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Which Prescription Meds Are Most Abused?

When a physician prescribes a medication, it is intended to treat a patient’s physical or psychological symptoms. The benefits of prescribing each medication outweigh the risks of the drug. But when prescribed medications are misused or used by people other than for whom they were prescribed, there are potential medical complications, including drug addiction. There are about 16 million Americans taking prescription drugs for nonmedical use.

Which Drugs Are Being Abused?

The abused prescription drugs include depressants, opioids and morphine derivatives, stimulants and other compounds.

Group 1/Central nervous system depressants:

Barbiturates like Nembutal, Seconal and Phenobarbital; reds, barbs, yellow jackets

  • Benzodiazepines like Ativan, Valium and Xanax; downers, tranks, candy
  • Sleeping pills like Ambien and Lunesta; rophies, roofies, Mexican valium

Group 2/Opioids:

  • Codeine including Tylenol with codeine and Robitussin AC; Captain Cody, Cody
  • Morphine; Miss Emma, M, monkey
  • Methadone; fizzies
  • Fentanyl and Sublimaze; China white, friend, goodfella, jackpot, cash
  • Opioids like Oxycodone, Hydrocodone, Percocet, Vicodin and Dilaudid; Vike, juice, smack, footballs, blues

Group 3/Stimulants:

Group 4/Other compounds:

  • Dextromethorphan (DXM) as found in cough and cold medications; Robo, Robotripping

Reasons for Prescription Meds

When properly prescribed and used, these drugs are intended to treat anxiety, control attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and deliver pain relief.

  • Opioids are used for pain management
  • Central nervous system depressants like barbiturates and benzodiazepines are prescribed for anxiety or insomnia
  • Stimulants are use to treat ADHD, obesity and narcolepsy, a sleep disorder

What Attracts People to Abuse Them?

Group 1/CNS depressants:

The barbiturates, benzodiazepines and sleeping medications cause drowsiness, feelings of well-being, lowered inhibitions, slurred speech and impaired memory. They are addicting and can lower blood pressure, depress breathing and cause death when taken with alcohol.

Group 2/Opioids:

These drugs allow pain relief, drowsiness, sedation, sweating and impaired coordination. They are addicting and can slow breathing, lower pulse and blood pressure and result in death if take with alcohol.

It is important to note that fentanyl is far more potent than morphine. Oxycodone is also more potent than Morphine and also causes muscle weakness; it is very highly abused. Codeine works less to relieve pain and has a serious effect on respiratory depression. Methadone is frequently used to treat other opioid addictions but needs professional supervision to avoid the risk of overdose.

Group 3/Stimulants:

This group causes exhilaration, increased energy and mental alertness. The medications can also cause increased pulse and blood pressure, reduced appetite, anxiety, seizures and stroke.

Amphetamines are addictive and can lead to irritability, impulsive behavior and panic. Methylphenidate can dangerously increase or decrease the blood pressure.

Group 4/Other compounds:

Dextromethorphan causes euphoria and slurred speech. The primary abuse concerns include increased pulse and blood pressure, dizziness, paranoia and impaired motor skills.


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