants often lose weight and struggle with sleep-related issues.
Prescription depressants can be broken up into three main categories: sleep medications, barbiturates and benzodiazepines. Some commonly abused sleep medications include Ambien and Lunesta. These medications are typically consumed orally and cause extreme fatigue and disorientation. Barbiturates include medications like Nembutal and Amytal, and can either be swallowed or taken intravenously. Benzodiazepines are the most frequently abused sleep medications, and this specific category includes drugs like Xanax, Valium, Ativan and Librium.
- Opioid narcotic prescription medications
There are five main categories of opioid prescription medications: methadone, fentanyl, morphine, codeine and other opioid painkillers like hydrocodone and oxycodone. While most prescription painkillers are taken orally, those who develop severe dependencies may switch to intravenous use in order to feel the effects more quickly. These are the most commonly abused prescription drugs, and are responsible for thousands of overdose-related deaths annually.
- Other prescription medications
While not as common, some will abuse dextromethorphan – the active ingredient found in cough syrup. Abusing dextromethorphan is more common amongst youth because it is found in household products, and because it is otherwise affordable.